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I am a fifth year GCSE student and as part of my coursework, I have to describe the sacrament of Baptism. I recently attended a Baptism ceremony and I intend to describe in detail the procedures during the ceremony and the significance of each part.Baptism is the first sacrament received by people in the Catholic church. It usually takes the form of infant baptism – sometimes, if a baby is ill, the ceremony will take place within the first few hours of life, but normally, babies are 2 – 6 weeks old when they are baptised.It is believed that during the Baptismal sacrament, the Holy Spirit enters a person, gives new life, and claims that person is now ‘in Christ’. A person ‘in Christ’ is supposed to grow more like Christ as they grow up. This is made possible by the Holy Spirit.The Ceremony.The Baptismal Ceremony consists of three parts.1. The Welcome.2. The Celebration of God’s word.3. The Celebration of the Sacrament.The Welcome.The family and the child assemble at the back of the church – this represents being ‘outside’ the church. The priest welcomes them in and asks them what they want of the church, to which they reply ‘Baptism’.Godparents are asked if they agree to help and the priest, parents and godparents make a sign of the cross on the child’s forehead.The Celebration of God’s word.During this part of the ceremony, a reading from the New Testament is read, a short sermon delivered and then prayers are said. The baby is anointed with the Oil of Catechumens on the chest and the priest prays that the child will be spiritually strong.The Celebration of the Sacrament.The family then proceed to the baptismal font. The priest blesses the water in which the baby will be baptised and the parents profess their faith. The mother holds the baby and the priest then pours water over the baby’s head three times as he says:(Name) I baptise you1. In the name of the Father2. and of the son3. and of the Holy SpiritThe baby is now baptised, there now follows some signs of the baby’s Christian dignity:Oil of Chrism is an oil into which sweet smelling fragrances are added. This oil is an important sign that the person is being set aside for a special task.Clothing with a white garment is an outward sign of a baby’s Christian dignity. Some families have a christening gown which has been handed down in their family for many generations.A candle is then lit by one of the members of the family from the Pascal candle. A candle is a symbol of Jesus and during the service the priest says”Light that has come into the world. A light which darkness cannot overpower.”When the parents take the candle, they are asked to take responsibility for the religious upbringing of the child.The Our Father is then said by everybody since all baptised people are considered to be ‘adopted children of God.’ This is then followed by the final blessing which consists of three very beautiful prayers. One for the Mother, one for the Father and one for all who came to be with the child on this very special day.Not all religions practise infant baptism. Some of the religions prefer to baptise only adults, mainly Baptist, Christian Brethren and the Pentecost. The Baptists believe that a young baby cannot have faith and no-one should be baptised without such faith. They argue that it is much better to wait until the person is old enough to make up their own mind about God and to make a conscious decision about baptism. In this way, the responsibilities lie with the person themselves. They will have received instructions about beliefs and the way in which a Christian should live in every day life.In comparison, infant baptism involves commitment on behalf of the parents and godparents. Baptism itself will not guarantee that a baby will grow up to be a practising Christian. The way a child is brought up will determine this. The responsibilities lie with the parents and godparents and they include:* Bringing the child up as a member of the church.* Teaching the child the Christian way of life.* Teaching the child to worship and pray.* Leading the child towards Confirmation.Infant Baptism has been in use since very early times. Although the New Testament does not give accounts of specific infant baptisms, neither does it state that infants were refused baptism. In Act 10:48 we read that whole ‘households’ were baptised at a time, this would have included children. Other sources support this.Infant Baptism is a topic of debate around the world today. Having read the arguments for and against, I have formed the personal opinion that infant baptism is a worthwhile and beneficial practise and should continue.This assignment is the first time I have had to consider these issues and after a lot of contemplation, I have come to realise certain things about my life that I have previously been unaware of.I myself was baptised as an infant. I then proceeded to receive Holy Communion and Confirmation. As I mature, I look back on different stages of my faith that I have experienced. As a child, an incomprehension as to the value of attending church. As a teenager, a rebellion against going to church. Although I do not practise going to mass as often as I should, I have suddenly had to think about how I feel about my religion. I now realise that because I have received these sacraments, and the church has played a larger part in my life than I previously realised. I have a true sense of belonging. This offers me a sense of security that no matter what should happen to me in future years, and no matter where I go, I will always belong to Christ.Had I not been guided by my parents and received many years of religious instruction in school, I doubt if I ever would choose to stand up and be counted, so to speak. I am fortunate enough to belong to this religion because of my baptism in infancy and I believe that a lot of people would miss out on this sense of belonging if infant baptism was not practised.

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