John 3:3-5 "Jesus answered, and said to him: 'Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus saith to him: 'How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born again?' Jesus answered: 'Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'"
Matthew 28:19 "Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Acts 2:38-39 "But Peter said to them: 'Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call.'"
The Sacrament of Baptism is the first sacrament any of us ever experience. Unlike the other Sacraments, baptism is valid in many other Christian denominations. This excludes Mormons and some other denominations because they do not follow the formula that Jesus Himself prescribed in the Gospel. Our Lord and King told His disciples: “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world." (Mt. 28:18-20).
It is vitally important that each and every baptized person be baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To be baptized only in the name of Jesus does not constitute an authentic baptism because it does not follow the formula established by Jesus Himself. All Sacraments must have two proper parts – form and matter. In Baptism, for example, we must be baptized with water. This is the matter Jesus himself was baptized with by St. John the Baptist in the River Jordan and we still use water today. Baptism must be done using water. Secondly, baptisms must have the proper form meaning that water must be poured over the individuals head three times while saying the words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
We also hear from Our Lord: "'Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). He is speaking of Baptism. Baptism is necessary for salvation unless, for some reason, a person never heard the Gospel and did not know what Baptism was.
What are the effects of Baptism?
Baptism first and foremost clears all sin from our soul. This is why we are baptized – we want the sin of Adam (original sin) washed away. Every human being apart from Jesus Christ and Mary (Immaculate Conception) was born with original sin. Through Baptism original sin is washed away, and at the same time, if we are baptized after having committed sins ourselves (actual sin) those sins are washed away as well along with any temporal punishments for them (CCC 1263). If we would die immediately after Baptism, our soul would go straight to Heaven.
Most Protestants view baptism as the covering up of our sins. That is not the correct theological look at baptism. Baptism completely washes the soul clean. We receive sanctifying grace, which raises us up to a supernatural level; Baptism regenerates and saves the person. In this respect, an indelible mark is placed on the soul that initiates him into the life of the Church, and allows him to receive the other Sacraments. Even if a baptized person goes to Hell, this mark will remain for all eternity on the soul.
Through Baptism was become sharers in the Divine Nature of the Blessed Trinity. We become sons of God and tabernacles of the Most Holy. Most literally, we become temples for the Holy Spirit. In Baptism we are born again as St. Peter writes of the divine sonship in Baptism as “…Being born again not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, by the word of God who liveth and remaineth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23). In Baptism we are buried in Christ so that we might rise with Him (Romans 6:3-4). Jesus’ entire mission from the Incarnation to the Cross was to redeem us and make us worthy of divine sonship. Through Baptism, we are “enlightened” and become “son of light” (CCC 1216).
The Catechism of the Council of Trent states, “…it should be taught that by virtue of this Sacrament we are not only delivered from what are justly deemed the greatest of all evils, but [we] are also enriched with invaluable goods and blessings. Our souls are replenished with divine grace, by which we are rendered just and children of God and are made heirs to eternal salvation (187).
Prefiguring Images of Baptism in the Old Testament
God chose water, the humble source of life, to be the matter by which mankind would be born from above. Through the Great Flood and Noah’s Ark, the Church sees a prefiguring image of salvation through Baptism (CCC 1219). And through “the crossing of the Red Sea” Israel was liberated from slavery just as the baptized are saved from slavery through sin (CCC 1221).
All of the prefiguring images reach their culmination in the Baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan. Jesus begins his public life through His Baptism so to be an example for all of mankind to be baptized. John baptized in the name of repentance; the apostles and the Church today baptize with the Holy Spirit. Those who were baptized in repentance with John expressed their sorrow of sins. These people still needed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit through the apostles: “Those who were baptized with John's baptism needed to be baptized with the baptism of our Lord” (St. Jerome) As Augustine says, “Our sacraments are signs of present grace, whereas the sacraments of the Old Law were signs of future grace.” In Acts 19:1-5, St. Paul baptizes several people that were previously baptized in repentance by John. Why? They were baptized not only because they did not know of the Holy Spirit but also because they had not received the baptism of Christ.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to "fulfill all righteousness." Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying. The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his “beloved Son” (CCC 1224).
I think St. Ambrose wrote it best: “The Lord was baptized, not to be cleansed Himself but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of Baptism. Whoever comes, therefore, to the washing of Christ lays aside his sins.”
Immersion is unnecessary
Baptism by Immersion is unnecessary for Salvation. For around 12 centuries, immersion was the common form practiced in the Catholic Church. However, St. Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the 13th Century, states, “Baptism can be conferred by sprinkling and also by pouring.” Terullian, who was born c. 160 AD, said that Baptism is a “sprinkling with any kind of water” (De Bapt., Ch. 6). The Didache, or The Teaching of the Apostles, holds that baptismal water may be poured when there is not enough water for immersion. St. Thomas Aquinas also states that the three thousand converts baptized by St. Peter on the first Pentecost were most likely not baptized by immersion; there was not enough water in Jerusalem at the time. He also says that it is highly unlikely that the jailer baptized in the prison at Philippi or the Gentiles in the home of Cornelius were immersed in water.
Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
Yes, the Council of Trent states that Baptism is necessary for salvation. "Canon 5. If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema." (Canons On Baptism, Session VII, Council of Trent)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the Church’s position on this matter of grave importance:
The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.
For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.
"Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
The Church has always taught that the Sacrament of Baptism can and should be conferred on children. In Baptism we are “born again”; it is the start of the life that continues in the next. Since Baptism is the start of life, a child should be baptized as soon as possible that they might have a share in divine sonship. As Jesus says, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14).
In the Gospel Jesus instructs us to go forth and baptize the whole world – not just adults. St. Paul baptized whole families and it is most likely there was at least one child in those families (Acts 16:15; 1 Cor. 1:16). The Third Council of Carthage (253 AD) with St. Cyprian taught that infants should be baptized as soon as possible after birth. The Council of Milevi in 416 AD taught the necessity of baptism for infants. This same position has been reaffirmed at the Fourth Lateran Council as well as the Councils of Vienne, Florence, and Trent.
See CCC 1250 - 1252; Fifth Session of the Council of Trent
Who Can Baptize?
The Church teaches very unequivocally that for the valid conferring of the sacraments, the minister must have the intention of doing at least what the Church does. This is laid down with great emphasis by the Council of Trent (sess. VII). The opinion once defended by such theologians as Catharinus and Salmeron that there need only be the intention to perform deliberately the external rite proper to each sacrament, and that, as long as this was true, the interior dissent of the minister from the mind of the Church would not invalidate the sacrament, no longer finds adherents. The common doctrine now is that a real internal intention to act as a minister of Christ, or to do what Christ instituted the sacraments to effect, in other words, to truly baptize, absolve, etc., is required. This intention need not necessarily be of the sort called actual. That would often be practically impossible. It is enough that it be virtual. Neither habitual nor interpretative intention in the minister will suffice for the validity of the sacrament. The truth is that here and now, when the sacrament is being conferred, neither of these intentions exists, and they can therefore exercise no determining influence upon what is done. To administer the sacraments with a conditional intention, which makes their effect contingent upon a future event, is to confer them invalidly. This holds good for all the sacraments except matrimony, which, being a contract, is susceptible of such a limitation.For the aforementioned reason, non-Catholic baptisms may not be valid. The individual should receive a conditional Baptism.
Source: Catholic Encyclopedia
1962 Rite of Baptism:
To see the comparison of Sacrament Baptism in the Old and New Rites, see my post on Baptism Old vs. New Rite. Two videos of the 1962 Rite follow:
1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition
2. Born Again: Baptism in the Fathers
3. Ripley, Canon Francis. This Is the Faith. 3rd Edition. Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 2002.
4. Note: All Scriptural quotations are from the Douay-Rheims