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"Baptism is a Sacrament which cleanses us from original sin, makes us Christians, children of God, and heirs of heaven" (Baltimore Catechism). Also called: Sacrament of Initiation, Sacrament of Faith, Sacrament of Regeneration, Door of the Church.

Sources: Catechism CatholicEncyclopedia CatholicSource CatholicismForDummies About.com InfantBaptism Customs

Effects of Baptism: 1) Complete forgiveness of and remission of punishment due to original sin and all actual sin that has been committed up to that time. 2) Indelible mark of the "Character of a Christian" on the soul. 3) Makes us children of God, members of the Church, and heirs to Paradise; and enables us to receive the other sacraments. 4) Our souls are replenished with divine grace which enables us to avoid sin for the future and preserve righteousness and innocence. 5) Imparts the Holy Spirit: "In this sacrament, when the unclean spirit has been expelled from the soul, the Holy Ghost enters in and makes it like to Himself" (Pope Leo XIII, 1897AD).

Kinds of Baptism: There are three kinds of Baptism: Baptism of water (traditional), Baptism of Desire (ardent wish to receive Baptism and to do all that God has ordained for our salvation), and Baptism of Blood (martyrdom).

Sponsors/name: Sponsors (godparents) make profession of the faith in the child's name. Following baptism, the sponsors, in default of the child's parents, are responsible for the child's instruction in faith and morals. Sponsors must themselves be baptized persons having the use of reason and they must have been designated as sponsors by the priest or parents. The baptismal name should be that of a saint (or good biblical character).

Infant Baptism: Although denied by many Protestants as appropriate only for persons who have reached the age of reason, the Catholic Church has always taught that it is important infants be baptized without delay, since all persons are conceived with the guilt of Original Sin, which jeopardizes the soul's chance for Salvation. "For by reason of this rule of faith from a tradition of the apostles even infants, who could not as yet commit any sins of themselves, are for this reason truly baptized for the remission of sins, so that in them there may be washed away by regeneration, what they have contracted by generation" (Council of Trent). For example, in the Old Testament, all male infants were circumcised at 8 days after birth; this is an old testament precursor to infant baptism. The exact state of infants who die before they are baptized is not known; "...the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them... the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation" (Catechism 1261, 1283).

Emergencies/abortions: In a life emergency, even the unborn may be baptized in the mother's womb or during birth, or aborted babies immediately after abortion. "In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes" (Catechism 1256).

Conditional baptism: In an emergency, any person, including even unbaptized or heretical persons, may baptize, provided he observes the form used by the Church, and intends to perform what the Church performs. The form is: "If you are not baptized, then I baptize you in the Name..." (Catholic Encyclopedia). If it not known whether a valid baptism has already occurred, a conditional baptism may be performed by an ordinary minister (bishop, priest. or deacon by delegation).

Protestant baptisms: Valid baptisms (by water in the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) of Protestants who convert to Catholicism are recognized as valid by the Catholic Church.