Sancta Missa - Rituale Romanum (Roman Ritual) - Holy Baptism - General Rules



1. That holy baptism, the gateway to the Christian religion and to eternal life, holding as it does the first place among the sacraments instituted by Christ for the New Covenant, is necessary for salvation for all, either in act or desire, is testified by the divine Truth Himself in these words: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (Jn 3.5). Therefore, the greatest concern is to be exercised for its correct and timely administration and reception.

2. In the administration of this sacrament, certain things are absolutely necessary by divine law, such as the matter, form, and minister. Others pertain to its solemnity, such as the rites and ceremonies received and approved by ancient and apostolic tradition; yet even these may not be omitted except in case of necessity. Regarding all this, let certain points be remarked at the outset, so that the sacred function may be carried out with exactitude and devotion.

3. When baptism is administered with all the rites and ceremonies prescribed in this Ritual, it is called solemn; otherwise it is non- solemn or private.

The Matter for Baptism

4. First of all a pastor will understand that since the matter for this sacrament is real natural water, no other liquid may be used.

5. The water for solemn baptism is that which has been blessed on the preceding vigil of Easter, and carefully preserved in a clean font to keep it pure. If new baptismal water is to be blessed, the old should be poured into the sacrarium in the sacristy, or preferably the sacrarium of the baptistery.

6. If the baptismal water has so diminished that it is foreseen it will not suffice, unblessed water may be added even repeatedly, but in lesser quantity than the blessed each time this is done. If it becomes contaminated or has leaked out or in any way is deficient, the pastor will see to it that the font is thoroughly cleansed and replenished with fresh water, and proceed to bless it according to the form given below.

7. If the water has frozen it should be thawed. But if it is partly frozen or too cold a smaller quantity of unblessed warm water may be mixed with some baptismal water in a special container, and this tepid mixture used in baptizing, thereby preventing injury to the infant.

The Form for Baptism

8. The form for baptism is as follows: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and it is absolutely essential. In no circumstance can it be altered, and these words must be pronounced simultaneously with the pouring of the water.

9. A priest of the Latin rite must always use the Latin form. Since baptism may positively never be repeated, if one is to be baptized conditionally (see below), the condition is expressed in these words: If you are not baptized, I baptize you in the name of the Father, etc. This conditional form should not be chosen lightly or without consideration, but the decision must be made prudently, and only in a case where, after careful investigation, a reasonable doubt exists as to whether the sacrament of baptism had been truly or validly administered.

10. Although baptism can be administered validly by pouring the water or by immersion or by sprinkling, nevertheless, one should adhere to the first method or the second, or to the mixed form of these two, whichever is the more common practice and in harmony with the custom of the particular rite. The water is to be poured on the head with a triple ablution (or the head is to be immersed three times), each time in the form of a cross, saying the words simultaneously. The same person must both pour the water and pronounce the words.

11. If baptism takes place by infusion, care must be taken that the water does not fall back into the font from the infant's head. It should either fall into the sacrarium of the baptistery or into a special basin provided for that purpose, and in the latter case this water will be emptied later in the sacrarium of the baptistery or of the church.

The Minister of Baptism

12. A priest is the ordinary minister of solemn baptism. But its administration is reserved to the pastor, or to another priest who has the pastor's permission or that of the local Ordinary. Even one who travels about should receive solemn baptism from his own pastor and in his own parish, if there is no difficulty from delay or inconvenience; otherwise any pastor within his own territory may confer solemn baptism upon a wanderer.

13. Without proper permission, a priest is not allowed to confer solemn baptism in territory other than his own, even upon his own subjects.

14. In a diocese or territory where no parishes or quasi-parishes have been established, the question as to which priest (the Ordinary excepted) has the right to baptize within the whole territory or a part thereof must be decided from particular statutes and accepted customs.

15. A deacon is the extraordinary minister of solemn baptism. He may not, however, use his power without the consent of the Ordinary or the pastor--such permission being granted for a just cause, and lawfully presumed when necessity urges.

16. In danger of death non-solemn baptism can be administered by anyone as long as he uses the proper form and matter and has the right intention. If possible two witnesses or at least one should be present so that the baptism can be proved. A priest if available should be preferred to a deacon, a deacon to a subdeacon, a cleric to a laic, a man to a woman, unless for the sake of modesty it is more fitting that the woman baptize rather than the man, or because the woman might know the form and method better than the man. Father or mother are not permitted to baptize their child, except when in danger of death no one else can be had who could baptize.

17. It should be a pastor's concern that the faithful, particularly midwives, doctors, and surgeons be thoroughly instructed in the correct manner of baptizing in a case of necessity.

18. Baptism of adults should be referred to the local Ordinary if convenient, so that he himself if he so desires or another delegated by him may administer it with greater solemnity.

Baptism of Children

19. In regard to baptism:

(a) classed as children or infants are such who have not yet attained the use of reason, and likewise the feeble-minded from infancy, no matter what their age;

(b) reckoned as adults are all who have the use of reason; and to be admitted to baptism it suffices that an adult requests it of his own accord.

20. No child is to be baptized while still enclosed in the mother's womb, as long as there is a probable hope that it can be properly brought forth and then baptized. If only the head of the child has come forth and there is danger of its dying, it should be baptized on the head; if afterward it is born and lives, baptism may not be repeated conditionally. If another member of the body makes its appearance and there is danger of death, the baptism should be conferred conditionally upon that member; if the child lives after birth it must be rebaptized conditionally. Should a mother die in confinement, the fetus should be extracted by those obliged thereto by their profession, and if there is a certainty that it lives, it should be baptized absolutely, otherwise conditionally. A fetus baptized while in the mother's womb must be rebaptized conditionally after birth.

21. One should see to it that every abortive fetus, no matter of what period, be baptized absolutely if it is certainly alive. If there is doubt about its being alive, it should be baptized conditionally.

22. A monster or abnormal fetus should in every case be baptized at least with the following expressed condition: If you are a human being, I baptize you, etc. When in doubt as to whether there is one or several persons in the deformed mass, one part is to be baptized absolutely, and the others each with the condition: If you are not baptized, I baptize you, etc.

23. Foundlings should be baptized conditionally, unless there is a certainty from due investigation that they have already been baptized.

24. An infant of infidel parents may be baptized lawfully even though the parents are opposed, provided that its life is in such danger that one can reasonably foresee it may die before attaining the use of reason. Outside the case of danger of death, it may lawfully be baptized, provided its Catholic rearing is guaranteed, as in the following two cases: (a) if parents or guardians or at least one of them consent; (b) if parents, i.e., father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, or guardians do not exist, or if they have lost their right over the child or are unable to exercise it.

25. Generally, the norms stated in the preceding rubric are to be applied to baptism of infants whose parents belong to a heretical or schismatic sect, or of Catholic parents who have lapsed into apostasy, heresy, or schism.

The Rites and Ceremonies of Baptism

26. Baptism should be administered solemnly, except in the case provided for in rubric no. 28 below. The local Ordinary may for weighty and plausible reasons permit the ceremonies prescribed for infant baptism to be used in the baptism of adults.

27. Children must be baptized in the rite of the parents. If one parent belongs to the Latin rite, the other to an Oriental rite, the child should be baptized in the rite of the father, unless some special law provides otherwise. If only one parent is Catholic, the child is to be baptized in the rite of the Catholic party.

28. In danger of death private baptism is permissible, and, if the minister is neither priest nor deacon, he does merely what is required for validity. When private baptism is conferred by a priest or by a deacon, if time permits the ceremonies which follow the act of baptizing should be added. Outside the danger of death the local Ordinary may not permit private baptism, except in the case of adult heretics who are to be baptized conditionally. The ceremonies which for any reason were omitted in the administration of baptism should be added later in church as soon as possible, except in the case of adult heretics who have received private baptism conditionally with the permission of the Ordinary, as stated above.

29. When baptism is repeated conditionally, the ceremonies which were omitted in the former baptism should be supplied. provided this will not run contrary to anything prescribed in rubric no. 28. But if they were used in the former baptism, they may be repeated or omitted.

30. A pastor should see to it that the person baptized is given a Christian name. If he does not succeed in this, he must add the name of a saint to the one chosen by the parents, and inscribe both in the baptismal register.

The Sponsors

31. In accordance with ancient ecclesiastical custom, no one should be solemnly baptized unless he has a sponsor, provided this is possible. Even in private baptism a sponsor should assist if one can easily be had. If there was no sponsor at the private baptism, one should be used at the time when the ceremonies are supplied, in which case the sponsor contracts no spiritual relationship.

32. When baptism is repeated conditionally, the same sponsor who was present at the first baptism should assist if possible; apart from this case, no sponsor is required in conditional baptism. In a baptism repeated conditionally, neither the sponsor who was present at the first baptism nor the one assisting now contracts a spiritual relationship, unless the sponsor was the same in both instances.

33. There should be only one sponsor (who may be of different sex from the one baptized); or at most two may be employed, a man and a woman.

34. To validly act as sponsor it is required:

(a) that the person is baptized, has attained the use of reason, and has the intention of acting in this capacity;

(b) that he does not belong to a heretical or schismatic sect, is not excommunicated whether by condemnatory or declaratory sentence, nor legally infamous, debarred from legal acts, nor a deposed or degraded cleric;

(c) and that the person is not the father, mother, or spouse of the one baptized;

(d) that he is chosen by the one baptized, or by the parents, guardians, or, if these are wanting, by the minister;

(e) that during the act of baptizing the sponsor (or his proxy) physically hold or touch the one baptized, or immediately lift him out of the water, or take him into his arms from the font or from the hands of the minister.

35. To lawfully act as sponsor it is required:

(a) that he has reached the age of fourteen, unless the minister sees fit to admit a younger person for some valid reason;

(b) that he is not excommunicated for a notorious crime, nor excluded from legal acts, nor legally infamous (even though no sentence has been issued to that effect), nor interdicted, nor a public criminal, nor infamous in fact;

(c) that he knows the rudiments of the faith;

(d) that he is neither a novice nor a professed religious, unless necessity urges it and the sponsor has the express permission from at least the local superior;

(e) that he is not in sacred orders, unless he has the express permission of the Ordinary.

36. When in doubt as to whether a person may validly or lawfully be permitted to act as sponsor, the pastor should consult the Ordinary if time allows.

37. Only the minister and the sponsor contract a spiritual relationship from baptism with the one baptized.

38. It is the duty of sponsors by reason of their position ever to regard their godchild as a personal charge, and in all that pertains to his Christian upbringing to watch over him faithfully, so that in his whole life he may prove himself true to the promises which they once solemnly spoke for him.

The Time and Place for Administering Baptism

39. Infants should be baptized as soon as possible, and pastors and other priests when preaching should frequently warn the faithful of their serious obligation in this respect.

40. Private baptism when necessity demands may be conferred at any time and in any place.

41. Solemn baptism, too, may be administered on any day. In harmony with earliest ecclesiastical discipline, baptism of adults ought to be conferred if convenient on the vigils of Easter and Pentecost, especially in cathedral or metropolitan churches.

42. The proper place for administering solemn baptism is the baptistery in a church or public oratory.

43. Every parish church should have a baptismal font, and all contrary statutes, privileges, or customs are reprobated and revoked; without impairing, however, the legitimate cumulative right already claimed by other churches. The local Ordinary can permit or command that a baptismal font be placed in another church or public oratory even within the parish boundaries, if it will serve the convenience of the faithful.

44. When distance or other circumstances make it extremely inconvenient or dangerous to bring the candidate for baptism to the parish church or to another which has the right to a baptismal font, the pastor may, in fact, must, administer solemn baptism in the nearest church or public oratory within the parish limits, even though it has no baptismal font.

45. Solemn baptism may not be administered in private homes, except in the following circumstances: (a) when the persons to be baptized are children or grandchildren of such persons as hold the supreme position of government or have the right of succession to the throne, provided this privilege is duly requested; (b) when the Ordinary, after prudent and conscientious deliberation, judges that it should be allowed in some extraordinary case for a just and worthy reason. In the cases cited the baptism is to be administered in the chapel of the home or at least in a suitable room, and duly blessed baptismal water is to be used.

46. The baptismal font should be constructed in a becoming style and located in a proper place. It should be made of solid material (such as will keep in the water), properly decorated, secured with lock and key, and fastened so that dust and dirt cannot penetrate. The baptistery should have a grill or should be railed off. If possible a representation of the baptism of Christ by St. John should be painted or placed in the baptistery.

The Holy Oils and Other Requisites

47. Holy chrism and the oil of catechumens used in baptism must have been consecrated by the bishop on the preceding Holy Thursday. Older oils may not be used except in case of necessity.

48. The pastor must see to it that he obtains immediately the newly consecrated oils from his Ordinary, and thereupon he burns the old oils in church (in the sanctuary lamp).

49. If the consecrated oils do not suffice, then other non-consecrated olive oil is added, but in lesser quantity than the consecrated each time this happens.

50. Holy chrism and oil of catechumens should be preserved in individual vessels of silver or at least of pewter, and be kept properly sealed. These vessels should have each a distinct style, and should be marked with capital letters to avoid every error.

51. For daily use smaller containers made of silver if possible or of pewter should be employed. These may be either separate or joined together, yet properly covered and easily distinguishable. Each one should have its individual mark as noted above, so that the priest may not mistake one for the other.

52. Into these latter as much chrism and oil of catechumens as required is poured from the larger vessels, and it is advisable to provide the separate containers of the oilstock with a little cotton or similar material to absorb the oils. This will prevent the danger of leakage, and at the same time when pressed with the thumb will yield enough for the anointings.

53. These vessels should be reverently reserved in church in a special place (compartment) which is decent and clean, and kept under lock and key. Thus they will be safely guarded from improper handling by anyone except a priest, as well as from sacrilegious misuse. The pastor ought not to keep them in the rectory, unless some necessity and serious reason warrants, and then only with the permission of the Ordinary.

54. As far as possible let it be the pastor's concern that the holy oils be fetched by himself, some other priest, or at least by a cleric, and not by a lay person. Let him beware also of ever giving any of the holy oils to anybody, no matter under what pretext.

55. The salt which is to be put into the mouth of the candidate for baptism must be blessed with its own special form as designated later in the rite for baptism. Nor is salt thus blessed to be used at the blessing of water. It should first be reduced to fine granules, and kept clean and dry. Salt thus blessed should not be given to anybody, nor even returned to anybody who may have brought it for the blessing, but it should be saved exclusively for baptism or thrown into the sacrarium.

56. Therefore, when the sacrament of baptism is about to be conferred, the following articles should be at hand:

57. The vessels containing oil of catechumens and chrism.

58. A vessel containing the salt to be blessed, or some already blessed, as stated before.

59. A clean vessel or a ladle made of silver or other metal for pouring the baptismal water on the head of the one who is being baptized; and this vessel should be used for no other purpose.

60. A basin or cup to receive the water which flows down from the head of the baptized, unless it falls directly into the sacrarium.

61. Cotton or similar material to be used for wiping the parts anointed with the holy oils.

62. Two stoles if readily available, one purple and the other white, to be exchanged as noted below; otherwise at least one stole should be provided; and for more solemn baptism also two copes of corresponding colors.

63. A piece of bread with which to remove the oil from the priest's fingers when he washes his hands; moreover, a basin for washing the hands after baptism, and this should not be used for other purposes.

64. A white garment in the form of :l little mantle, or a small piece of white linen to be placed on the infant's head.

65. A waxen torch or wax candle which shall be burning when given to the baptized.

66. Lastly, the ritual should be in readiness and also the baptismal register in which the names of the baptized are inscribed.

67. Everything being prepared, the priest washes his hands, puts on a surplice and purple stole, and proceeds to the administration of this great sacrament. He should be assisted by one cleric or more if possible, who are likewise vested in surplice.

68. Thus vested the priest advances to the threshold of the church. The people with the child should be waiting outdoors.

69. He ascertains, unless this information is already known to him, whether the candidate belongs to his parish, its sex, whether it had been baptized at home and by whom and in what manner, and he inquires

who will act as sponsors. The latter he instructs to assist with due reverence and to answer the interrogations for the candidate.

70. Since a name is given to those who through baptism are to become children of God, newly born in Christ and enrolled in His service, let the priest see to it that ugly, notorious, or ridiculous names are not imposed, nor those of false deity or heathen profligates. Rather let names of the saints be selected as far as possible, whose example the faithful may devoutly imitate and to whose patronage they are entrusted.

71. Everything being provided for and the name approved, with the one who is to be baptized, if a child, resting on the right arm of the person holding it, the pastor proceeds with the baptism according to the rite which follows.

N.B. These additional rules occur in the "Collectio Rituum" both for Germany and the U.S.:

a. the baptistery may be decorated and the church bells may be rung;

b. a more solemn baptism is one attended by a number of the faithful;

c. the priest and his assistants first come to the altar and there offer a prayer before proceeding with the rite;

d. the people present should participate in all the responses, the Creed, the Lord's prayer, and in the singing, if there is such.

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