What to Know Before Your Baby's Catholic Baptism

Advice for parents on names, godparents, baptismal certificates, christening parties, and more.

Continued from page 1

  • Assigning godparents the traditional honor of providing the christening gown

    Note: You'll be dressing your baby at home and will not have to undress the tyke for the rite, but do bring a towel and a change of clothes if you're opting for full immersion.

    What You'll Take Home

    You'll be leaving this ceremony with a candle, in addition to a baptized and, if you're lucky, a quiet baby. During the ceremony this taper is lit from the large Easter candle to symbolize your child's freedom from darkness by the Light of Christ. Hang on to this candle! It'll play a feature role in home-based celebrations for many years, if you're careful not to burn it too long at any one celebration and store it in your freezer. As she or he gets older, you can use this candle as a foundation for teaching what it means to share the Light of Christ.

    Keep the Baptismal Certificate

    Don't lose the paperwork! You'll need that Baptismal Certificate for just about everything in the life to come-CCD registration, First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, and heaven forefend, Annulment. Add it to the pile of other important documents you have stashed in the family safe. No family safe? Uh-oh. You'd better go get one or sign up for a safe-deposit box at your local bank.

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    Haul out the family Bible-if it's not displayed on or near the family altar as suggested in Chapter 6-and record the baptismal date. If you don't already have this information recorded, you may as well note sacramental anniversary dates for everyone else in your family.

    What to Serve at a Christening Party

    By custom, your christening party menu should be dominated by white, light, and sweet foods. Decorate with white flowers, balloons, and more candles. Scallop shells are also used to symbolize Baptism, even though they were originally pagan fertility symbols. Did you string little white lights during Christmas? Well, you can use them again for this party. Bring out the dove collection you displayed for Easter and Pentecost! Put out a baby book and ask guests to write a little something about your child's Baptism or perhaps their own. Siblings involved? Maybe they could be persuaded to compose a special poem, craft a banner, or have pictures of their own Baptisms displayed.

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