Baptising Children at Sunday Mass

Celebrating the Baptism of Children at Sunday Mass

The Rite of Baptism for Children strongly recommends that baptisms take place on Sunday, the day of the resurrection, at a communal celebration for several children. It advocates that new members be incorporated into the Church in a liturgy which includes the active participation of the assembly as well as music, processions, symbols and all the elements of a genuine celebration.
The obvious way to meet these recommendations is to incorporate the sacrament of baptism into the parish Sunday Mass. According to the Rite of Baptism, this practice is to be encouraged because it enables the entire community to be present and brings out clearly the relationship between baptism and Eucharist.
Instead of gathering somewhat awkwardly in an empty church for what is virtually a private ceremony conducted in a monologue, the families and friends are welcomed into a joyful gathering of the parish community where they are served by a variety of ministers and supported in their commitment.
Despite these positive aspects of including baptism at Sunday Mass, surprisingly few parishes have made it a regular feature of their liturgical practice.
From the point of view of the worshipping community, there may be resistance to Sunday Mass being unduly prolonged on a regular basis. For priests, musicians and liturgy planners who are already fully occupied with the demands of Sunday Mass, it might just seem too much extra to take on.
These logistical difficulties can all be overcome by using some relatively simple strategies to incorporate smoothly the celebration of baptism into the Sunday worship of the parish.
A group of special welcomers can be organised to greet families and friends arriving for baptism and to make any last-minute arrangements. Ideally those parishioners who are involved in parish baptism preparation sessions would take on this role. It is also helpful if seating is reserved in the appropriate place in the church for members of the baptismal party.
Including the parents and children as well as the godparents in the entrance procession (provided they have been adequately prepared and instructed) helps to incorporate them into the assembly and the celebration from the outset. It also reflects the fact that baptism is our rite of entry into the Church.
The Sunday Mass need not be any longer than usual when the celebration of baptism is included. The rite of reception replaces the penitential rite and the Gloria, with the opening prayer following directly after the signing of the infants. Instead of reciting the Creed, the assembly can be invited to join the parents and godparents in responding to the questions about the rejection of evil and profession of faith.
The scripture readings for the Sunday should be used rather than those from the Rite of Baptism. Only rarely might it be considered necessary to replace one of the readings with a passage more apt for the occasion.
Participation by the assembly during the baptism is enhanced if they can see and hear what is happening. People should be invited to be seated and small children, family and friends encouraged to gather round the font.
Sharing Eucharist together after the experience of welcoming new members into the Church takes on a dimension which makes the effort and planning involved more than worthwhile.

Elizabeth Harrington