When should the Baptism of a child occur? The answer will depend upon issues of timing: a healthy birth, complications at birth which require a longer stay in the hospital, adoption of a newborn, adoption of a toddler, the desire to baptize arising only after birth, etc. For all of these, the answer is as soon as possible, but what is possible will differ a bit based upon the circumstances like the ones mentioned above. The Code of Canon Law states, “Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared properly for it” (Can. 867 §1). The Catechism alludes to it being “shortly after birth” (CCC 1250). This can be summarized as:
- Baptism of an infant should happen right away, within the first few weeks of their birth or their adoption or once the desire to baptize an already born child is realized. Delay is not the name of the game.
- Parents should be in contact with their parish and pastor about their request for the gift of Baptism for their child. This can even be done before the birth.
Many parishes have required classes. This is good. We parents need more opportunities to fully realize the mysterious reality of this sacrament and how to help our children grow as children of God. Adults of the early Church used to go through years of catechesis prior to Baptism. Adults today sometimes spend months to a year or years preparing. A few classes to help us prepare is actually quite minimal in comparison. In fact, I have always wanted to attend more. I have designed such courses, taught such courses, given talks on Baptism, and I do not believe for a moment that I should be exempt from attending classes. In each parish I have attended, I do not ask to be exempt but attend classes and try to keep under my hat my background. It is not only good for me as a parent to seek chances to grow, but it is good for me to connect with my pastor and other parishioners.
Are you expecting a baby or on an adoption list? Contact the parish…NOW! Find out what the process is (don’t complain or give the receptionist a hard time). Find out what you can get started on now. And plan to schedule the Baptism ASAP…. “in the first few weeks” as the Church says.