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Catholic Activity: Baptism Customs

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There are many customs that have been practiced from ancient times in connection with the holy sacraments of the Church. These are some customs that are associated with the Sacrament of Baptism. These include practices on the actual reception of Baptism, and commemorating the anniversary of the Baptism.


It was a wide-spread practice among Catholic populations, and still is today in many places, that the parents themselves provide the candle which the priest will use in the ceremony of Baptism. According to the Ritual this candle is lit and handed to the sponsor to hold while the priest addresses the following words to the child:

Receive this lighted candle, and keep your Baptism above reproach. Keep the commandments of God, so that when the Lord comes to His marriage feast, you may meet Him in the halls of heaven with all His saints, and may live with Him forever. Amen.
It certainly is in keeping with the spirit of the liturgy of Baptism for the baptized person to retain this candle as a cherished symbol of his spiritual birth. These baptismal candles are often decorated with religious designs. The priest will gladly use such a candle, if brought by the parents, and allow them to take it home after the ceremony according to the pious custom of many centuries.

The baptismal candle is then carefully kept in the home. Every year, on the anniversary of Baptism, it is lit for a few minutes while the child in joyful prayer thanks God for the grace of the sacrament and renews the baptismal vows. In many places it is customary to use the baptismal candle on solemn occasions in later life: on the day of first holy Communion; on Wedding day; while receiving the sacraments in serious illness; and especially at the hour of death. Afterwards, what is left of the candle, is put at the head of the coffin during the wake and kept burning until it is consumed.

Parents who already have children of school age, would do well to take them along to church for the Baptism of a little brother or sister. They might ask the priest to give a short explanation of the holy rite; or, if this should not be possible, father or mother could explain the prayers and ceremonies at home before Baptism. Thus the children will follow with interest and devotion and will better understand the great meaning and importance of their own Baptism. An occasion like this is one of the most valuable means of religious instruction. Here the children are taught not only in words but through the actual performance of holy liturgy with all its light, warmth and grace.

In many places the anniversary of Baptism is joyfully kept as a personal feast day, as the true birthday of supernatural life. People observe it by attending Mass, receiving Communion, renewing their baptismal vows, burning the candle of Baptism for a little while, and performing some other acts of devotion during the day. A visit to the parish baptistry would be most appropriate. Very often, however, the memory of Baptism is rather combined with the celebration of the saint's day whose name was received at the Christening (see chapter 13: "Nameday").

Activity Source: Year of the Lord in the Christian Home, The (reprinted as Religious Customs in the Family) by Francis X. Weiser, S.J., The Liturgical Press; reprinted by TAN Books and Publishers, 1964

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