Baptism is one of the seven sacraments and the first of the sacraments of initiation into the life of Christ and His Church. Like all the sacraments, it can be considered from a wide variety of angles: How it was instituted, how it is celebrated and by whom, what it accomplishes, what it demands of us, and so on.Our Lord Himself stressed the importance of baptism, commissioning his disciples to go out to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19). The least understood aspect of this baptism is probably the nature of baptismal grace, and what it accomplishes. The Catechism contains a clear and well-organized treatment of this very question.Those who come to Faith as adults naturally wish to be baptized, but there has been a tendency in our own day to undervalue and even postpone infant baptism, which is also frowned upon by some Protestants. For this reason, we are wise to revisit the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's statement on this important topic in 1980.Finally, since baptism is so obviously the ordinary means by which we are claimed for God, the question of whether salvation is possible for unbaptized infants is of great concern. At the request of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Vatican's International Theological Commission has recently issued a thorough examination of this difficult question.
If you only have time to look at three things, LOOK AT THESE.
- The Catechism on the Grace of Baptism
- Instruction on Infant Baptism
- The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die without Being Baptized
And if you've got more time...
The Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes one of its four major parts to “The Celebration of the Christian Mystery”, which contains two major sections on “The Sacramental Economy” and “The Seven Sacraments of the Church”. All the various aspects of baptism are succinctly covered in the latter section, in the chapter on “The Sacraments of Initiation”, under the article entitled The Sacrament of Baptism.