THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
"At that time Jesus said to His disciples: All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."
Matt. 28, 18-20.
Is Baptism a sacrament?
Yes, for by it we receive the grace of God, through an outward sign instituted by Christ. “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16, 15-16). “Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3, 5). "If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canon 5, Canons on Baptism, Council of Trent).
What is the outward sign?
Pouring water on the head of the person to be baptized and pronouncing at the same time the words:
“I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
“If anyone says that true and natural water is not necessary for baptism and thus twists into some metaphor the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost’, let him be anathema."
(Canon 2, Canons on Baptism, Council of Trent)
What is the effect of the grace of Baptism?
Through water and the Holy Ghost, the baptized person is cleansed from original sin, and from all actual sins, if he has committed such, and becomes a temple of the Blessed Trinity; is spiritually new-born receiving the permanent character of the sacrament making him a child of God, a joint-heir with Christ and a member of the Catholic Church, the “pillar and ground of the truth” (John 3, 6; Rom. 8, 17; 1 Tim. 3, 15).
Whence do we know for certain that God has revealed certain things?
From the Church of Christ which alone preserves the revealed word of God faithfully and uncorrupted, as it is contained in the Bible and in tradition; by the Holy Ghost all truth is given to the Church, and Christ remains with her until the end of the world (Matt. 28, 20).
Has the Church of Christ any marks by which it may be known?
Christ's Church has these four marks: it is One, it is Holy, it is Catholic, and it is Apostolic.
How is the Church One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic?
The Church is one, because all its members agree in one faith, are all in one communion, and are all under one head (Matt. 16, 18; Eph. 4, 37). The Church is Holy, in her Founder, Jesus Christ, and by teaching a holy doctrine, by inviting all to a holy life, and by the eminent holiness of so many thousands of her children. The Church is Catholic or Universal, because she subsists in all ages, teaches all nations, (Matt. 27, 19-20), and maintains all truth. The Church is Apostolic, because she comes down by a perpetual succession from the apostles of Christ, and has her doctrines her orders, and her mission from them.
Which is this true Church?
The Roman Catholic Church, for she alone has these marks. She is One in her head, the Pope of Rome, in her doctrine, and in her Sacraments, which is evident since she excludes all those who do not accept all her dogmas. She is Holy, for Christ her Founder is holy; and her doctrine and Sacraments lead to holiness, as shown by the multitude of her saints whose sanctity God arms by great miracles. No sect has saints. She is Catholic or Universal, for she has been in existence always from the times of the apostles, as is clearly shown by the fact that from the times of the apostles there have always been some who separated from her and founded sects. The Catholic Church has always existed, and cannot perish or become corrupt, since Christ has promised to remain with her to the end of the world; she is also spread over the whole world, is always being announced to all nations, and is fitted for all generations and for all people. She is Apostolic, for she accepts no doctrine which does not come from the apostles, and she can prove that the ministers of the Church, the bishops, have come down in unbroken succession from the apostles.
Can those who remain outside the Catholic Church be, saved?
The Council of Trent (Sess. V. in the Introduction) assigns the Catholic faith as the one without which it is impossible to please God, and the Roman Catechism teaches: (I part. art. 9.) "The Church is also called Catholic or Universal, because all who desire eternal salvation must cling to, and embrace her, like those who entered the ark to escape perishing in the flood."
"There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved."
Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215
"We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff."
Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302
"The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."
Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441
Are we then already saved, if we belong to the true Church?
No, we must also live up to the faith which she teaches, make good use of all means of salvation, regard and honor all her regulations and commands. Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, as I also have kept my Father’s commandments, and do remain in his love” (John 15, 10). Charity and good works are here equated. St. Paul said, if I “have not charity, I am nothing” (I Tim 1, 5) and St. James, “For even as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (Jam. 2, 26).
Let Us Pray:
Be with us, O Lord, for without Thee our pastors cannot produce fruit, nor their hearers profit anything from their words. Be with us always, for we always need Thy help. All power is given to Thee, Thou hast then the right to command, and we are bound to obey Thy commands which by Thy Church Thou hast made known to us. This we have promised in baptism, and now before Thee we renew those vows. Grant now that those promises which without Thee we could not have made, and without Thee cannot keep, may be fulfilled in our actions. Leave us not to ourselves, but be Thou with us, and make us obedient to Thee, that by cheerful submission to Thee true may receive happiness.