What to Know Before Your Baby's Catholic Baptism

Advice for parents on names, godparents, baptismal certificates, christening parties, and more.

BY: Meredith Gould

Excerpted from The Catholic Home with permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.

Picking Godparents

Oh dear, you had planned to ask your favorite uncle, the one who ditched Catholicism for another church, to be your child's godparent. Well, according to Canon Law, he can't be the godfather, but may act as a Christian witness if you find a practicing Catholic to act as godmother. And it doesn't matter how much you love her, forget about asking the cousin who became a Theravadan Buddhist. She doesn't believe in Baptism. How's she going to wholeheartedly transmit Catholic faith and its practices?

Picking a Name

Here's something to figure out in the privacy of your own home: your child's name. Ever wonder how the Catholic kids always ended up with names like Theresa or John? Well, it's because there has yet to be a St. Lindsay or St. Brad.

While the Church no longer requires you to name your baby after a canonized saint, you might want to do so anyway. For one thing, having endured over time, saints names will remain tolerable. (Honestly, can you picture a Tiffany with liver spots? I didn't think so.) More important, naming your child after a saint automatically provides a patron, an exemplar, and yet another special day to celebrate God's goodness and grace.

However, the Church does insist that you avoid any name that's clearly anti-Christian-on the extremely remote possibility that you were going to name your child Sapphira.

Note: You may use the same name at Confirmation. In fact, doing so reinforces the link between these sacraments.

What Baby Should Wear

Traditional Baptism garb is white-for your child, that is. This represents "putting on Christ." Sometimes the church provides a white robe or stole to be used during the ceremony and kept afterward to commemorate the occasion. If your family doesn't already have an heirloom christening gown, here are two other traditions to consider:

  • Fashioning baptismal robes out of the same cloth that was used to create the mother's wedding gown or train

  • Assigning godparents the traditional honor of providing the christening gown

    Note: You'll be dressing your baby at home and will not have to undress the tyke for the rite, but do bring a towel and a change of clothes if you're opting for full immersion.

    What You'll Take Home

    You'll be leaving this ceremony with a candle, in addition to a baptized and, if you're lucky, a quiet baby. During the ceremony this taper is lit from the large Easter candle to symbolize your child's freedom from darkness by the Light of Christ. Hang on to this candle! It'll play a feature role in home-based celebrations for many years, if you're careful not to burn it too long at any one celebration and store it in your freezer. As she or he gets older, you can use this candle as a foundation for teaching what it means to share the Light of Christ.

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