What to Know Before Your Baby's Catholic Baptism

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

BY: Meredith Gould


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Keep the Baptismal Certificate

Don't lose the paperwork! You'll need that Baptismal Certificate for just about everything in the life to come-CCD registration, First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, and heaven forefend, Annulment. Add it to the pile of other important documents you have stashed in the family safe. No family safe? Uh-oh. You'd better go get one or sign up for a safe-deposit box at your local bank.

Haul out the family Bible-if it's not displayed on or near the family altar as suggested in Chapter 6-and record the baptismal date. If you don't already have this information recorded, you may as well note sacramental anniversary dates for everyone else in your family.

What to Serve at a Christening Party

By custom, your christening party menu should be dominated by white, light, and sweet foods. Decorate with white flowers, balloons, and more candles. Scallop shells are also used to symbolize Baptism, even though they were originally pagan fertility symbols. Did you string little white lights during Christmas? Well, you can use them again for this party. Bring out the dove collection you displayed for Easter and Pentecost! Put out a baby book and ask guests to write a little something about your child's Baptism or perhaps their own. Siblings involved? Maybe they could be persuaded to compose a special poem, craft a banner, or have pictures of their own Baptisms displayed.

For Guests: What Gift Should I Bring?

You didn't have the baby. No one asked you to be an official witness. You're an honored guest! You're wondering, What am I supposed to be doing? Well, at the church, you're not supposed to be jumping up on the pews or scrambling around the baptismal font with a video camera. Save that for the house party.

Your next big question is undoubtedly, Should I bring a gift? Here's the scoop on gifts for the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, First Eucharist). If you're invited, but don't attend, you're not expected to send something. May the Holy Spirit guide you to a greeting card that doesn't make you gag.

If you're invited and attend, depending on your closeness to the family, your gift may range from a bouquet of flowers to a monetary gift in the child's name (e.g., savings bond, stock, charitable contribution). If you're Catholic, it's appropriate to give sacramentals and items like religious jewelry, saint statues, saint medals, guardian angel figurines, children's books, or icons. If you're Christian, but not Catholic, don't give stuff you'd never use in your own faith practice (e.g., a rosary). If you're neither Catholic nor Christian, then you really are quite the honored guest! How about giving the parents a gift certificate to a restaurant or the movies? At some point, they'll need a break from parenting fun.

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