Baptism for Infants

ISSUE: May people be baptized during Lent?

RESPONSE: Because Lent is a time of preparation for catechumens and Easter the most important feast of the Church year, the Church has designated that the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday be the ordinary time for baptism of adults.[1] Such specific norms do not exist for the baptism of infants and children, although most U.S. Bishops have adopted the practice of deferring such baptisms to Easter Sunday. However, in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the Church says that, “for unusual circumstances and pastoral needs,” adult baptismal preparation may take place outside of Lent and adult baptism at a time other than Lent or Easter.[2] Diocesan bishops are to make such determinations, and they have similar authority regarding the baptism of children.[3] In case of danger of death, though, the Church allows for baptism of anyone “without delay.”[4]

DISCUSSION: Since the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults became effective in 1988, most U.S. Bishops have designated that there be no baptisms during Lent. This has been true even of infants, who are normally baptized within the first weeks after birth.[5] Outside of Lent, Sunday Mass is typically the occasion when infants and others are baptized. However, the Church has traditionally designated Lent to finalize baptismal preparation for adult catechumens. The preparation culminates at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday, the Church’s most solemn feast in which we celebrate Christ’s victory over death (Catechism of the Catholic Church (Catechism), no. 1169). The water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up cleansed from sin as a “new creation” in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Catechism, no. 1214; cf. nos. 1213-16; 1229-33).

Because of Lent’s preparatory character, including specific catechumenal rituals at several Sunday Masses, many in the Church believe that it would be inconsistent to baptize adults, children or infants during a Lenten Sunday Mass. However, diocesan bishops may allow Lenten baptisms[6] and could, for example, designate that the sacrament be celebrated after Sunday Masses. A bishop may also designate other periods for the baptism of adults.[7]

Further inquiries in this matter can be directed to CUF, your diocesan liturgy office, or, if necessary, the Secretariat for the Liturgy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 3211 4th St., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017-1194.


Recommended Reading:

Holy Bible (Catholic edition)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Vatican II Documents

Précis of Official Catholic Teaching on Worship and Sacraments

Hahn and Suprenant, eds., Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God

Leon Suprenant and Philip Gray, Faith Facts: Answers to Catholic Questions

Ted Sri, Mystery of the Kingdom: On the Gospel of Matthew

Leon Suprenant, ed., Servants of the Gospel

Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Without a Doubt: Bringing Faith to Life

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Signs of the Christ: Sacraments of the Catholic ChurchBaptismal FontsNorms for Infant Baptism“Let the Children Come to Me”: Why the Church Baptizes BabiesFollowing Our Bishops“We Believe in One God….”: The Nicene Creed and MassThe Theological Virtue of Faith

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Last edited: 5/19/14


[1] Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), 1988, no. 8, 26.

[2] Ibid., no. 26; cf. nos. 27-30.

[3] Rite of Baptism for Children, 1969, nos. 8.1, 21; and RCIA, nos. 370-399.

[4] See, for example, Rite of Baptism for Children, no. 8.1. Such baptism of children “is permitted even when the parents are opposed and even when the infant is the child of non-Catholic parents.”

[5] Rite of Baptism for Children, no. 8:3.

[6] Ibid., no. 8:4; RCIA, nos. 8, 26-30.

[7] RCIA, nos. 8, 26-30.

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