Question and Answer
I recently received a question from a fellow Protestant with regards to Catholic Baptism. I thought it was a good question and thought I’d answer here in case anyone else was wondering.
Question: Is there a reason why Catholic Baptism is not submersion? If you had a submersion Baptism, is that not considered valid within the faith?
Within the Catholic Faith, there are three valid ways of applying water: Immersion (putting the person under the water), sprinkling water on the head, and pouring water over the head. As long as the matter (water) is poured over the head and the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” are used, the Baptism is valid.
I was baptized by immersion as a Protestant. When my pastor dipped me in the water, he said, “I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When I decided to become Catholic, they accepted my Baptism as completely valid.
Why the sprinkling over the head?
Well, one huge reason is that Baptism is the most necessary of the sacraments. The reason is that it washes away original and actual sins, brings about forgiveness, and makes us children of God. So, if it’s very necessary, it is fitting that anyone can perform a baptism. Yes, even an atheist, as long as they desire to do what the Church intends. How cool is that?
So, let’s say I’m a soldier on the battle field and I see my dying buddy. Before his death, he tells me that he wishes with all his heart to be baptized. I can, with the water in my canteen, pour water over his head and speak the words of baptism. Normally, you would want to have a priest or deacon baptize you in a proper ceremony with family and friends, but, in an emergency, anyone may baptize. There is not always a big body of water around to immerse someone in, so pouring water or sprinkling water over the head is fine.
I’ve been in different Catholic churches that have done Baptism in the three different ways. As Catholics, at special times of the year–like Easter–we renew our Baptismal promises and the priest comes around and sprinkles the congregation on the head. It’s a beautiful time to remember our Baptismal vows.
If you have been baptized validly, there is never any reason to do it again. Baptism leaves a mark (or character) upon your soul, identifying you as a child of God. What a beautiful thought.