Completing the Rites of Baptism

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

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Q: Is it necessary to complete the rites of baptism when someone has received baptism and confirmation in danger of death? — J.Q., Dushanbe, Tajikistan

A: The Church’s ritual for baptism has several rites. Among these is a rite of baptism for children in danger of death when no priest or deacon is available.

This rite foresees a number of prayers directed by any suitable member of the faithful. This minister may also give the white garment after baptism, saying:

«N., you have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ.

«See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. May you bring it unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.»

If there is no suitable minister to direct the prayers, or if the danger of death is imminent, the minister may baptize after reciting the Apostles’ Creed or even just perform the essential baptismal rite and formula.

There is no rite for baptism in danger of death when a priest or deacon is available. This is probably because the complete rite is always to be preferred. These ministers, however, can themselves judge with respect to abbreviating the rite in emergencies or when it is impossible to perform all of the rites, for example when baptizing an infant in an incubator.

Following the rite for emergency baptisms there is a rite of bringing a baptized child to the church. In this rite the priest greets the parents and godparents: «He praises them for having had the child baptized without delay, and thanks God and congratulates the parents on the Child’s return to health.» This rite, however, is not restricted to the case of danger of death but may follow any difficulty which prevented the celebration of the baptism in church.

There follows a dialogue similar to that used when parents bring their child to be baptized, but recognizing that he or she is already a Christian. The priest signs the child on the forehead; the parents and, if appropriate, the godparents, do the same.

A brief Liturgy of the Word and homily are followed by the prayer of the faithful, litany of saints, and a hymn. A period of silence is also recommended during one of these moments.

After this, the celebrant performs the explanatory rites after baptism: the anointing after baptism, clothing with the white garment (if not already done) and giving the lighted candle.

The rite concludes with a series of other prayers and blessings.

With respect to confirmation, the rites are rather scant although, unlike baptism, confirmation necessarily implies the presence of a priest. In the case of danger of death the rubrics say: «In the case of a child who has not yet reached the age of reason, confirmation is given in accord with the same principles and norms as for baptism.»

Nothing is said about receiving into the Church an infant who has been both baptized and confirmed in danger of death. I would suppose that the above-mentioned rite of bringing the child into the Church could be followed, although omitting the anointing after baptism as is normal when confirmation immediately follows baptism.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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Fr. Edward McNamara

Padre Edward McNamara, L.C., è professore di Teologia e direttore spirituale

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