Pope Francis spoke about the Sacrament of Baptism on Wednesday, emphasizing the importance of the Catholic practice of baptizing infants, since the grace of the Holy Spirit helps them to grow in virtue.
“Why baptize a child who does not understand?” the pope asked April 11. “When we baptize a child, the Holy Spirit enters that child, and the Holy Spirit makes… the Christian virtues grow in that child, who will then flourish.”
Though we hope that when a child grows up he or she will understand and desire Baptism for themselves, to withhold the sacrament from a child “means not trusting in the Holy Spirit,” he said.
“We must always give this opportunity to everyone, to all children, to have inside of them the Holy Spirit that will guide them throughout their lives. Do not forget to baptize children!”
Pope Francis spoke about infant Baptism during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. He also emphasized that the graces of the sacrament are not something one earns through understanding, intelligence, or worthiness, but as pure gift.
“Nobody deserves Baptism,” he said, “[it] is always a free gift for everyone, adults and newborns. But as happens for a seed full of life, this gift takes root and bears fruit in earth fed by faith.”
Baptism also, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, “immerses us in the death and resurrection of the Lord,” the pope said. In the sacrament the “old man,” dominated by sin, gives way to the “new man,” who has been recreated in Christ Jesus.
“But for us Christians it must not escape that if the body is immersed in water, it is the soul that is immersed in Christ to receive forgiveness from sin and shine with divine light,” he stated.
He quoted St. Paul’s reminder to the Christians of Rome: “Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”
Furthermore, Pope Francis spoke about how Baptism, through immersion in Christ, also makes us members of Christ’s body and his mission in the world, which is the Church.
“We baptized are not isolated,” he said, “the same life, that of the Holy Spirit, flows from Christ to the baptized, uniting them into one Body, crested by holy unction and nourished at the Eucharistic table.”
As he has done on several previous occasions, Francis asked the people gathered in the square if they remember the date of their Baptism, “because perhaps many do not remember this.”
“But if we celebrate the day of birth, how can we not celebrate – at least remember – the day of rebirth?” he asked, assigning a little bit of “homework:” to ask parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles what their baptismal date is.
“And never forget it,” he said to Christians. “And that day thank the Lord because it is precisely the day when Jesus entered into [you], the Holy Spirit has entered into [you].”