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The Sacrament of Baptism

Papa Benedetto's @Pontifex tweet on 13 January 2013, Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord: 'What happens in Baptism? We become united forever with Jesus, to be born again to a new life.'

Catechesis on Baptism by Pope Francis (1 of 2)
General Audience, Wednesday 8 January 2014, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today we begin a series of Catecheses on the Sacraments, starting with Baptism. By happy coincidence this coming Sunday is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

1. Baptism is the Sacrament on which our very faith is founded and which grafts us as a living member onto Christ and his Church. Together with the Eucharist and Confirmation it forms what is known as “Christian initiation”, like one great sacramental event that configures us to the Lord and turns us into a living sign of his presence and of his love.

Yet a question may stir within us: is Baptism really necessary to live as Christians and follow Jesus? After all, isn’t it merely a ritual, a formal act of the Church in order to give a name to the little boy or girl? This question can arise. And on this point what the Apostle Paul writes is illuminating: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). Therefore, it is not a formality! It is an act that touches the depths of our existence. A baptized child and an unbaptized child are not the same. A person who is baptized and a person who is not baptized are not the same. We, by Baptism, are immersed in that inexhaustible source of life which is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and of death, but in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.

2. Many of us have no memory of the celebration of this Sacrament, and it is obvious why, if we were baptized soon after birth. I have asked this question two or three times already, here, in this square: who among you knows the date of your Baptism, raise your hands. It is important to know the day on which I was immersed in that current of Jesus' salvation. And I will allow myself to give you some advice... but, more than advice, a task for today. Today, at home, go look, ask about the date of your Baptism and that way you will keep in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism. To know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day. The danger of not knowing is that we can lose awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. Thus, we end up considering it only as an event that took place in the past – and not by our own will but by that of our parents – and that it has no impact on the present. We must reawaken the memory of our Baptism. We are called to live out our Baptism every day as the present reality of our lives. If we manage to follow Jesus and to remain in the Church, despite our limitations and with our weaknesses and our sins, it is precisely in the Sacrament whereby we have become new creatures and have been clothed in Christ. It is by the power of Baptism, in fact, that, freed of original sin, we are inserted into Jesus' relation to God the Father; that we are bearers of a new hope, for Baptism gives us this new hope: the hope of going on the path of salvation our whole life long. And this hope nothing and no one can extinguish, for it is a hope that does not disappoint. Remember, hope in the Lord never disappoints. Thanks to Baptism, we are capable of forgiving and of loving even those who offend us and do evil to us. By our Baptism, we recognize in the least and in the poor the face of the Lord who visits us and makes himself close. Baptism helps us to recognize in the face of the needy, the suffering, and also of our neighbour, the face of Jesus. All this is possible thanks to the power of Baptism!

3. A last point, which is important. I ask you a question: can a person baptize him or herself? No one can be self-baptized! No one. We can ask for it, desire it, but we always need someone else to confer this Sacrament in the name of the Lord. For Baptism is a gift which is bestowed in a context of care and fraternal sharing. Throughout history, one baptizes another, another and another... it is a chain. A chain of Grace. I cannot baptize myself: I must ask another for Baptism. It is an act of brotherhood, an act of filiation to the Church. In the celebration of Baptism we can see the most genuine features of the Church, who like a mother continues to give birth to new children in Christ, in the fecundity of the Holy Spirit.

Let us, then, ask the Lord from our hearts that we may be able to experience ever more, in everyday life, this grace that we have received at Baptism. That in encountering us, our brothers and sisters may encounter true children of God, true brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, true members of the Church. And do not forget your homework today: find out, ask for the date of your Baptism. As I know my birthday, I should know my Baptism day, because it is a feast day."

Saluti:

Je salue avec joie les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier les jeunes prêtres du diocèse de Poitiers. Chers amis, je vous invite à accueillir chaque jour la grâce de votre Baptême et à la faire fructifier en étant des signes de l’amour du Seigneur pour tous. Bonne année et bon pèlerinage!

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from Ausralia, Haiti and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

Sehr herzlich grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache. In der Taufe haben wir das neue Leben in Christus empfangen. Danken wir Gott für dieses wunderbare Geschenk und bitten wir ihn, dass wir jeden Tag als seine Kinder, als wahre Brüder und Schwestern Christi und Glieder seiner Kirche leben. Der Herr begleite euch und eure Lieben mit seinem Segen in diesem neuen Jahr.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de España - veo la Diócesis de Cuenca, allí - de Argentina, de Bolivia, Venezuela, México y los demás países latinoamericanos. Invito a todos a experimentar en la vida de cada día la gracia que recibimos en el Bautismo, siendo verdaderos hermanos, verdaderos miembros de la Iglesia. Feliz año a todos.

Dirijo uma cordial saudação aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, encorajando-vos a todos a viver o vosso Baptismo como realidade actual da vossa existência. Não deixeis que vos roubem a vossa identidade cristã! Com estes votos, invoco sobre vós e vossas famílias a abundância das bênçãos do Céu.

لأخوات والإخوة الأحباء الناطقون باللغة العربية، والقادمون من الشرق الأوسط، وخاصة من سوريا ومن العراق: تحتفل الكنيسة بالأسرار، ولكن الأسرار هي التي تقيم الكنيسة وتغذيها. ادعوكم لتذكر يوم معموديتكم والاحتفال به، لأنه اليوم الذي فيه ولدنا كخليقة جديدة في المسيح، وكهيكل للروح القدس، وكأبناء بالتبني للآب؛ وكأعضاء في الكنيسة المقدسة؛ وكأخوة في الإيمان ومبشرين بالخبر السار؛ قادرين على تقديم الغفران والمحبة للجميع، وحتى للأعداء. ليحفظ الرب حياتكم ويبارككم!

Serdeczne pozdrowienie kieruję do Polaków. Dziękując wam za wszystkie życzenia bożonarodzeniowe, jakie wraz z modlitwą nadesłaliście mi z Polski i ze wszystkich stron świata, z serca je odwzajemniam i proszę nowo narodzonego Pana o Jego błogosławieństwo dla was i dla waszych rodzin. Niech Jego łaska stale wam towarzyszy!

* * *

A tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana presenti a questa prima Udienza Generale del 2014 porgo un cordiale augurio di serenità e di pace per il nuovo anno. Saluto i sacerdoti di Milano e di Genova; le Apostole del Sacro Cuore di Gesù; i gruppi parrocchiali e le Associazioni, in particolare quelle di volontariato ed assistenza ai bambini dell’Est, di Enna e di Modugno. Do il benvenuto ai componenti del Golden Circus di Liana Orfei – sono stati bravi, complimenti! – che privilegia quest’anno il mondo latinoamericano, e li invito, nel loro viaggiare di città in città, a sentirsi messaggeri di gioia, messaggeri di fratellanza, in una società che ne ha tanto bisogno. Saluto con affetto i piccoli degenti dell’Istituto nazionale per la ricerca e la cura dei tumori di Milano ed assicuro la mia preghiera affinché il Signore sostenga ognuno con la sua grazia.

Lastly, my thoughts turn to young people, the sick and to newlyweds. Dear friends, in these days following the Feast of the Epiphany let us continue to meditate on the manifestation of Jesus to all the nations. The Church invites you, dear young people, especially students at the Istituto Vescovile di Nola, to be enthusiastic witnesses to Christ among your peers; she exhorts you, dear sick people, to spread her light every day with serene patience; and she encourages you, dear newlyweds, to be a sign of her renewing presence by your faithful love."

Catechesis on Baptism by Pope Francis (2 of 2)
General Audience, Wednesday 15 January 2014, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Last Wednesday we started a brief cycle of catecheses on the Sacraments, beginning with Baptism. And I would like pause again on Baptism today, in order to stress an important fruit of this Sacrament: it makes us members of the Body of Christ and of the People of God. St Thomas Aquinas states that whoever receives Baptism is incorporated in Christ, almost as one of his own limbs, and becomes aggregated to the community of the faithful (cf. Summa Theologiae, III, q. 69, art. 5; q. 70, art. 1), that is, the People of God. In the school of the Second Vatican Council, we say today that Baptism allows us to enter the People of God, to become members of a People on a journey, a people on pilgrimage through history.

In effect, as from generation to generation life is transmitted, so too from generation to generation, through rebirth at the baptismal font, grace is transmitted, and by this grace the Christian People journeys through time, like a river that irrigates the land and spreads God’s blessing throughout the world. From the moment that Jesus said what we heard in the Gospel Reading, the disciples went out to baptize; and from that time until today there is a chain in the transmission of the faith through Baptism. And each one of us is a link in that chain: a step forward, always; like a river that irrigates. Such is the grace of God and such is our faith, which we must transmit to our sons and daughters, transmit to children, so that once adults, they can do the same for their children. This is what Baptism is. Why? Because Baptism lets us enter this People of God that transmits the faith. This is very important. A People of God that journeys and hands down the faith.

In virtue of Baptism we become missionary disciples, called to bring the Gospel to the world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 120). “All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.... The new evangelization calls for personal involvement” (ibid.) from everyone, the whole of the People of God, a new kind of personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. The People of God is a disciple People — because it receives the faith — and a missionary People — because it transmits the faith. And this is what Baptism works in us: it gives us Grace and hands on the faith to us. All of us in the Church are disciples, and this we are forever, our whole lifelong; and we are all missionaries, each in the place the Lord has assigned to him or her. Everyone: the littlest one is also a missionary; and the one who seems to be the greatest is a disciple. But one of you might say: “Bishops are not disciples, Bishops know everything; the Pope knows everything, he is not a disciple”. No, the Bishops and the Pope must also be disciples, because if they are not disciples, they do no good. They cannot be missionaries, they cannot transmit the faith. We must all be disciples and missionaries.

There exists an indissoluble bond between the mystical and the missionary dimension of the Christian vocation, both rooted in Baptism. “Upon receiving faith and Baptism, we Christians accept the action of the Holy Spirit who leads to confessing Jesus as Son of God and calling God ‘Abba’, Father.... All of us who are baptized ... are called to live and transmit communion with the Trinity, for evangelization is a calling to participate in the communion of the Trinity” (Final Document of Aparecida, n. 157).

No one is saved by himself. We are the community of believers, we are the People of God and in this community we share the beauty of the experience of a love that precedes us all, but that at the same time calls us to be “channels” of grace for one another, despite our limitations and our sins. The communitarian dimension is not just a “frame”, an “outline”, but an integral part of Christian life, of witness and of evangelization. The Christian faith is born and lives in the Church, and in Baptism families and parishes celebrate the incorporation of a new member in Christ and in his Body which is the Church (cf. ibid., n. 175b).

On the subject of the importance of Baptism for the People of God, the history of the Christian community in Japan is exemplary. It suffered severe persecution at the start of the 17th century. There were many martyrs, members of the clergy were expelled and thousands of faithful killed. No priest was left in Japan, they were all expelled. Then the community retreated into hiding, keeping the faith and prayer in seclusion. And when a child was born, the father or mother baptized him or her, because the faithful can baptize in certain circumstances. When, after roughly two and a half centuries, 250 years later, missionaries returned to Japan, thousands of Christians stepped out into the open and the Church was able to flourish again. They survived by the grace of Baptism! This is profound: the People of God transmits the faith, baptizes her children and goes forward. And they maintained, even in secret, a strong communal spirit, because their Baptism had made of them one single body in Christ: they were isolated and hidden, but they were always members of the People of God, members of the Church. Let us learn a great deal from this history!"

Saluti:

"Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones, particulièrement les élèves, les professeurs et le personnel de l’Institut Saint-Dominique de Rome, et les jeunes venus de France. Que le Seigneur vous donne de vivre pleinement de la grâce que vous avez reçue au Baptême, et d’être les instruments des bénédictions de Dieu pour les autres. Bon pèlerinage!

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

Herzlich begrüße ich die Brüder und Schwestern aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Liebe Freunde, durch die Taufe sind wir alle berufen, missionarische Jünger zu sein! Der Herr zählt auf uns. Gott segne euch.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los Padres Agustinos Recoletos y a las Religiosas de María Inmaculada, así como a los demás grupos venidos de España, Uruguay, Argentina, México y otros países latinoamericanos. Invito a todos a tomar en serio su bautismo, siendo discípulos y misioneros del Evangelio, con la palabra y con el propio ejemplo. Que Jesús os bendiga y la Virgen Santa os cuide. Muchas gracias.

Dirijo uma cordial saudação aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, presentes nesta Audiência, especialmente aos grupos vindos do Brasil. Queridos amigos, todos os batizados estão chamados a ser discípulos missionários, vivendo e transmitindo a comunhão com Deus, transmitindo a fé. Em todas as circunstâncias, procurai oferecer um testemunho alegre da vossa fé. Que Deus vos abençoe!

الأخوات والإخوة الأحباء الناطقون باللغة العربية، القادمون من الأردن ومن الأراضي المقدسة: تعلموا من الكنيسة في اليابان، التي عاشت في الخفاء لأكثر من قرنين ونصف، بسبب اضطهادات القرن السابع عشر، ناقلة من جيل إلى جيل شعلة الإيمان متوهجة دائما. إن الصعاب والاضطهادات، عندما تعاش باستسلام وبثقة وبرجاء، فهي تنقي الإيمان وتقويه. فكونوا شهودا حقيقيين للمسيح ولإنجيله، وأبناء صالحين للكنيسة، مستعدين دائما لتقديم شهادة للرجاء الذي فيكم، بمحبة وباحترام. ليحفظ الرب حياتكم ويبارككم!

Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich Polaków. Bracia i siostry, chrzest św. jest fundamentem naszego życia, najpiękniejszym darem Boga, początkiem nowego życia jako dzieci Bożych. Dziękujmy za nasz chrzest i pamiętajmy, do czego ten sakrament nas zobowiązuje. Niech nasze codzienne życie i relacje z ludźmi będą świadectwem przynależności do Boga, który jest naszym Ojcem. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.

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Porgo un cordiale benvenuto ai fedeli di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i fedeli della Diocesi di Civitavecchia-Tarquinia accompagnati dal Vescovo Mons. Luigi Marrucci; gli studenti della Diocesi di Caserta,  - sono rumorosi i casertani! - con l’Amministratore Apostolico Mons. Angelo Spinillo e quelli dell’Istituto delle Suore Immacolatine di Roma; le Suore Domenicane Missionarie di San Sisto, che ricordano il centenario della morte della Fondatrice, Madre Antonia Lalìa.

I greet the priests of the Istituto Secolare della Regalità, the Lions Club with Bishop Luigi Renzo and the Lancieri di Aosta, who have provided aid to immigrants in Lampedusa. I exhort everyone to live out their ecclesial roles with generosity, that the Lord may fill our hearts with the joy that he alone can give.

I address a special greeting to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, a good occasion to rethink our belonging to Christ in the faith of the Church. Dear young people, rediscover daily the grace that comes from Baptism. You, dear sick people, draw strength from Baptism to confront moments of pain and discouragement. And you, dear newlyweds, understand how to translate the commitment of Baptism on your path of family life."