Fr. Paul Kavanagh says a Baptism service spreads joy in parishoners' faces.


Fr. Paul Kavanagh says a Baptism service spreads joy in parishoners' faces.

June 3, 2013

Baptism, the first of the three sacraments of initiation, is our basis of faith, our relationship with God through Jesus Christ and our life in the Church, Father Paul Kavanagh said May 22.

"By Baptism, we are drafted into the paschal mystery of Christ. We die with him, are buried with him and rise with him."

Reading from the Rite of Baptism for Children, Kavanagh said in Baptism we receive the spirit of filial adoption as sons and daughters of God and we become free of sin, original and personal.

He also described Baptism as the door to life and to the kingdom of God.

"Our Baptism, however young or however old we are, should remind us every day about what we believe and how we live our faith and how we witness that to the world."

Kavanagh, director of liturgy for the Edmonton Archdiocese, spoke about Baptism at the Catholic Pastoral Centre before an enthusiastic crowd that, in small groups, discussed his three 20-minute presentations.

His presentation was the sixth of seven in the archdiocese's series on the Nicene Creed to mark the Year of Faith.

Through Baptism, God enables us to participate in his life in Jesus Christ and makes us his children. It is through Baptism, he said, that we receive the Holy Spirit and become members of the Church.

Kavanagh celebrated his first few baptisms in Grade 6 when during the lunch hour he would baptize the Cabbage Patch Kids that his classmates brought to school. The night of his ordination as a priest years later, his Grade 6 teacher exposed him when she came up with a picture of Kavanagh baptizing the Cabbage Patch Kids.

"It was embarrassing, I have to say."


However, the joy of celebrating Baptism has stayed with him. "As a priest, one of the most exciting things I'm able to do is to celebrate the sacraments and I love celebrating the sacrament of Baptism."

Fr. Paul Kavanagh

Fr. Paul Kavanagh

At Assumption Parish, where he is presently the pastor, all Baptisms are celebrated during Sunday Mass. One thing he has noticed is the joy and exuberance in all of those present at each Baptism.

"You just see the joy in the parishioners' faces and I think that joy is certainly something we want to carry on in our own lives."

Infants and sometimes adults are baptized to welcome them into the Catholic faith and to free them from original sin. Once baptized, a person becomes a member of the Church.

Baptisms usually take place on Sundays. In most cases, the pastor or deacon administers the sacrament, anointing the person being baptized with oils, and pouring blessed water over the child or adult's head.

A person being baptized is expected to dress in white to symbolize purity of faith and the cleansing power of Baptism. The white garment symbolizes the white garments Jesus wore when he was placed in the tomb after his death on Good Friday.

An infant may wear a baptismal gown handed down for generations; an adult typically puts on a full-length white gown.

"You have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ," Kavanagh said as he recited the prayer, Clothing with a White Garment.

"See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. Receive this baptismal garment and bring that dignity unstained to the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that you may have everlasting life."

The white garment should speak volumes about our baptismal dignity and about who we are, Kavanagh said.

"I think there is a reason why we wear these white garments when we serve at Mass, when we serve at liturgy. It's a reminder of our Baptism. Priests wear it; lay people wear it."


In his presentation, Kavanagh also recited the prayer of the Presentation of a Lighted Candle, which is traditionally given to the godfather.

"You have been enlightened by Christ. Walk always as children of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts," he said. "When the Lord comes, may you go out and meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom."

Kavanagh said the candle represents Christ - "the light of Christ shining in our lives." This light, he added, should be leading us into the world to do what we are being called to do, which is to "proclaim Jesus Christ."