In the Roman Catholic Church, believers may receive seven different sacraments. The first sacrament members of the Church will receive is Baptism. This usually occurs as an infant, as Baptism is required to receive the other sacraments. Sometimes it is referred to as the first sacrament, since it is the first one a Roman Catholic will receive.
Baptism is required to become a member of the church. Historically, Baptisms took place outside the front doors of the Roman Catholic church to symbolize that the person being Baptised was not yet a member, but was let in after they received the sacrament.
Roman Catholics believe that Baptism is necessary for salvation. In John 3:1-21, Christ declares that Baptism is necessary for salvation. Thus, the Roman Catholic church feels that Baptism is required to truly become a Christian and for the soul to be saved.
The church recognizes three forms of Baptism. One is Baptism by water. This is the form that most people think of when they picture a Baptism and involves pouring water over a person’s head while Baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Another is Baptism by desire. This type of Baptism would apply to those who die while awaiting Baptism, or for those who know God in their heart, but by no fault of their own are unable to be Baptised.
Finally, there is Baptism by blood. This type of Baptism would apply to people who die through violence while fighting for the Church before they are able to receive the sacrament. In the early days of the church, this was a common occurrence. Missionaries are sometimes victims of violence before they are able to be Baptised as well.
Roman Catholics have an extended rite of Baptism that takes place in the church and is done by a priest, but they also believe that any Baptised person can Baptise another person with water. Today, Baptisms are usually performed in a church by a priest on infants. The celebration marks the beginning of the journey of faith for the child, and cleanses them of the original sin so they can grow to be productive members of the church and society.