Immersion by PAUL TURNER
Baptism in the Catholic Church may be administered
either by immersion or pouring.
The two options are always listed in that order, indicating a preference for baptism by immersion, even though pouring is more commonly practiced.
Christian Initiation, General Introduction, says, "As
the rite for baptizing, either immersion, which is more
suitable as a symbol of participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, or pouring may lawfully be used"
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Bap-
tism is performed in the most expressive way by triple
immersion in the baptismal water" (1239).
The National Statutes for the Catechumenate approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1986 say, "Baptism by immersion is the fuller and more expressive sign of the sacrament and, therefore, is preferred. ... Provision should be made for its more frequent use in the baptism of adults" (17).
For many centuries. Catholic churches were equipped
with baptismal fonts suitable for pouring water three
times over the head of an infant. Since the Second Vatican Council, many parishes have erected larger fonts for the immersion of infants and adults.
The documents never specify exactly how immersion
takes place, but several practices have evolved. When immersing an infant, the minister gently lowers the baby
three times into a large bowl of blessed water.
When immersing an adult, there are other options. Adults may kneel in a pool while the minister pours water three times over their heads. Or the minister may bring them face forward into the water three times. Or, if the pool is deep enough, while the adult stands, the minister may take him or her backwards into the pool three times.