Ask Fr. Jerry

If I marry a non-Catholic, do we have to baptize and raise our children Catholic? What is my obligation as a Catholic parent?

If and when you get married in the Catholic Church, you will be asked by the priest to sign a form titled, “Declaration and Promises of the Catholic.” It states: “I reaffirm my faith in Jesus Christ and, with the help of God, intend to continue living that faith in the Catholic Church. I promise to do all that I can to share the faith I have received with our children by having them baptized and reared as Catholics.” This declaration is important because it states you will try to live your faith to the fullest and pass on the faith to your children.

The responsibility of all Catholic parents is to pass on that faith to their children and ultimately to help each child make it to heaven. Small children are like sponges, waiting to absorb what is given to them. They learn by watching and listening to their parents, siblings, family and friends. As a church community, we have the responsibility to teach our children the ways of the faith and to give them good moral values and beliefs. That responsibility starts with you as a parent, the first teachers of the faith. The Catholic Church has been doing this for a very long time and has a powerful way to assist you as the first teachers of the faith. The way the Catholic Church does this is through the Sacraments. It begins with baptism. As Catholics, we have our children baptized as infants. We welcome them into our faith community as they receive the Holy Spirit and receive the graces of the Sacrament, God washes them clean from original sin and we give them the name “Christian” through baptism so that they may begin the process of following Christ.

As children grow, they are given the additional sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation so they can be strengthened on their journey of life and continue to receive the blessings of God and graces of the Sacraments. As Catholics, we believe that these sacraments bolster us through life and give us the strength and ability to fight the good fight of life. St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says, “Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God, so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)

A child does not have the ability to put on armor, so as a parent you have the responsibility to do so for your child. Just as you have the responsibility to protect your child from harm or illness, so, too, you have the responsibility to protect your child against evil. The Catholic Church is ready to help in this endeavor. A soldier would not be sent out to war without the proper equipment and protective gear. If we expect our children to fight the war against sin and evil in their life, we need to provide them with the proper tools and protection to fight the good fight. The Sacramental life of the Catholic Church is our armor.

So, yes, when you become a parent, you have a responsibility to baptize your child and to raise them in the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church does take very seriously the need and responsibility to raise your children Catholic. Now we as Catholics need to take it seriously as well.