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The seven sacraments shape the Christian life from birth to death and challenge the faithful to live holy, grace-filled lives. The Church defines specific guidelines that facilitate a richer faith life and a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the sacraments.
Baptism of Infants
§ 1: Parents are obliged to see to it that infants are baptized within the first weeks after birth; as soon as possible after the birth, or even before it, parents are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared for it properly.
§ 2: An infant in danger of death is to be baptized without any delay.
§ 1: For the licit baptism of an infant it is necessary that:
the parents or at least one of them or the person who lawfully takes their place gives consent;
there be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such a hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be put off according to the prescriptions of particular law and the parents are to be informed of the reason.
§ 2: The infant of Catholic parents, in fact of non-Catholic parents also, who is in danger of death is licitly baptized even against the will of the parents.
Canon 872: Insofar as possible, one to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who is to assist an adult in Christian initiation, or, together with the parents, to present an infant at the baptism, and who will help the baptized to lead a Christian life in harmony with baptism, and to fulfill faithfully the obligations connected with it.
Canon 873: Only one male or one female sponsor or one of each sex is to be employed.
§ 1: To be admitted to the role of sponsor, a person must:
be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the one who takes their place or, in their absence, by the pastor or minister and is to have the qualifications and intention of performing this role;
have completed the sixteenth year...
be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist and leads a life in harmony with the faith and the role to be undertaken;
not to be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
not be the father or the mother of the one to be baptized.
§ 2: A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community may not be admitted except as a witness to baptism and together with a Catholic sponsor.
Baptism of Adults and Children of Catechetical Age
Adults and children of catechetical age seeking baptism participate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This process, which includes liturgical rites, a program of formation and catechetical instruction, should be in place in each parish. Please refer to the Diocesan RCIA Guidelines for additional details.
Directives for First Penance and First Communion
Canon 914: It is the responsibility, in the first place, of parents and those who take the place of parents as well as of the pastor to see that children who have reached the use of reason are correctly prepared and are nourished by the divine food as early as possible, preceded by sacramental confession; it is also for the pastor to be vigilant lest any children come to the Holy Banquet who have not reached the use of reason or whom he judges are not sufficiently disposed.
The following guidelines incorporate the pastoral norm of the universal Church and particular law of the Diocese of Sacramento:
Children are to be prepared for First Penance and receive the Sacrament of Penance prior to receiving First Communion. Both sacraments would generally be received in grade two. First Penance would normally be received a couple of months or more before First Communion.
In a given parish, First Communion could be postponed to third grade, if indicated by available resources, the number of children or the time needed for adequate preparation of both children and parents.
The readiness required for the Sacrament of Penance consists in the capacity to discern between right and wrong, together with an understanding, appropriate to the child’s age, of what sin is. The readiness required for First Communion is not dissimilar: the ability to recognize the difference between the Eucharist and ordinary bread (and wine).
Children who are well prepared for Penance generally welcome this opportunity to experience God’s mercy. Parents/guardians of a child occasionally may indicate that their child is “too young” for Penance. In such a case, after due pastoral discernment, delay of both Penance and Communion is often the most suitable resolution.
The universal law, as reiterated by the particular law of our Diocese, does not permit the parish program to orient the class as a whole away from receiving First Penance prior to First Communion. The pastoral norm is: First Penance prior to First Communion.
Delaying the preparation and reception of First Penance until sometime after First Communion is not permitted by the universal Church or by the Diocese of Sacramento.
Participation in the Most Holy Eucharist
Canon 916: A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.
Canon 917: A person who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it a second time on the same day only within the eucharistic celebration in which the person participates.
§ 1: A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine.
§ 3: The elderly, the infirm, and those who care for them can receive the Most Holy Eucharist even if they have eaten something within the preceding hour.