The Diocese of Des Moines

Sacraments of Initiation


Sacraments of Initiation


In the earliest days of the Church, the three primary elements of initiation (water baptism, chrismation or sealing with oil, and sharing in the Eucharist) were seen as one initiatory movement or rite.  Over time, Western Christians, due to geography and theological development resulted in separate celebrations of these three elements into three sacraments of initiation we know today.  However, with the Second Vatican Council’s restoration of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Christians of the West now have an element of that early historical practice even while upholding the theological development that allowed them to be celebrated separately. 
Baptism is the first of three initiation sacraments of the Catholic Church, the others being Eucharist and Confirmation. Baptism purifies one from the original sin, welcomes the newcomer into the family of God, the Church, and offers new and eternal life with God. 


The Catholic Church addresses baptism of infants and baptism of adults differently.  Each parish community has their particularly practices and policies.  If you have questions, contact your local parish or the parish you’re considering joining.

Baptism of Children
Ancient testimony regarding infant baptism dates back to the second century and actual practice may date back to apostolic times. It is a sacrament celebrated with the faithful of the Church. Our current doctrinal book, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, states in #1250, “The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism.”

The role of the parents is to help form their child in the faith, and the role of sponsors or godparents to assist in the child’s journey of faith.

A baptism can be performed by a bishop, priest or deacon. In cases of emergency or necessity, anyone can baptize.

For more information or to arrange for a baptism of an infant or child, contact your local pastor.

Baptism of Adults
Baptism of adults recognizes a divinely-inspired conversion of heart. It welcomes a person into the Christian community.

Adult baptism goes back to the very beginning of Christian tradition, for it was John the Baptist who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.

The Second Vatican Council restored the ancient Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA. This is a process of learning and prayer that can ultimately lead to one’s baptism.

For more information on baptism for adults, or the RCIA process, contact your local pastor or visit the Diocese of Des Moines’ RCIA page.


The Office of Worship provides guidelines and assistance to parish leaders who prepare the Confirmation liturgy, and the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization provides guidelines and assistance for those charged with the formation of those receiving the sacrament.  Contact your parish leadership for more information on preparing for and receiving this sacrament.

In the Diocese of Des Moines, the sacrament of Confirmation is typically celebrated in late junior high or, more recently, the end of the sophomore year of high school, but it may be celebrated any time after age 7.  The ordinary minister of the sacrament of Confirmation is the Bishop, who may delegate this responsibility to another priest if pastoral circumstances suggest it.  In the case of those confirmed in adulthood, the parish pastor often is given the faculty to celebrate the sacrament.  There are many differing historical and theological reasons for when the sacrament of Confirmation is celebrated, and there is a degree of flexibility in canonical recommendation and law for the diocesan bishop to determine when Confirmation will be celebrated in a particular diocese.

It is often suggested that Confirmation completes initiation. While it is true that Confirmation is often the last of three sacraments of initiation celebrated, it should also be understood that anything “done” in Confirmation is a strengthening or seal on baptism.  In the case of a teenager who has been receiving Holy Communion since age 7 or 8, s/he has already been a full participant in Eucharistic liturgies, what the Second Vatican Council calls “the source and summit” of our lives as Christians (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium 10).  So confirmation, when received after Eucharist, does not so much complete initiation as it does strengthen or seal it. 

Contact your local parish for information on Mass times.  You can also visit or call 1-800-anytime you’re traveling.  Most parishes in the United States are accounted here, and though it’s a good idea to call to verify the times, it’s usually quite accurate.  The site has recently begun including worldwide parishes in their database. 

The celebration of the Eucharist, the “source and summit” of our lives as Christians (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium 10), is a hallmark of Catholic spiritual and liturgical life, and as the sacrament of unity and communion with God in Christ and the Church, the People of God, signifies the fullness of initiation.  In this sacrament, we receive, body and blood, soul and divinity, our Lord Jesus, who left this sacrificial meal as an everlasting covenant and lasting institution of his love. Eucharistia, the Greek word meaning “thanksgiving”, is the heart of what Christ gathers us for when we celebrate Eucharist.  The community, gathered by Christ, offers a sacrifice of praise, of the lives of those gathered, and ultimately, in gratitude, re-presents to God the Father the one atoning sacrifice of Christ.  Christ then, by the Holy Spirit present in the sacrament, comes to us, dwells in us, and transforms us so that we may transform the world.

The ordinary minister of the sacrament is a bishop or priest, and the eucharistic prayer and communion rite with reception of the Body and Blood of Christ by those gathered is the centerpiece of the sacrament.  In addition to the priest, deacons too are ministers distribution of the sacrament, usually distributing the Blood of Christ.  Most parishes also allow lay women and men to serve as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, to commissioned to facilitate reception of Communion in an easier way. 

The dialogue or communion between the living God—Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father—and God’s own people during the celebration of the Eucharist is precisely why we come to Mass.  In receiving Jesus Christ, the giver par excellence, as gift, we too are called to be giver and gift to others in our midst. 

The traditional chant for Holy Thursday, “Ubi caritas est vera,” summarizes what we seek and experience in this sacrificial meal of Christ.  This text has been in use since the earliest days of Christian worship, and the chant typically used may date between the 7th and 10th Centuries.


Latin Text
Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.

 English Translation
Where charity and love are true, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Your face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.