Fr. Finigan on an annual indulgence: anniversary of baptism

Did you know that you can gain an indulgence on the anniversary of your baptism?

his Hermeneuticalness, Fr. Tim Finigan, has an entry on this and a useful entry on baptismal certificates.

Getting a baptismal certificate

I am very glad to have helped people by publicising the plenary indulgence that is offered on the anniversary of one’s baptism. Some people are not sure of the date of their Baptism and might like to find out. Here is some advice on how to do so.

Every parish keeps a permanent register of Baptisms. This is one of the most important things that the parish possesses. If things are done properly, your confirmation should also be recorded and also your marriage (or religious profession, or ordination.)

A "Baptism Certificate" is a copy of the entry that is made in the Baptismal register. If you are getting married, you need to supply a recent baptismal certificate (within six months of the wedding) which will then also record that there are "no other entries" (i.e. no previous marriage recorded) and that you are "free to marry". I always send for these myself but some priests ask the Catholic party(ies) in the wedding to obtain them. It is also OK to ask for a Baptismal certificate if you just want to know when your baptism was.

If you want to get a certificate of Baptism, send a letter addressed to the parish priest of the parish where you were baptised. Give your full name (as it was at the time of your baptism if your name has subsequently changed.) Give your date of birth and roughly when the Baptism took place. If you were baptised as a baby it is sufficient to say this but if you were baptised at three or four years old, it will help the parish priest if you tell him this; and enclose a stamped addressed envelope just to make things a little easier!

My own practice now is to photocopy the entry onto parish letterhead and then sign date and stamp it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Liam says:

    Yes, this is a little-known indulgence, just as much of an indulgence as the Divine Mercy or other better known indulgences.

    Many Catholics are unaware of the power, shall we say, of baptismal registers. The marriage of a dear friend of mine was annulled; her putative spouse was so noncooperative and obstructive that the metropolitan tribunal’s decree was noted in a particular way in his baptismal records so that, when he tried to become a priest, he would either have to resolve that issue or be rejected. Which he was.

  2. David says:

    How does one get the indulgence?

  3. Fr. Charles says:

    I never knew this! As an adult convert, I have always observed my baptismal day, which, when I was baptized, was the feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist. As of the 2002MR, however, it seems to now be called In Passione S. Ioannis Baptistae, which our ordo translates as “martyrdom.”

  4. Christopher Milton says:

    Awesome, so this year I will be getting married and able to obtain an indulgence on the same day…. talk about GRACE!

  5. Janet says:

    technical question:
    I was baptized in a Church of Christ at approx age of 12. I remember the experience, so I know it happened, but have no clue of the actual date, except that it was in the fall. Could I use the date of my confirmation and reception into the Catholic Church instead, for this indulgence?

  6. That’s really neat! What are the conditions of this indulgence? Does one have to renew vows? Make special prayers? Please elaborate!

  7. Liam says:

    A link to the relevant part of the Enchiridion – note it also applies to the renewal of baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil (there is a plenary indulgence associated as well with Holy Thursday – the Tantum Ergo during Eucharistic adoration – and Good Friday – the veneration of the cross):

  8. Geoffrey says:

    I never knew of this either! I own a copy of the Church’s new book on Indulgences. Is it in there? I know there is mention of renewal of baptismal promises, but I don’t recall it mentioning the anniversary of baptism…

  9. Geoffrey says:

    Liam: Thanks for that link!

  10. As I am sure that it explains what is necessary to gain this indulgence, could Fr. Z. or a reader post a reference to the legislation instituting this indulgence? I cannot find it in my Enchiridion, which is admittedly the first edition of 1968.

  11. Suzanne says:

    I have a question. I was adopted and had already been baptized when my parents adopted me. They think I was baptized in the hospital (it was a Catholic hospital). I have talked to the hospital before about other things surrounding my birth, but they refuse to give me any information. The home for unwed mothers where I stayed for a bit before being adopted is long gone. I have no idea how to find out my baptismal date. Any ideas?

  12. Paul Madrid says:

    Father Thompson: The grant of the plenary indulgence is concession #28, §1, from the 4th edition (1999) of the Enchiridion. If you have a copy of the 2006 translation published by the USCCB, the grant is on page 98.

  13. Fr. Charles says:

    Suzanne: Where I live infant baptisms that take place in the hospital are recorded in the parish church that includes the hospital in its territory. Have you called there?

  14. Tim Ferguson says:

    The plenary indulgence for renewing your baptismal vows is also available to the faithful on the Vigil of Easter. If one truly cannot find the date of one’s baptism, then it would seem that this option – Easter Vigil – is the only one available.

    Since the favor speaks only of “die anniversario sui baptismatis” – on the day of the anniversary of his baptism – I don’t think that it could be stretched to include the anniversary of one’s profession of faith or confirmation. I think it would be appropriate to write to the Apostolic Penitentiary, explaining why one cannot determine one’s date of baptism, and asking for an extension of the indulgence to a specific date (the date of one’s confirmation, for example). I am not sure how the Penitentiary would respond to such a request, but I think it’s a reasonable request to make.

  15. Paul Madrid says:

    Janet: Do you remember the name of the non-Catholic church where you were baptized? If you do, call them first. They might have kept records (Catholics aren’t the only ones), and that baptism date would be good for the indulgence.

  16. momof8 says:

    I never will get a date of Baptism. My Baptismal certificate is backdated to my date of Adoption.

    I was in St Vincents Orphanage in Chicago in 1967 which the Resurrection Sisters ran. They baptised ALL babies plaed for adoption(regardless of Birth-Mother’s religious affiliation) at Holy Name Cathedral prior to the actual adoption. My adoptive parents nor named Godparents were present, only the Nuns and the priest who celebrated the Rite.

    The certificate that I obtained from the Archdiocese is dated on the date that my adoption was final. It includes my adoptive parents names, my given-name by my adoptive parents and my Godparents names.

  17. Ray from MN says:

    If you know someone who has done lots of genealogical/family history research, they are sure to know of a book on how to find baptismal certificates and how to make sure that they are correct.

    Some of you may find that your parents may not have decided on a name at the time of birth, but it would have to be there for a baptism.

    If you know where your parents lived you probably can easily find your baptismal certificate just by knowing the year. There aren’t that many baptisms in most parishes.

    A contribution to the parish would certainly be in order.

    Many parishes have been closed over the years but their records are generally held at a nearby parish or at the diocesan chancery.

    The internet is a good source for finding the parishes in a community. But of course in a very large city, you would need to find a specific locations.

    In the old days, people were required to belong to “territorial parishes.” That has not necessarily been the case since Vatican II in 1965.

    In some communities, there were also “ethnic parishes.”

    If you don’t know where your parents lived, city directories, quite often available on microfilm might be able to provide you with an address.

    County and state historical societies often have these books/records.

    Many communities have “Mormon libraries” which contain microfilmed records similar to those found in a historical society, including sometimes baptismal records. But more recent records are difficult to find because of the problems associated with potential “identify theft.”

    Some public libraries have large genealogical sections and knowledgeable employees.

    The Mormon (LDS/Latter Day Saints) volunteers are very friendly and “will not try to convert you.)

  18. sugarlandsteve says:

    I have the opposite “problem” to some noted here: I have two baptismal certificates, dated one month apart.

    At my birth, I was thought to be in danger of death, so I was baptized in the hospital the next day. I have what appears to be a generic hospital form provided for any Christian baptism, as it has spaces to enter the religion of each of the parents and of the minister of Baptism. It also has spaces marked “Conditional” and “Absolutely”, as well as one labeled “Remarks”. My form has the “Absolutely” space marked “Yes”, and the notation “Baptized by water only” in the remarks section.

    I have a second certificate, with the appropriate embossed parish seal and signature of the pastor, indicating I was baptized “according to the Rite of the Roman Catholic Church” by the pastor of our parish. This certificate indicates the Rite was performed exactly one month after the first. I can find no notation indicating that this celebration was conditionally performed.

    This happened in the mid-60s, prior to the promulgation of the Pauline Mass, so I imagine the Rite of Baptism used was not the current form, but what might (would?) now be called the Extraordinary Form. I imagine further that the notation “Baptized by water only” on the first certificate indicates that the exorcism and the blessed salt were not performed/available at that time.

    Recognizing from Liam’s link that I could renew my baptismal vows both days, and, under the normal conditions, receive at least a partial indulgence each time, I still wonder: which date should be properly considered the anniversary of my Baptism? In the absence of better information, I would think it the first. I would be interested in any knowledgeable opinions–unless Fr. Z considers this a rabbit hole.

  19. Ohio Annie says:

    sugarlandsteve, I think in your case which date you use is less important than doing it. The principle I am going by is charity. Focusing on the date would be a good way for Satan to introduce confusion in other areas surrounding your baptism.

    I didn’t know about any of this at all. I was baptized a Mennonite in grad school so I have my certificate as well as the memory of it.

    I do also think your first date would be the right one if that baptism were considered sufficient for being brought into the Church nowadays, which would mean your second baptism date was considered conditional. My baptism was considered valid because it was done with water and in the names of the Trinity.

    So don’t worry about it and use the date you want to in the name of charity and not being anxious.

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