Explanation of Baptism
The sacrament of Baptism is, in one sense, the most important sacrament of all, because without it, a person cannot receive any of the other sacraments. It is analogous to birth. Just as person needs to be born before they can have any human experiences, so also a person must be baptized before they can receive any of the other sacraments and those graces. Baptism is the spiritual birth into the life of God and the Church. It gives a person sanctifying grace, or the very life of God within them.
Because of original sin, when anyone is born, he or she is lacking grace. Baptism washes that original sin and cleanses all personal sins as well, so that a person has the fullness of grace within them at the moment of their Baptism. Because of this new union with God, they now have the opportunity to partake of all the other sacraments. They are new members of the Church.
Unfortunately, although Baptism washes away all sins, it doesn't wipe out the human tendency towards sin. Thus, a person will often fall and sin after their Baptism. This is why they need to avail themselves of all the other sacraments, to receive even more grace to reject future temptations.
Baptism should be a time of great rejoicing. It is the spiritual birthday of the person. As much as we celebrate a person's earthly birthday, this spiritual birthday is so much more important and a reason for celebration. While normal birth is definitely a momentous occasion in life, for without it life cannot be lived, spiritual birth is so important because it is the beginning of a spiritual life and the opportunity to reach Heaven.
Necessity of Baptism and other types of Baptism
The Catholic Church has always taught that Baptism is necessary for salvation. However, there are a lot of people in the world who aren't baptized, so it raises the question whether these people will be able to go to Heaven, even if they live a good life. Are they denied eternal happiness simply because they were not baptized? Of course the Catholic Church has an answer to this question. While not denying that Baptism is necessary for salvation, it also recognizes that some people die without being baptized through no fault of their own. Perhaps they never came into contact with Christianity or did not realize the necessity of Baptism. If they attempted to live the best life possible and follow God as best as they could, they will reach Heaven. This is what is known as Baptism of Desire. If they had realized the necessity of Baptism, they would have sought it because they wished to please God in their lives, but through no fault of theirs the grace of Baptism never was given to them. Of course this is not to advocate that Baptism should be delayed or ignored because a person is trying to follow God and doesn't want to go to the trouble of being baptized; as many people as possible should receive the sacrament, not only because it initiates them in the Church but also because it will give them additional graces to help them continue living a good life. If we know someone who is not baptized, we can't know the particular motives behind their lack of this sacrament, so we should urge them to receive it, but at the same time be careful not to judge them if they refuse it. There may be circumstances that we are unaware of in which they are trying to follow God and genuinely believe that Baptism would offend Him. We should do our part to spread God's word and let God worry about the sanctity of the souls of everyone else and whether they will reach Heaven or not.
There is also another kind of baptism called baptism of blood. This is for those who are martyred for their faith in Christ, although they haven't had the opportunity to be baptized with water. They clearly believe in God and Jesus, because they were willing to sacrifice their lives for Him, and yet they hadn't been given the grace of sacramental baptism. Very similar to Baptism of Desire, God will not deny them Heaven because they lacked the sacrament of baptism. Indeed, they express their desire and love for God in a very tangible and drastic way by sacrificing their life for Him.
Some Protestants believe that Baptism should only occur after a person has undergone a personal experience with Christ and that under no conditions should an infant be baptized. Of course the Catholic Church has always held that infants can and should be baptized. This boils down to a fundamental difference in understanding the sacrament. Such Protestants view the sacrament as an outward sign of a person's conversion to Christ, while Catholics see it as a necessary pre-condition to becoming a member of Christ's Church and receiving other sacraments and graces. Catholics see this as having actual powers, while Protestants only view it as a sign. For the Catholic Church, the sacrament actually floods the soul with grace and helps it to cope with future temptations. Since without the sacrament, life in the Church is not possible, it makes sense to give those graces to a person as soon as possible, which is shortly after their birth. Later on in their life, a person might reject the baptism and choose to live a life of sin, but they still have received that gift and it might help them to eventually return to Christ.
Priest Prophet and King
At every baptism, the person is anointed with Chrism oil. In the Old Testament, there were three classes of people who were anointed: priests, prophets and kings. These were all foreshadowings of Jesus, who is the perfect priest, prophet and king. He is a priest because He offered Himself on the cross to His father. A priest offers a sacrifice, and he was both the victim of the sacrifice and its offer-er. When we think of prophets today, we think of someone who predicts the future, and while this can be part of their ministry, prophets are also supposed to be messengers of God. Many of the Old Testament prophets were sent by God to warn the Israelites that their way of life was unacceptable. Jesus, God Himself, came to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of Heaven and call the world to repentance. Like so many prophets, He was not accepted and was killed. Jesus is also the king of kings. As God, He has power and dominion over every human person. Each king receives his power from God, but Jesus had that power in Himself as God. As He told Pilate, He is king over every king, but His kingdom is an eternal one, and is not of this world.
In Baptism, each person is baptized and anointed into the body of Christ. They share in some capacity this triple mission of Christ to be priest, prophet and king. This is particularly manifested during the anointing with oil. The question is how should a person fulfill that triple role so that they are fulfilling their baptismal promises.
Each person is part of the common priesthood. This is distinct from the ministerial or ordained priesthood. The ordained priesthood is limited to men and is composed of all those who undergo ordination from the bishop. This is the group we normally refer to as priests. These men can offer the mass, hear confessions, etc. However, there is another priesthood called the common priesthood. This is composed of all the baptized. Those in this category cannot offer mass, hear confessions and do other stuff that is reserved for the ordained priests. Rather, this priesthood exists because every baptized person shares in some small way the three ministries of Christ. A priest is defined as one who offers a sacrifice, and so each person in the common priesthood must be able to offer a sacrifice. Ordained priests offer the sacrifice of the mass, acting as another Christ. Baptized persons not a part of the ordained priesthood offer themselves in union with Christ. Through making personal sacrifices, a person can offer their lives, themselves and their sufferings to Christ and with Christ's sacrifice on the cross. This will bring great graces. It is in this capacity that every baptized person is a priest.
Every baptized person is also a prophet. Almost no one is called to make predictions about the future, but every person can be a messenger of Christ's message. In fact, baptism, and even more confirmation, mandates that a person spread the message of Christ to the world. Of course this does not mean that you have to stand on the street corner every day and preach, but it does entail living a Christian life. A person can be a prophet by living a holy life and being ready to speak about their faith if someone asks. Some of the best evangelists are those who live a holy life and never talk to anyone about their faith. Other people simply look at their holy life and want to imitate them. This is the best way to be a prophet in today's world.
Finally, each of the baptized are called to be a king. This is perhaps the hardest and most puzzling of the three to determine exactly what it means. When we think of a king, we think of someone in a palace with a lot of fancy clothes and attendants and who makes rules that everyone has to follow. Not only do we live in America where there are no kings, but every baptized person can't be a regular king. This must have some other meaning or explanation. The best way to look at this mission is to examine Jesus' life. He was the king of kings, and yet he preached and practiced a life of service. He washed the feet of His disciples and told them to do as He had done. This example is how Jesus wants us to be kings. We are to serve others. In normal life, kings are the people who get served, make the rules and get to dictate whatever happens. Jesus showed that true kings are those whose every action is suited towards service. It is true that sometimes serving others involves making a rule so that others don't hurt themselves unknowingly, but even this job is done out of love and care for them. Being a king doesn't have to involve any ruling, although for some people, like parents, it might involve being good parents and ruling in some capacity over their children. Rather, it is to be a servant to the least of our brethren and to care for their needs. We are also called to be kings insofar as we help to advance the reign of God. When we live good lives and care for those around us, we are helping to evangelize and do Christ's work, and helping Him to reign in all hearts.
Explanation of Confirmation
Confirmation is one of the other sacraments, and it is so important to receive. Just as Baptism is analogous to birth, so is Confirmation analogous to adulthood. Confirmation is a special imparting of the Holy Spirit and more sanctifying grace so that a person can live a better life. It imparts a sort of spiritual maturity, so that they have the courage and grace to withstand more temptation and to be willing to go to any length to defend their faith.
Confirmation as completion of Baptism
While being a completely distinct and separate sacrament, Confirmation is a completion of the sacrament of Baptism. It gives to the person the Holy Spirit and His graces in fuller measure than in Baptism, and allows them to be more outward-looking and concerned about their brothers and sisters. It gives them further graces to live better lives than if they only were baptized and not confirmed. Since this sacrament is so important, Catholics, who have reached the appropriate age, are obliged to seek confirmation if they have the opportunity.
Obligations of Confirmation
Confirmation, being a spiritual adulthood, puts a much greater obligation on the person who receives it than does Baptism. When a person is a child, he or she is expected to mainly be concerned with their own life, but when a person becomes an adult, he or she is expected to have a much wider social influence and sphere. Perhaps he or she gets married, or at least has a circle of friends with whom interaction happens frequently, and they have a job in which interaction with others is necessary. It is similar with Confirmation. After Baptism, the primary goal is a personal education in the Faith, but after Confirmation, there is more of an obligation to share that Faith with others and to witness to it strongly in one's own life so that others can look at that life and know that it has been modeled after Christ.
Confirmation in the Bible
This sacrament is not mentioned by name in the Bible, but there are several mentions of receiving the Holy Spirit in special ways beyond Baptism. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles in tongues of fire and wind and thereafter they were especially prepared to preach the gospel fearlessly. This was the confirmation of the Apostles. Although no confirmed person today is going to be able to speak in tongues, unless they receive a very special and rare gift, they are called just like the apostles to be fearless preachers of the gospel, especially through their lives. They now have a higher obligation to live faithfully to Christ, and witness in this way to those around them, who will hopefully look at their life and want to explore the Catholic faith because of the excellent witness received. Also, Acts 8 speaks of the apostles traveling to administer the Holy Spirit, but as a separate event from Baptism. “Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” - Acts 8:15 – 17 In this passage, the gift of the Holy Spirit is separate and distinct from the sacrament of Baptism, but it is also necessary and connected to that sacrament as well.