The role of a community is imperative for the safeguarding of our journey of faith. Not only because the sacrament of Baptism makes us part of the Body of Christ (which is the universal church; us) but because we need the witness of others and the encouragement of one another to stay the course. In other words, we are all responsible for one another’s flourishing in the faith. God, in His mercy, designed it that way. We are not alone, we belong.
What are godparents responsible for?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized – child or adult on the road of the Christian life. The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism. (CCC 1255)
A tradition that is meant to protect us…
Around the year 313, the church was under the persecution of the Roman Empire, and it had to be protected from the infiltration of pagans. Godparents or sponsors were selected to attest to the integrity of the person, oftentimes an adult, seeking admission into the church. In the case of infants, they made the Profession of Faith in the child’s name and accepted the responsibility of instructing them in the faith, especially if the parents failed to do so. It was until the year 800 when infant baptism was truly the norm, these sponsors were called “patrinus,” or “godfather.”
Who should be a godparent?
Choosing a sponsor is a very special assignment, and it requires discernment and honesty. In some cases, godparents “ghost” children out, unintentionally …Sound familiar?
In many cultures, godparents are considered a “second parent” and are actively involved in the lives of their godchildren. Godparents are present in faith-related activities or life milestones. Parents need to find good practicing Catholics for godparents.
The minimum age to be a godparent is 16 years old. They must have received the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and confirmation, and “leads a life in harmony with the faith and the role to be undertaken.” Moreover, the sponsor cannot be impeded by some canonical penalty. (Cf. Code of Canon Law, No. 874.1). A godparent should be a trustworthy witness of the faith who will help the godchild attain salvation.
Even though my godparents were not practicing the faith to the fullest, my godmother convinced my parents to enroll me in a Catholic school. I am forever grateful for her wisdom at that moment. She showed up when my parents did not see the importance of Catholic education in my life. Technically, godparents have a say in the journey of faith of the child, even if it means making suggestions that the parents of the child have not considered. In other words, keeping them accountable.
Our godparents are chosen by our parents (as an adult, yourself) to be our role models, a source of inspiration when living out the faith, and a safe place for counsel. We are in this Catholic “thing”, together!