Being chosen as a Godparent is an incredible honor. Most of the time, parents want a set of Godparents, because the Godmother and Godfather are close to the family in some way. Sometimes, the choice is simply a way to honor that relationship.
The Godparents get to participate in the baptismal service, and they have a special connection to the child for the rest of their lives. Being a Godparent, however, is much more than an honor. It is also a responsibility, as that Godparents play a fundamental role in helping a child or adult grow in faith.
Role of Godparents
The Church has a different title for Godparents, which is sponsors. The Code of Canon Law (no. 872) reminds us what a sponsor is supposed to do: “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."
It is about more than just giving gifts and the baptismal celebration. It is a lifelong commitment to care and guide a Godchild in the faith.
The only way for a sponsor to fulfill this holy duty is to live as a faithful Catholic, who will “lead a Christian life in harmony with baptism.” To be a sponsor, the Godparent should regularly attend mass, go to confession and participate in the work of the parish.
The sponsor should also pray regularly. A Godchild will see what the adults do and learn to imitate that more than he or she will the words that adults say.
The Baptismal Gift
The baptismal gift is a great way for a Godparent to begin helping the child lead a faithful life. Baptism is the beginning of a faithful Catholic’s new life in Christ. It is the moment when the child becomes adopted into the family of God, and that relationship stays with the child until Christ returns.
Baptism even plays a role in our funeral liturgy. The priest begins the service by reading a passage from Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
While there are many excellent options for baptismal gifts, a Godparent should choose baptism gifts the child will keep forever and see regularly. The goal is for the child to see your gift every day and remember their baptism. It can be a daily reminder of the special day your Godchild became a child of God.
Another wonderful way to help a Godchild to remember the day of baptism is to send a card or gifts on the anniversary of baptism. If you can turn the anniversary of baptism into a day the child (or adult) looks forward to, it will be a regular reminder of the importance of baptism in a Catholic’s life.
A sponsor or Godparent helps the parents ensure their child is raised in the faith. A sponsor should take special interest in the faith of the child. To do that, you must start by growing a relationship with the child outside the church.
Attend family gatherings, and go to dance recitals or T-ball games. Your presence in the child’s life will help lay the foundation for spiritual conversations that will happen later.
A sponsor should try to spend some one-on-one time with his or her Godchild to talk about the faith. It doesn’t have to be a complex debate about the intricacies of canon law. When the child is young, it can be as simple as reading a children’s book designed to teach the faith, like a Biblical story or something about the lives of the saints.
As the child grows older, conversations will become more complex. The more connected a Godparent and Godchild are, the easier those conversations will be.
As a Godchild grows, he or she will begin learning more about the faith and participate in the sacraments. A Godparent should be involved in every stage. While the parents play a primary role in teaching about the sacraments, a Godparent should help support them.
When a Godchild is preparing for First Communion, a Godparent can play a key role. He or she should talk to the child’s parents about what might be most appropriate. They should be able to give advice about what to do.
The Godparent should also find out what the parish requires a child to do in preparation for First Communion. In their conversations with the child, the Godparents can ask about the classes.
The same sponsors who stood with the child in baptism should also be there for confirmation. Typically, confirmation is a long process, so there is a lot for a Godparent to do to support the child and the parents through it.
Regular conversations about what the child is learning are a great place to start. It’s also a good time to talk about what the Godparent’s personal devotional habits are. Since the child is about to be fully initiated into the faith, he or she should develop those habits, as well.
When parents choose a set of Godparents, it can be an honor, but it is more than that. It is also a holy duty to the Godchild.
Every Godparent should consider how to help a child grow in the faith. While it can be a lot of work, it will also be incredibly rewarding.