It’s more than an honor — it’s a commitment
It is such an honor to be a godparent. It feels as though you’ve won a popularity contest. You get to be up close and personal with the glowing new parents on the day their precious bundle is baptized. You might even get to hold the baby while the priest pours the cleansing water. You get to be in all the pictures, and you get to have a special relationship with that child for the rest of his or her life.
Did I miss anything? Cake. Usually you get cake. And sometimes champagne.
Oh yes! You also get responsibility. Actually, that is the main thing you get. I’m not merely talking about the very real expectation to send age-appropriate presents punctually on birthdays and Christmas (which, despite having numerous godchildren, I confess I’m bad at). I’m talking about the sacred responsibility to help that child grow up in the Catholic faith, whether the parents stick with it or not.
This has stopped me in my tracks on a few occasions. It brings to mind some not-so-easy questions: What am I getting myself into? Can I handle it? Am I really going to stay in touch with this family for the next 18 years? What if they quit going to church? If I step in, what if they resent my “interference?” Am I willing to stand before God and take on this responsibility?
The Order of Baptism asks godparents right up front: “Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents? … By water and the Holy Spirit he (she) is to receive the gift of new life from God, who is love. On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring him (her) up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives him (her) is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his (her) heart. … Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which this child is about to be baptized.”
It is indeed an honor to be chosen as a godparent. As the child is educated and formed in the faith, he or she will need your prayers, your sacrifices, your good example, and — as in the case of one of my godchildren — sometimes your “interference.”
A while back, good friends of ours were between homes. They had moved from a faraway state and were still unsure where they would settle. Their little girl was about 10 months old when they approached my husband and me and asked us to be godparents. They told us they didn’t know how long it would take to find a house and a new parish so they could sign up and get her baptized.
What’s a godparent to do?
It was divine providence that they shared their dilemma with me just as we were walking down the handicap ramp at our parish and our pastor was standing at the end of that ramp, greeting people as they left Mass. I said, “How about doing it here?” I walked straight up to the pastor and asked what it would take to have our godchild baptized at our parish. All it took was a simple exchange of letters between their former pastor and our pastor. Within a week, our little goddaughter was baptized. Then we had a party. With cake — and I brought the pink champagne.
Susie Lloyd has won three Catholic Press Awards for her writing. Find her books, articles, and speaking schedule at SusieLloyd.com.
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This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, September 2019