…to Godparent or not to Godparent, that is the question?
When I hear anyone talking about who they might ask to be Godparents for their soon to be born child, the first picture that comes to mind is this: Two young women that have been friends all their lives and one asks the other, “Would you be my child’s Godmother?” Well, her friend’s jaw drops and then come the squeals and jumping up and down. The answer, “o my god, yes!” Now, these two young women are both Catholic, but their practice of the Faith is truly lacking. I ask myself, “With the horrific catechesis over the past 40 years or so, what are the chances of that child being raised in the true Catholic Faith?” I would guess, rather slim.
You see, it is very important to chose godparents that are going to take an active part in your child’s religious up-bringing. Too often, that task is left solely to the lay people that teach CCD, and I can assure you that not all CCD teachers are the best qualified instructors of the Faith. Nor is the material a parish provides for the child’s instruction necessarily sound. So leaving this task to your parish’s CCD programs is not the best option. That’s why it is so crucial to chose someone knowledgeable in the Apostolic Traditions of the Church. It is the duty of Catholic parents to educate their children and the catechesis of the children should be at the top of the list. (DIVINI ILLIUS MAGISTRI,ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI ON CHRISTIAN EDUCATION) You need someone that can help you be sure that your child is getting the best religious education. You must also seek out someone who is willing to take on the task with fervor, especially if you become unable to fulfill the task yourself, or feel you are not educated well enough in the Church Apostolic Traditions to take this on alone.
The Church does have some guidelines to follow when choosing godparents, but first, I want to stress some other important things to take into consideration: (1) Catholic parents should arrange for the Baptism of their newborn as soon as possible. Do not delay! (2) The name you choose for your child should, ideally, be that of a Saint; at the least, he or she should not be given a name that conflicts with the Faith or recalls anything unsavory. For example, don’t chose a name like Sabrina that brings to mind witches. There is no saint named Sabrina. The name you choose for your new baby will be known as its “Christian” name. Also remember, that your child will receive yet another new name at Confirmation, it too, should be a “Christian” name.
The godparents act as witnesses and perform ritually that which the child would do if he or she could speak for themselves.
Ideally, there should, be one male and one female for this task. Both baptized Catholics in good standing with the Church and who’ve reached the minimum age of sixteen. I would like to add here, that even though the age requirement is sixteens years, it would stand to reason that someone more mature and well versed in the Traditional teachings of the Church would be preferable. If two sponsors are unavailable, one will suffice, as long as this person meets all the requirements. Among those who may not act as godparents are: members of religious orders, spouses in respect to each other, parents in respect to their own children, infidels, heretics (Protestant cults) ,members of condemned secret societies, and public sinners (Note: the 1983 Code As to Christian heretics, it says that while Protestants may not act as godparents, they may act as “witnesses”). So, if one of the people you choose is non-Catholic, it’s fine as long as the other meets the requirements. As stated, the Protestant can only be a witness and not a godparent. In this case it is important that a Protestant witness is fully aware of this ,and that, they have no duty to help in the child’s religious education.
Duties of Godparents
In the case of children, the role of the godparent is to be that of “spiritual guardian” who takes up any “slack” in the child’s catechesis, helps ensure that his godchild learns the True Faith, and prays for the godchild throughout his life. St. Thomas Aquinas writes in his Summa Theologica III-67-8:
“Now, it has been stated…that godparents take upon themselves the duties of a tutor. Consequently they are bound to watch over their godchildren when there is need for them to do so: for instance when and where children are brought up among unbelievers. But if they are brought up among [orthodox] Catholic Christians, the godparents may well be excused from this responsibility, since it may be presumed that the children will be carefully instructed by their parents. If, however, they perceive in any way that the contrary is the case, [heterodox Catholics, for example] they would be bound, as far as they are able, to see to the spiritual welfare of their godchildren.“
This is a very solemn obligation, not to be entered into lightly. Parents should choose their child’s godparents very carefully and select traditional Catholics who know the Faith, understand the obligations of god-parenting, and are willing and able to live up to those obligations. Parents and godparents should work together for the goal of helping the child to know, love, and serve God!
During the Rite of Baptism, the godparents will answer for the child, that is, they will make the replies to the questions asked by the priest of the one to be baptized. Being a godparent is not just a badge of honor, but a Catholic duty to be taken very seriously. Not only does a godparent hold in their hands the little body of their godchild, but also, their tiny little souls and answers for them before God that they will keep the promises that are made on that beautiful day when that little soul is set free from all stain of original sin and becomes a saint. It’s the duty of the parents and godparents that this is done throughout their lives to help them remain saints. Being a godparent doesn’t end after all the festivities are over, on the contrary, it begins in earnest.
May God bless you and may the Holy Ghost guide you on your journey together with your godchild.
Below are excerpts taken from Canon Law regarding Baptism that they may help you in your decision making process in choosing godparents, the place of baptism, the duties and requirements of the godparents/parents:
- BOOK IV FUNCTION OF THE CHURCH (Cann. 834 – 848)
PART I. THE SACRAMENTS
- TITLE I. BAPTISM (Cann. 849 – 878)
Baptism (Cann. 850-874)
THE CELEBRATION OF BAPTISM
Can. 850 Baptism is administered according to the order prescribed in the approved liturgical books, except in case of urgent necessity when only those things required for the validity of the sacrament must be observed.
Can. 851 The celebration of baptism must be prepared properly; consequently:
1/ an adult who intends to receive baptism is to be admitted to the catechumenate and is to be led insofar as possible through the various stages to sacramental initiation, according to the order of initiation adapted by the conference of bishops and the special norms issued by it;
2/ the parents of an infant to be baptized and those who are to undertake the function of sponsor are to be instructed properly on the meaning of this sacrament and the obligations attached to it. The pastor personally or through others is to take care that the parents are properly instructed through both pastoral advice and common prayer, bringing several families together and, where possible, visiting them.
Can. 852 §1. The prescripts of the canons on adult baptism are to be applied to all those who, no longer infants, have attained the use of reason.
§2. A person who is not responsible for oneself (non sui compos) is also regarded as an infant with respect to baptism.
Can. 853 Apart from a case of necessity, the water to be used in conferring baptism must be blessed according to the prescripts of the liturgical books.
Can. 854 Baptism is to be conferred either by immersion or by pouring; the prescripts of the conference of bishops are to be observed.
Can. 855 Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to take care that a name foreign to Christian sensibility is not given.
Can. 856 Although baptism can be celebrated on any day, it is nevertheless recommended that it be celebrated ordinarily on Sunday or, if possible, at the Easter Vigil.
Can. 857 §1. Apart from a case of necessity, the proper place of baptism is a church or oratory.
§2. As a rule an adult is to be baptized in his or her parish church and an infant in the parish church of the parents unless a just cause suggests otherwise.
Can. 858 §1. Every parish church is to have a baptismal font, without prejudice to the cumulative right already acquired by other churches.
§2. After having heard the local pastor, the local ordinary can permit or order for the convenience of the faithful that there also be a baptismal font in another church or oratory within the boundaries of the parish.
Can. 859 If because of distance or other circumstances the one to be baptized cannot go or be brought to the parish church or to the other church or oratory mentioned in ? can. 858, §2 without grave inconvenience, baptism can and must be conferred in another nearer church or oratory, or even in another fitting place.
Can. 860 §1. Apart from a case of necessity, baptism is not to be conferred in private houses, unless the local ordinary has permitted it for a grave cause.
§2. Except in a case of necessity or for some other compelling pastoral reason, baptism is not to be celebrated in hospitals unless the diocesan bishop has established otherwise.
Can. 872 Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor also helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.
Can. 873 There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.
Can. 874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:
1/ be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;
2/ have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;
3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;
4/ not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
5/ not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.
§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.