A few months ago, we were thrilled to find out my husband’s sister was expecting her 6th child! She made quite an adorable announcement – on Thanksgiving day. Over the phone, she told us how many friends and relatives were crammed into their home to share a turkey dinner, but that in addition to the crowd present that day, there would be one more next Thanksgiving!
Soon thereafter, we learned that after 3 consecutive boys, she would be having a baby girl!
And last week, we received even more news, or rather, an invitation – to become their new baby’s godparents!
First, we were honored. My husband and I both were so excited to able to serve as godparents for a little girl we haven’t even met yet, but who is already so special to us.
But as a first-time godparent to be, I suddenly had reason to question everything about godparenting. Why are godparents designated at Baptism? Are they necessary? What are the expectations?
With new shoes to fill; I figured I had better know how to walk in them! And what I learned was this…
Traditionally known as a “sponsor,” a godparent must “present an infant at the baptism, help the baptized lead a Christian life in harmony with baptism, and fulfill faithfully the obligations connected with it,” according to the Code of Canon Law (No. 872).
At baptism, an infant or adult only needs one sponsor, but may have two – one male and one female. Or, in cases of emergency such as imminent death, no sponsor is needed.
Godparents must be Catholic… faithfully Catholic
Although a faithful Protestant may serve as a “Christian Witness” to a baptism, they cannot fulfill the role of a godparent, who is responsible for the religious education and spiritual formation of the baptized. Unfortunately, a non-Catholic Christian cannot attest to the teachings of the Catholic faith and therefore cannot be entrusted the task of helping to catechise.
It just makes sense that if you are responsible for helping someone fulfill the responsibilities of baptism, you must also be striving to do so, having received the sacraments of baptism and confirmation yourself. A godparent should love their Catholic faith and the Holy Church, in order that they may be an example to the baptized, as well as provide informed instruction on the faith.
Godparents should serve as sponsors for Confirmation as well
Godparents are witnesses to the baptized coming into the Church and the Sacrament of Confirmation is a seal of consecration by the Holy Spirit, which safeguards the graces conferred at Baptism. It only makes sense that a single, strong sponsor should see to fruition, the spiritual journey of the baptized, from Baptism to Confirmation. And the Church recommends it!
A few extra considerations
- A godparent must be at least 16 years old, unless otherwise permitted by the bishop or an exception made by the pastor.
- A child’s own father and mother cannot serve as godparents.
Every godparent is entrusted with a critical task: to be a witness to the faith in order to help their godchild attain salvation. The decision of choosing a godparent is not to be taken lightly, just as the honor of being called to godparenthood requires equally important discernment. What a gift it is, but what a responsibility.
May God grant all godparents the will to serve Him in their sponsorship of the baptized!