So much to do and nine months to do it…
Diapers. Baby showers. Cradles. Baby clothes. A torrent of worries, excitement, concerns and joys come rushing down on you in the space of nine months. Amid the crashing wave of “to do’s”, organizing the baby’s baptism is somewhere on the list - and at the very bottom of the list of worries is choosing godparents for your newborn. But that’s easy to work out, right? Of course it’ll be my best friend…right? Often we overlook the importance of choosing godparents for our children, when in reality this concern should be on the top of the list. Who will raise my children in the light of faith if I am gone?
A real discernment
We can easily equate the role of godparent with a maid of honor or best man at a wedding. If my friend does something nice to me, I think, “Gee, I’ll make him the godfather of my child!” But it is much more than that - it is a process of discernment made in faith and prayer. If we spend so much time discussing the name of the child, shouldn’t his godparents also be taken into serious consideration? After all, they are the guardians of the child’s faith, and his guides on his way to eternity.
What can help us in this decision? Let’s start with the practical points. As the godparent is called to be the guardian of the faith and guide in the moral life, it is important that he or she is a faithful Christian, committed to the faith. How well do they know the faith? Do they understand the meaning of baptism? Will they be there for the needs of their godchild? Do they understand what the Church teaches about faith and morals? Are they examples of this teaching? Can my child emulate their Christian example? Would my friend be open to such a serious life-long commitment? It is helpful to keep these questions in mind when choosing the godparent. It may sound like the person has to be a saint to pass the test, but don’t worry; that isn’t the case. They only have to be what we all are: saints in training.
What does the Church have to say? Here are the basic points the Code of Canon Law outlines (#872-874):
• A sponsor helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life.
• There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.
• To be a sponsor one must be designated.
• The sponsor must have completed the sixteenth year of age.
• The sponsor must be a Catholic who has been confirmed in the life of faith.
• The sponsor must not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.
The above points will help you choose the godparents according to the Church’s criteria. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no.1255) says, “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 Christian life.”
“I will raise her in the light”
A moving part of the musical Les Miserables is when Jean Valjean is kneeling beside the bed of dying Fantine and sings to her about how he will care for Cosette, her daughter. He says, “I will raise her in the light.” The troubled Fantine breaths a sigh of happiness; her fears are swept away by this promise. Isn’t this the desire of every parent’s heart? In a certain sense, Valjean became the loving godfather of Cosette. What a noble responsibility!
Godparents aren’t just nice aunts and uncles who give birthday money to your kids. They are the guardians of your child’s most precious treasure: the light of faith. They are guardians of faith because they are the first to realize its importance, having experienced it themselves.
Godparents keep this flame alive, no matter what happens. The Holy Father, Benedict XVI, says, “Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly!” (January 13, 2008). This light is the love of God, the hope of our redemption from sin, and our eternal happiness in heaven.
The spark begins to burn from the moment of baptism; godparents keep the flame alive for the rest of your child’s life.
Perhaps now it’s time to reorder our to-do lists: Baptism. Godparents. Diapers. Baby showers. Cradles…
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