Parents, you are indispensable in the life of your child. You as mother or father have a God-given authority and duty to your child.
The Fourth Commandment states: “Honor your father and mother (cf. Deut. 5:16; Mk. 7:10).” After God Himself, in the family, parents have the highest honor and authority. Ideally, this relationship of parent and child is sheltered under the covenant of Marriage of the spouses. This is ideal because Marriage and family are ordered “to the good of the spouses, to the procreation and the education of children (CCC 2249).”
Parents have a responsibility to educate their children in “the faith, prayer, and all the virtues (CCC 2252).” They also “have the duty to provide as far as possible for the physical and spiritual needs of their children (ibid.).”
It is in the home that the education of children takes root, both in material and spiritual matters. Especially in the faith, parents have the “responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children (CCC 2225).” A life in the Church is foundational to all the other tasks of parents.
Going It Alone?
There is a great responsibility and burden on parents to educate their child in the faith and in all other things and to help them grow in holiness. Are they expected by the Church to go it alone?
Of course, we are never alone in the Church. The Parish ought to be a source of life and love for families, which are domestic churches. In a particular way, however, parents are given the opportunity in the Sacrament of Baptism to choose Sponsors for their child to assist them. These Sponsors are usually called “Godparents.”
What is a Godparent?
The entire Church has a share in the development and safeguarding of the grace given in Baptism. In a way, each Christian has a “motherly” or “fatherly” role to every other Member of the Body of Christ. But in a particular way, the godmother and godfather are chosen as “able and ready to help the newly baptized – child or adult on the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function (CCC 1255).”
The godparents are to have a strong and living faith, in good standing with the Church, and able to help the parents in raising the child in the faith. In fact, they are swearing before God and man to do just that. And if something is to happen to one or the other of the parents, they have an obligation to do all in their power to raise the child in the faith.
What to Look for When Choosing Godparents
It is important to understand who godparents can be according to Canon Law. If we do not understand this, it can lead to hurt feeling later if we ask someone who cannot actually fulfill the role.
Godparents must be chosen by the parents with the capacity and intention to serve as godparents. They must be at least 16 years old. They must be a Catholic in good standing, who has been confirmed and has received the Holy Eucharist. The godparent cannot be the father or mother of the child. Finally, there can only be one male and one female Baptismal Sponsor.
While some parents might want to ask their non-Catholic friend to be a godparent, this is not possible. A baptized non-Catholic can serve as a “Christian witness” provided there is one Catholic godparent in addition.
The godparent should pray for their godson or goddaughter. They should be a source of inspiration as they discern their vocation later in life. They should be available to answer questions about Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church. They should be available to help protect and guide the life of faith for the child.
Some Practical Considerations For Choosing Godparents
Oftentimes, the parents will choose one of their own siblings to be godmother or godfather. Depending on your own situation, it might be prudent to choose someone who is a close friend rather than a family member. For others, a family member might be the perfect choice. This is really something to take to prayer.
Practically speaking, it is worth giving thought to the age of the person who is chosen. Of course, the minimum age is 16 years old, but you may not want to choose someone who is your own parents’ age. The godparent is to have a serious relationship of authority and love with this child for a long time, ideally. And so, you want to have someone who can be like a parent to them, rather than as a grandparent. This is not to say that a grandparent cannot be a godparent; they can. It is just worth some thought.
Godparent: A Very Serious Role
To be a godparent is a profound privilege. It should be treated as a decision with life-long commitment and seriousness. When a man or woman becomes a godparent, they are taking upon themselves the obligation to helping the parents raise the child in grace, truth, hope, faith, and charity.
Being a godparent is a very serious role. Choose someone that believes likewise.