We celebrated with great joy the marriage of our daughter this past January. For Mother’s Day, the newlyweds surprised me with a card announcing my immanent grandmotherhood. I’ve been over-the-moon excited and grandbaby dreaming ever since. Recently the topic of the difficulty in choosing godparents came up. My daughter and her husband have lamented so few of their peers are remotely Catholic and really very few of their combined family members are Catholic. Their pool of choices is very sparse. I don’t think this lament is all that rare, especially for young Catholic families.
Choosing Good Godparents
Choosing good godparents is an important part of planning a Catholic baptism. A godparent must be a Catholic in good standing–being at least 16 years old (some exceptions can be made regarding the minimum age) and having received all four Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation. A godparent’s main role is to be a spiritual presence in the child’s life—praying for them, assisting the parents in raising the child in the Faith, and personally modeling a life of Christian virtue and faith.
What a Godparent Isn’t
There are many misconceptions about Catholic godparenthood. Catholic godparents do not take custody of their godchildren if the child’s parents die. My own mom believed this misconception and the idea she might lose her grandchildren to their godparents was very alarming to her.
Being a Catholic godparent isn’t some kind of reward or rite of passage. We don’t take turns divvying out the honor. I’ve seen this misconception most often in Catholic families who choose siblings as godparents of one child and then the next set of siblings feel it is their due when the next child is born. Being a Catholic godparent is a serious responsibility and parents owe it to their children to prayerfully choose truly faithful godparents. If this becomes an issue, you may need to gently explain to someone passed over the reason you take the choice of godparents so seriously. No one wants to hurt the feelings of those close to us but we need to make the best choice for the good of our children’s spiritual welfare.
Did you know you are not required to have two godparents? One godparent meets the requirement for a Catholic baptism. This could be a viable solution if you are having difficulty finding two suitable candidates. Of course, if you are able, two faithful Catholics are always better than one. If you choose two godparents one must be female and one must be male.
You need not choose a married couple. Some of our children have godparents who are not married to each other but the longer we’ve been Catholic and the more children we had, the easier it was to find a faithful couple to stand as godparents for our children. For us, this is the preferred choice as a married couple can work as a team in spiritually supporting their godchild. If you choose a married couple as godparents they must be validly married in the Catholic Church.
How to be a Good Godparent
If you are privileged to be asked to be a godparent it is important to take that role seriously, devotedly, and faithfully. Pray daily for your godchildren and communicate this to them. Knowing someone is praying for you on a regular basis is truly fortifying. Stay in touch with your godchildren even if it is just on special occasions. Remember them on their birthdays, and/or baptism days and Christmas. Send them gifts that will assist them in learning and keeping the Faith. Our own children have received their own personal bibles and various books on the sacraments and saints from their godparents. We appreciate their thoughtful and prayerful support in our duty to raise them in the Faith.
What You Can do for Your Own and Your Children’s Godparents
Godparents need spiritual support too. Pray for the godparents in your family. Encourage your children to pray for their godparents. Stay in touch with your and your children’s godparents. Let them know what you are up to and that you are remembering them in prayer. Having spent most of our married life in the military, our children’s godparents are pretty far flung. We try to stay in touch as best we can but we always remember to pray for them. Invite and include godparents in other sacraments. Many of our children’s godparents have come for First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and a wedding. It’s a joy to reconnect with them and it helps reaffirm the important role they have in our children’s spiritual life.