What is the role of Godparents?
Godparents should consider giving gifts on the child’s Baptism anniversary . . .
A Godparent’s role is to assist the growth of the baptized in his new spiritual life. If the baptized is an infant or child whose parents are not faithful to the Church, or if the baptized is an adult, the Godparent must provide a primary role in the Godchild’s spiritual growth.
The greatest help a Godparent provides is an example of faith. The Godparent must foster the virtues and provide an example of prayer. As part of this example of faith, the Godparent must be involved in the life of his Godchild. No one is an example unless he is seen by those to whom he witnesses. Being actively involved in the life of a Godchild fosters a strong relationship and enables the Godparent to serve as a role model.
A Godparent cannot provide an example of faith if he does not share the faith. Because a Godparent promises to assist in the formation of the newly baptized — and agrees to represent the community of faith and encourage his Godchild to remain in full communion with the Church — he must be in full communion with the Catholic Church himself.
Because Baptism is the sacrament that unites all Christians, and because the Church recognizes the importance of family relationships and close friendships, a Catholic may serve as a “witness” for a non-Catholic in Baptism, but not as a Godparent. A Catholic cannot serve as a Godparent for someone who has no intention of growing in the Catholic faith. Likewise, one non-Catholic may act as a “witness” at a Catholic Baptism, but only if a Catholic is also acting as a Godparent for the baptized.
Being a Godparent is an important duty in the Catholic Church. Godparents are usually chosen from family members and close friends, and often they don’t live in the same locale as their Godchild. While this makes it difficult to be part of the child’s life, it’s not impossible. At the very least, Godparents should send cards on their Godchild’s Baptism day, Confirmation day, birthday, or other significant days in his life.
Remembering his Baptism and Confirmation encourages the Godchild to call upon the grace received from these sacraments and live a life worthy of a child of God. Parents should encourage the relationship between their children and their children’s Godparents. In this way, the children will not consider Baptism or Confirmation simply a nice thing that happened. Rather, they will experience a concrete relationship that bears witness to their status as adopted children of God — and they will be encouraged to live life in harmony with the greater family of the Church.
LEON SUPRENANT is the director of My Catholic Faith Delivered. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “Faith Facts: Answers to Catholic Questions, Vol. 1,” which he co-authored with Philip C.L. Gray (Emmaus Road Publishing, 1999).
Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the Godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The response is: “Faith!”
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. Their task is a truly ecclesial function.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1253, 1255