Choosing Godparents – Not a prize to be distributed!
Our sacramental life is plugged into key moments of our human existence. From womb to tomb, our souls our nourished by outward signs of inward grace. But key to this classic definition of what a sacrament is, are the words ‘outward signs’ and ‘inward grace’. The two go together and sadly we are often left mesmerized with the celebration or social obligations attached to these outward sign while the inward grace is left to the imagination.
Grace is not something; it is ‘somebody’, Jesus himself! and so sacramental celebrations that go beyond the compound walls of the Church must be an overflow of what is celebrated within the loving arms of the Church; If not, we take Jesus out of the equation and are left with empty rituals and overflowing social celebrations.
But what happens when the very choices we make within the sacramental action are governed by social niceties? One of the growing requests that are made despite the catechesis given to parents is the ‘request’ for ‘non-Catholic’ God parents at the time of Baptism. While this request may seem all too familiar with many priests I am more concerned about the choice of non-practicing Catholics as God parents. If you have no faith what will you give? A person cannot give what he or she does not have!
Choosing a Godparent for your child is not a prize to be distributed but a responsibility to be fulfilled. The choice of godparents have often seems like a family obligation that needs to be met or a social honour to be bestowed on a friend. If we truly want the grace of God to be seen in these sacramental signs, if we truly desire the inward grace, then the choices we make must be Christ driven and not human appeasement.
Unlike popular belief, a God parent is not a stand in should the parents pass away, there is no legal provision in either Church or civil law. Nor is a God parent the generous gift giver of gold (a very Indian tradition) at key sacramental moments in the child’s life. May I suggest the following if you are a God parent?
Pray for your God child every day that they may grow in the light of His word.
As far as possible be present for all the key sacramental moments in the child’s life.
Practice your Catholic faith and as the child grows share these faith experiences.
Make time to call and visit your Godchild, keep in touch with them, and not merely around the Holidays or on their birthdays.
Remember their baptism day and if possible attend mass with them.
Your presenCE is more important than your presenTS!
I am blessed to be the God father of three lovely persons. Michelle who is now grown up to be a beautiful young lady; and Elijah and Sarah, who have crossed their terrible twos but have a long way to go. I pray for them each day, I pray for their protection and for the presence of the Lord in their lives. I am conscious of my promise I made at their baptism, to help their parents in their duties as Christian parents.
This for me is a serious obligation, one that weighs heavily on my heart and one that should weigh heavily on all God parents.
Fr Warner D’Souza