Being a Godparent or Sponsor
Each January, the Church celebrates the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. That baptism may trigger a memory of a baptism that you attended. You may have been the godparent. You may easily recall the feelings when the parents of the baby called you by phone or asked you in person to be a godparent. Happiness, gratefulness, honor, and humility come to mind when I was asked to be a godparent 13 years ago. These feelings are not different to being asked to be a sponsor for Confirmation. Both sacraments are important steps and milestones in a child's life, and participating in the sacrament as a godparent/sponsor makes the celebration even more memorable and meaningful for the child and the sponsor.
A problem arises, though, when choosing suitable godparents/sponsors. There are many competing factors that play into the decision: the desire to forge family bonds or deepen friendships; wishing to avoid hurt feelings for someone who may expect to be asked, or may feel it’s their turn to be a godparent/sponsor; trying to satisfy the opinions of others.
These factors, however, should not be what determines who we choose as a godparent/sponsor, because the decision should fundamentally be about whether the person can actually perform the job, which requires (at a minimum) a baptized Catholic adult who is actively practicing the faith. A godparent/sponsor is supposed to pray for and support by word and example the Catholic formation of this child.
In the Rite of Baptism, godparents and parents who indicate that they are prepared to accept responsibility for the religious upbringing of a child are asked to “…renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which this child is about to be baptized.”
Those words mean that when the child goes to his godparent/sponsor and asks if he should go to mass, he is supposed to say, “Yes”, and also put this into practice by being a good example of a Catholic who regularly attends mass.
It also means that when your child goes to his godparent/sponsor and asks what he thinks about abortion, sex outside of marriage, same sex marriage or some other moral issue, the godparent is supposed to support (in words and deeds) the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Parents (and by extension, the godchild and the Confirmation candidate) have the right to expect these things from the godparent and sponsor, who should not accept the esteem and title of being a godparent/sponsor if he is unprepared to carry out the obligations associated with the role.
Children are very observant, and the fact that a godparent/sponsor (who the child understands the parents have chosen for the child) does not respect the teachings of the Church or follow her precepts can lead to questions and challenges that can undermine spiritual formation.
What I just wrote is nothing new. This has been the teaching of the Church since before you and I were born. Due to the change of society where more and more people are no longer attending church every Sunday, the prevalent and societal acceptable attitude has been church attendance is optional, not necessary to practice one's faith in order to be a godparent or a Confirmation sponsor. As a result, people who stopped attending Mass years ago, would call up the parish office and drive over to sign the Sponsorship form, knowing that they do not meet the minimum requirements.
There needs has to be a radical change in this prevalent and morally unacceptable attitude.
Starting September 1, 2016, the parish office will be checking the Mass attendance of registered parishioners who request to be a godparent/sponsor. The only way to systematically check Mass attendance is through the use of the parish offering envelopes. If you do not receive them, please request them from the parish office now. Please use them each week.
My hope is that those who do not regularly attend Mass regularly and do not practice their faith may make a return to receive the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ and become great examples of faith. This is especially appropriate since Pope Francis deemed this year dedicated to the Mercy. Please pray for those family members and friends who are away from the practice of the faith that they will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd calling his lost sheep to return back into his loving arms.
One final point of reflection:
Do you have family members and friends who will be having children in the future? Is it possible that they will be asking you, your high school age child or your adult child to be a godparent to their child? If you answer "YES" to both of these questions, then I hope that you, your high school age child, or adult child are attending Mass on a weekly basis, if not, then please start.