Q: What personal qualities should be considered when selecting a Godparent for a child?
(Editor’s note: In the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law, the term “sponsor” is used to define what many traditionally understand to be the “Godparent.” For the sake of consistency, however, the term “Godparent” will be used throughout this article.)
A: Recently during one of my classes at the high school, a student raised his hand and asked me, “Father, what’s your goal in life?” I immediately had a sense of what kind of answer he expected to his honest question—I decided to answer it a little differently.
I’m guessing he was expecting me to say that my goal in life was to be assigned to such and such parish someday or to be the first pope from the Diocese of Bismarck. Instead, I told him that my goal in life was to be a saint. His eyes immediately turned to the size of a beach ball and he asked, “Do you think you have a chance?”
I responded, “Well, I sure hope so, because the alternative does not sound too appealing.”
When most of us think of saints, we of course immediately think of those men and women of heroic virtue who have been canonized and named as saints. However, this call to holiness (which is clearly and inspiringly modeled by our saints) also extends to all of us.
I don’t mean to be trite or even unrealistic, but when a mother and father make that ever-important decision regarding who will be their child’s Godparent(s), one of the most important questions they should ask is, “Does this person model a living faith which is an example of hope and love for my child?” Or in other words,
“Does this person truly desire to be a saint and will they invoke that same desire in my child?”
It seems that for some parents, this decision is often approached from the perspective that asks, “Who do we know that would feel honored to be the Godparent of our child?”
Yes, the gift to be a Godparent is a tremendous honor.
However, in all honesty, the primary focus in selecting a Godparent should not be about bestowing an honor on someone, but rather it should be about
choosing someone who is exemplary in living an authentic and joyful life as a disciple of Christ.
When the child grows and begins to develop their own appreciation of what it means to be a faithful Catholic, they need to be able to look to key individuals to learn what such a life looks like.
Additionally, our young people are in great need of being able to see someone who clearly demonstrates that a tremendous amount of joy is received through living a life fully committed to the Catholic faith. In joyfully witnessing to a life of fidelity to Christ and His Church, others are then drawn to that same life of commitment and faithfulness. As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, recently wrote, “A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love, will convince nobody” (Evangelii Gaudium, 266).
Most of us know that parents ultimately have the responsibility of educating and forming their children in the faith, but such a responsibility also extends very directly to their Godparent. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that the life of the selected Godparent is a life that is primarily focused on growth in virtue and holiness.
The person that parents select to be the Godparent of their child might never be canonized as a saint. But at the same time, we should truly expect similar examples of holiness from the individuals we ask to take on this tremendous responsibility. A Godparent who has an authentic desire for a real and living relationship with Christ is not merely optional—it’s a necessity.
Fr. Johnson is the chaplain at St. Mary’s Central High School and parochial vicar at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, both in Bismarck. He can be followed on Twitter @frjaredjohnson.
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