This post commences a short new series on a role that’s come under fire recently. I happen to think–perhaps naively–that if the Church gives positive witness and makes some demands of people, they will respond in turn.
Another caution here: I’m a bad godparent. My younger brother asked my wife and me to be godparents to his daughter. I probably should have declined the honor. I’ve never lived in the same time zone as my “aunt.” I feel pretty safe giving one bit of advice to lead off: if you’ve been asked to be a godparent, feel free to agree if you live nearby. I think that’s the most important. Part 1 will cover what to do after you agree to this noble office.
First, inquire about the parish’s baptism preparation effort. Even if it’s not required, volunteer to attend the classes. All of them. Even if you’ve done it before. If there is an opportunity (you are asked or there is a break for refreshments) share your faith generously. Act like being a godparent is an honor, less an honorary duty. Maybe your enthusiasm will be catching.
Second, pray for your godchild. Daily is good. When I say a “Hail Mary,” I add the name to the second half of the prayer:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for N now, and all the days of her life.
The baby might be named after a relative or friend. Maybe your godchild has been named after you. This is a stupendous honor. Be grateful for it. Whatever name has been chosen by her or his parents, you now have a first date to research and put in your annual calendar.
Every saint has a day. Not just Patrick. Not just Valentine. It is important to research your godchild’s name saint and know the day on which that saint is observed. It might be that the name does not correspond to a saint. That is fine. Check the second name. If not, ask the parents of they have a patron saint in mind for their daughter or son. They might surprise you. Or they might be surprised.
It’s possible you were chosen to be a godparent because you are the “holy one” in the family or circle of friends. That might mean you get to pick a patron saint. However that saint gets chosen, it’s a good day to celebrate with your godchild as she or he grows up.
I’ll give you an example of how names might work for your goddaughter, “Tiffany Marie.” Tiffany is not a saint name, but Marie can refer to the Virgin Mary. You’re lucky. The parents and/or you can observe any number of days. Maybe January 1, from now on, will be less a New Year’s greeting for Tiffany and more “Happy Feast Day!”
If you want other
excuses opportunities to send a card or present, might it help if I told you Tiffany was born on September 17th? That is the feast day of Hildegard of Bingen. Suppose the baptism is scheduled for the fourth Sunday next month. Her baptismal patron is Cecilia.
You now have a miniature litany of saints to pray:
Holy Mary, Mother of God: pray for us
Saint Hildegard, pray for us
Saint Cecilia, pray for us
Pretty easy, eh? Baptism Day is next. There’s a lot a good godparent can do on that day. Stay tuned.