Anyone who loves fairy tales knows the importance of the godparent. The character is often central to the story, and serves as a moral compass and mentor. While fairy tales are often fantasy, the stories can offer a small glimpse into the real-life role of being a Catholic godparent. Minus the fairy dust and magic, of course.
Godmothers and godfathers are some of the most important figures for a person’s journey in the Catholic faith. From the time of baptism, godparents help guide their godchild’s Christian beliefs. The role is a lifelong commitment, and one that should not be taken lightly. To serve as one, it’s important that you’re steadfast in your own faith and prepared to help your godchild serve the Lord.
We’ve put together a guide to help you understand the history of the godparent, the role of godparents in Catholic tradition at each sacramental milestone, and what to expect when you become a godmother or godfather for the first time.
The History Behind the Godparent Tradition
The Code of Canon law establishes the duties of a godparent and states:
“Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor also helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.”
This sponsor helps the child live a Christian life, and represents what it means to be Catholic by praying, living righteously, and being present for the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.
The Sacrament of Baptism
Your role as a godparent begins at the baptism. Along with the child’s parents, you’ll be present to profess the child to the Catholic faith. You may serve in the role alone, or the child may have two godparents. If the parents elect to have two, they must choose one man and one woman. Only one will serve as the Catholic sponsor, but both may use the title “godparent.” One of the pair may also be non-Catholic, as long as he or she is baptized and the second godparent is a devout Catholic.
At the baptism you’ll commit the child to God and the Catholic faith. This will be the beginning of your Christian journey together, and you'll offer prayer and encouragement as your godchild grows and looks forward to First Communion and Confirmation.
Baptism Gift Ideas
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The Sacrament of First Communion
It can be difficult to keep a child focused at First Communion through the excitement and celebration. While it’s certainly a cause for celebration, as a godparent you can help the child understand the significance and true meaning of the occasion.
The good news is there are no specific godparent duties during First Communion, so you have the freedom to determine how you can be most beneficial. A few ideas include:
- Gift your godchild a bible and highlight some of your favorite stories or passages to share and discuss together.
- Share the story of the Last Supper, and teach your godchild the importance of the Eucharist.
- Ask your godchild to share his or her hopes and expectations. While still young, your godchild may surprise you with what they’ve already learned, and it’s a great way to help them take an active role in their own faith journey.
First Communion Gift Ideas
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The Sacrament of Confirmation
While your godchild reaches a new depth in the Catholic faith upon Confirmation, your role as a godparent does not end. With Confirmation, your godchild will begin to exemplify the Lord and share his or her faith in daily life. You can help with this by:
- Teaching your godchild how to represent Catholic ideals in day-to-day life, showing him or her ways you do this yourself.
- Helping your godchild understand what it means to spread the faith and teach the word of God.
- Suggesting your godchild mentor a younger member of the church. This is a great way for your godchild to learn and grow, and also share his or her knowledge with others.
Much like First Communion, there aren’t specific rules for godparents to follow for Confirmation. These suggestions offer a few ways for you to help your godchild understand the meaning of fully committing to the Catholic church and help them exemplify their faith as they move through adolescence into adulthood.
Confirmation Gift Ideas
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The Sacrament of Matrimony
Whether you’re married yourself, you can show your godchild the importance of matrimony within the Catholic faith. In establishing a partnership through holy matrimony, your godchild has taken the step to grow a family in the Catholic faith. You should continue praying with and for your godchild and serve as a model for Catholicism as his or her family grows.
Having served as a lifelong mentor, marriage is a great time to reflect on your time together and the lessons you have taught each other.
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A Lifelong Journey
A godparent’s responsibilities don’t necessarily change. They evolve with your godchild. As he or she grows and has new experiences, you’ll be there praying and showing him or her the path forward in the Catholic church.