One of the beautiful liturgies that the Church gives to us is the liturgy of baptism. This ceremony, in which the newborn baby is spiritually adopted as a child of God, also gives expression to the expectation of the parents to raise their children in the faith. In fact, this can even be seen in the Sacrament of Matrimony, when the priest asks the couple, “Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?” This commitment to teach children the faith and evangelize them is expressed at this moment of great love in the wedding ceremony. The vow to love one’s spouse unconditionally expresses what kind of family in which children should be nurtured.
The liturgy of baptism makes this even more explicit, when the baptizing minister says to the parents, “In asking for Baptism for your child, you are undertaking the responsibility of raising him/her in the faith, so that, keeping God’s commandments, he/she may love the Lord and his/her neighbor as Christ taught us. Do you understand this responsibility?” In addition, the minister asks the Godparents, “Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty?” In some ways, the role of Godparent has become simply a ceremonial or honorary role in our culture, like being a bridesmaid at a wedding. It is true that it is a great honor to be a godparent to a newly baptized member of the Church. However, the Church envisions that Godparents play a vital role in the upbringing of our little Catholics in the faith.
Godparents can support the parents in encouraging them to bring aspects of faith into their home life and in their travels. When children get to adolescence, it can be hard for them to receive formation in the faith from their parents, because of the stage of life that they are in. However, Godparents can play a crucial role in this time of formation. Being a little more removed from the immediate family, they can continue to foster the life of faith even when the relationship between parents and children is not perfect. Godparents should be included in events celebrating milestones in a child’s life of faith, especially Confirmation, first Eucharist, one’s wedding day, and even milestones like birthdays and graduations. The Church knows that young Christians need as much support from family and friends as they can get. Godparents witnessing to the life of faith is a great way of making this a reality.