From time to time, a number of us are asked to serve as a Godparent for someone who is to be baptized and/or as a Sponsor for a person who is to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Where this is possible, it is highly recommended that a person’s baptismal godparent serve as that individual’s confirmation sponsor. It is quite an honor and responsibility to be invited to serve as a godparent/sponsor.
As we develop from infancy, we each need role models, persons to whom we look up for inspiration and encouragement. A godparent/sponsor is meant to be a spiritual role model, an individual who seeks, with the Lord’s help, to express by her/his life the Catholic Christian Way of Life.
For this reason, the Church has significant requirements for persons who would serve in this role. A godparent/sponsor is a practicing Catholic who has received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. Sponsors/godparents need to be at least 16 years old. If a prospective godparent/sponsor is married, the marriage needs to be one that is recognized by the Catholic Church. It is expected that godparents/sponsors participate at Mass weekly and on Obligatory Holy Days and that they receive Communion faithfully.
In situations in which persons are baptized as infants or as young children, godparents/sponsors are in a key position to give support to parents in their awesome responsibility to transmit the Church’s Faith to their children. Hopefully, parents will invite the help that godparent/sponsors can render. The role of serving as a godparent/sponsor has on-going implications. As the one for whom a person has served as a godparent/sponsor matures, that individual and her/his Sponsor can develop a relationship of growing mutual spiritual support.
In regard to baptismal godparents and confirmation sponsors, only one person is required for each recipient of these two Sacraments. The godparent/sponsor can be of the same sex or of the opposite sex of the recipient of Baptism and Confirmation. Even though only one godparent/sponsor is required for Baptism and Confirmation, it is a custom in this country to have two persons present when an infant or young child is to be baptized. When two persons are present at the baptism of an infant or young child, the Church insists that one be a male and the other be a female.
Because only one of the two persons who “stand in” for the individual being baptized needs to meet what the Church requires of a person who would serve as the Godparent/Sponsor, the other person can be a non-Catholic baptized person who belongs to a Christian tradition whose baptisms are recognized by the Catholic Church. A non-Catholic baptized person who would stand in as the second person at a baptism in the Catholic Church would be referred to as a Christian witness rather than as a godparent. Non-baptized persons are not yet equipped to serve as Christian witnesses. It is assumed that baptized non-Catholic Christian witnesses are striving to live an exemplary Christian life and that if they are married, their marriage is recognized by the Catholic Church.
The very fact that the roles of godparents and sponsors are called for illustrates the truth that we need the support of one another on our common pilgrimage to that fullness of eternal life for which Christ has redeemed us.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Nelson Beaver – Pastor