By Jennifer Christ
I was asked to be a godparent a number of years ago and accepted. I’ve since heard that a godparent is supposed to buy a gift for their godchild every year on their birthday. If this is true and I’ve been remiss about my duties, how can I make up for lost time?
First, let’s remember that our time and God’s time are different measures! You accepted the role of godmother with love and good intentions that have never stopped benefiting your godchild from the day of his/her baptism. God is the source of all human love and goodness and God is beyond time, so there is no need to “make up for lost time.” The real question here is “What is my role as a godparent and how can I live it out to the best of my ability?” The catechism of the Catholic Church states: “…the godfather and godmother, … must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized…on the road of Christian life.”(1255)
The core of what it means to be a godparent is to be a firm believer. Your godchild’s parents saw something in you and how you live your life that prompted them to choose you as a role model for their child in living the Christian life. Here’s an opportunity for self-reflection: What is the state of your relationship with the Lord at this time in your life? How goes your own practice of faith, your prayer life, your attendance at liturgy, your use of the Scriptures as a guide, your love of neighbor, etc.? How are you and God doing? Again, it is not perfection, but effort in this direction that pleases God.
Next, how can you help your godchild on the road of his/her Christian life? Here’s where we need to get creative through the power given to us by the Holy Spirit. The relationships between godparents and godchildren vary as they are affected by the circumstances of our lives. Does your godchild live close to you? Can you see him/her often? Will you be able to personally attend celebrations of first reconciliation, rirst Eucharist and confirmation, or will you send a letter or card, perhaps a gift at those key times in his/her Christian formation? At birthdays, holidays, graduations, and on any ordinary day, can you send a note with love and perhaps a quote from Scripture or a “God bless you always!”? If you give gifts, those that encourage faith are like seeds planted: a book of prayers, a small statue of the Blessed Virgin, a CD with spiritual songs, a rosary, etc. These seem like small things, yet they represent a strand of love and hope that weaves throughout your godchild’s life.
We live out our spirituality in very human circumstances. Perhaps your godchild’s parents will move; perhaps they will fall away from the practice of their faith or were never firmly grounded to begin with, although they desired baptism for their child. What if your godchild’s parents choose to leave the Catholic faith and practice out of another tradition or not at all? How do you continue to be a proper guide in the messiness of the human journey towards God?
Keep a connection with your godchild as well as you are able, though at times it may feel as tenuous as a slender thread. God uses all our sincere and loving efforts for a good purpose. Pray for your godchild every day! This is the greatest gift you can give! God hears every prayer, drawing them all into the divine heart of love. Not one prayer is lost!
And remember, God is working through you in mysterious and wonderful ways!
(Jennifer Christ, a freelance consultant in ministry, is married with four grown children. She lives in Milwaukee.)