Is the idea of godparents antiquated? Does it have explicit religious overtones? What is the role of godparents in a child’s life? As you consider a baby baptism, you certainly have a host of questions that you need answered. One of the most important is who you should choose to be your child’s godparents. If you consider this a very important person in your baby’s life, then it is a decision that requires careful deliberation. Let’s begin by talking about what exactly a godparent is and does so you can choose the people who will best fit the job description.
Traditionally, godparents have been members of the same church as the parents. That is, Catholic parents would choose fellow Catholics as godparents for their baby. The godparents were like sponsors of the child’s faith, and their role was to help guide them along their religious path. Godparents are common in many sects of Christianity, as well as in other religions. In Judaism, for example, the sandek (or person who holds the baby during circumcision) and the kvater, or kvaterin (person who takes the child from the mother and carries him into the room to be circumcised) are derived from the same roots as godparents. In fact, kvater is derived from the German Gott-Vater, or godfather. In Chinese culture, a baby is often matched with a family member. This godparent does not have a religious role but rather serves to strengthen family ties.
Today, many people who are not religious continue to choose godparents. Instead of guiding the child in his religious upbringing, they are involved with the shaping of his morals. It is often thought that a godparent will become the legal guardian of a child if his parents should die. This is not true, or not always. Being a godparent doesn’t automatically entitle one to become a legal guardian. Godparent is not a legal term, but a religious or cultural one. If parents want to make their godparents legal guardians, they must do so through legal channels.
Now, who to choose? It depends on your faith and on how you are baptizing your child. If you are Catholic, for instance, it is customary to choose at least one godparent who is also Catholic and who has been baptized, receives communion, and has been confirmed. If you are religious, the godparents are usually also religious and believe in prayer, attending church, and living according to your faith. Your particular congregation may have rules or requirements, so make sure to ask your priest or pastor.
If you are not particularly religious, it is important to choose a person with whom you share common morals and beliefs. Would this person be a good guide or mentor for your child? If your child had a moral dilemma, would this person provide sound advice?
A godparent can be a family member, friend, or trusted member of your community. As with any decision that requires you to pick only one or two people, there are bound to be hurt feelings if someone wants to be a godparent and you do not ask. Before you think about feelings, think about who would best fit your description of a godparent. Choose this person; it is right for you and for your child. If someone is going to feel slighted, make sure they have a role in the christening or baptism and assure them they are an important part of your child’s life. If it is a grandmother who feels left out, for instance, have her pick out the christening outfit – or get her a Grandma brag book. She’ll get over it!
A godparent is important whether or not you are religious or plan to raise your child in a particular faith. This person can help you guide your child along the path that will make him the best person possible.