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How to choose your child’s godparents

Illustration by Florian Thouret.

Mathilde De Robien - published on 03/27/17

The ultimate job description for godparent candidates.

If you’ve decided to baptize your child in the Catholic Church, you’ll usually be asked to choose a godfather and/or a godmother for your little cherub. Without having to embark on a recruitment drive worthy of a large corporation, here are a few tips to help you choose the ideal godfather and godmother of your baby.

Job title: Godfather or Godmother (technically, Sponsor)

Field of activity: Catholic Church

Length of contract: Unlimited

Type of contract: Full time

Minimum age required: Over 16 years

Spiritual experiences required by the Church: Must have received the three sacraments of Christian initiation — that is, Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation.

Required qualities:

  • To be loving and kind towards their godchild.
  • Show that they are attentive.
  • Be capable of creating a strong bond with their godchild.
  • Master the art of being an attentive godfather or godmother : wish happy birthday to their godchild, remember them at Easter and Christmas, think of them on their saint’s day, send a little good luck message the night before exams …
  • Be sufficiently mature and strong in their faith to take on the missions listed below.

Missions:

During the baptism:

  • Renounce sin and proclaim their Catholic faith.
  • The godmother: Clothe their godchild in a white garment, symbol of the Resurrection of Christ. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (St. Paul in Galatians 3:27)
  • The godfather: Receive the lit baptism candle, symbol of the light of Jesus Christ. With the parents, the godfather and the godmother will keep the light going. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” (St. Paul in Ephesians 5 :8)
  • At the end of the celebration, sign the register as a godfather or godmother, proof of their commitment.

Throughout the godchild’s life:

  • Help their godchild to grow in faith.
  • Help them to fight against sin.
  • Offer support in their Christian life, in particular during the celebration of sacraments (Holy Communion, Confirmation, and Marriage).
  • Set an example to their godchild in everyday life, in trying to live in accordance with the Gospels.

We don’t become Christians all alone

As Father François Potez, parish priest of Notre-Dame-du-Travail in Paris, loves to reiterate during the preparations for Baptism, to be Christian is to be part of the Church, it is to make up the Body of Christ all together. And it is the parents, the godfather and the godmother who are the first to welcome the newly baptized child into the Christian community, and to accompany them along their spiritual path. So choose with clear sight, honesty, and with help from the Holy Spirit, the people who will guide your child on their path to faith, hope and charity.

Specific cases :

A non-baptized person cannot stand as a sponsor or a witness at baptism. The purpose of having a sponsor or witness is to have a Christian welcome the child to the font and thus into the Church.  A baptized non-Catholic can stand as a witness but not as a sponsor, and only when partnered with a Catholic who stands as the sponsor.

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Sacraments
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