“But what does being a good confirmation sponsor look like–for real? And what does being a good godparent actually look like?!”
The question came up recently in my women’s small group, while we were studying the seven sacraments. A lively discussion followed, with ideas and thoughts on what sponsors’ roles should be flying every which way.
Does being a sponsor mean giving lots of gifts? Just lots of prayers? Both? Something else? What kind of relationship should you have with someone you sponsor? What do they expect from me? What do other people do?
First, we talked about what the Church teaches about the roles of sponsors.
The Catechism says this about sponsors for the sacrament of Baptism: “the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized — child or adult on the road of Christian life” (CCC 1255). So helping someone on the road of Christian life is a beautiful goal—but pretty vague and open to interpretation.
The same is true of what the Catechism says about sponsors for the sacrament of Confirmation. “Candidates for Confirmation, as for Baptism, fittingly seek the spiritual help of a sponsor.” (CCC 1311) That section also suggests that a good choice for a Confirmation sponsor would be one of the sponsors the person had at Baptism—which is something I had never heard before.
Then, we discussed what our actual experiences of being or having sponsors and godparents have looked like. Here are some things people noticed or appreciated about their own sacramental sponsors and what they would hope for in sponsors for their own children.
One friend said she appreciated that her godparents always sent her cards. She didn’t get to see them often, as they lived far away, but she was excited to open mail from them on holidays.
Another friend said that when she hit her early teen years, she started turning away from the faith and from her parents. Her godmother (her mom’s sister) found out about this and invited her to spend the summer at her home in a different state doing volunteer work and living with her family. This experience turned my friend’s life around and she credits her life as it is now to that formative summer.
One friend said she regularly writes snail mail letters to the person she sponsored at her Confirmation.
Several women bemoaned the fact that their godparents and Confirmation sponsors no longer consider themselves Catholic. Which means that at the very least, we decided, if you are trying to stay close to Jesus in the Catholic Church, you are already doing a lot to be a good sponsor.
One couple I know makes sure to pay as many costs as they can that are related to religious education for their godchild.
Another friend takes his Confirmation sponsor out to dinner to chat and catch up a few times a year.
Many women said their godparents were regular gift givers in their lives, and that as they grew up you were a good godparent if you gave regular and good presents.
All of us reflected on the silent role that our sponsors and godparents played in our lives. Who knows what ways their prayers and sacrifices have helped us? Most of us will never see the direct effect of our prayers in the lives of those we are sponsors for. But, those prayers (combined with the example of our lives) are surely the most effective help we can give.
The next most effective aid in the Christian life, based on everyone’s stories, seemed to be having some kind of relationship with their sponsor–feeling loved and supported by them.
In her wisdom, the Church leaves it open to our discernment and particular circumstances when it comes to helping those we sponsor live a Christian life. Come, Holy Spirit, and show us what to do!