Last week we looked at the Sacrament of Baptism and after outlining the details regarding celebrating here in the parish we explored what baptism means and the different roles linked to the ceremony. One of the roles that was mentioned in the section taken from the Catechism was godparent. In n.1255, the Catechism states: “For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of 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. Their task is a truly ecclesial function.” When an infant is baptized, the role of the parents is important. They, after all will be the first teachers of their child in the way of faith. Then the godparents are mentioned. In practice, the role of the godparents at times seems to be looked at as being special but not necessarily in relation to the religious or spiritual life of the child. Christmas, Easter and birthdays, the gifts and ‘the money in the card’ are given. But if you look at what it says about the role of the godmother and godfather in the passage quoted — (they)must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized — child or adult – on the road of Christian life. In the ceremony for the sacrament of baptism that we use the first section, ‘Reception of the Child’ contains three questions for the parents — the first one is, ‘What name do you give your child?’; the second is, ‘What do you ask of God for (name of child)?’ and Baptism is the answer given there. The following statement comes next: “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us. By loving God and our neighbour. Then a question is posed — ‘Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?’ The parents declare that they understand their role in passing on the faith to their child. In the light of that declaration the godparents are then asked: ‘Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents? The answer they give is ‘we are’.

It is very easy to go through those lines on the day and not understand exactly what is happening. Promises are being made by the parents who are looking for their child to be baptised. They are promising to raise their child in the faith and teach them to live the two great commandments love of God and love of neighbour. The godparents promise to assist them in those tasks. The gifts given at any time are important — they are part of the relationship between godparent and godchild – but the main role of the godparent is to be a help to the parents in the faith development of the child. It implies being firm believers in the faith that is professed in the renewal of the baptismal promises made by the parents
and godparents before the child is baptised.