Here is an example where understanding proper manners helps keep us away from uncomfortable situations which moderns often point out after a moment of silence by a lone person saying “Awk – ward.”
Mrs. Fenner states rather broadly that, “Among Protestants an invitation to be a godparent is an honor that must be accepted. A refusal is socially impossible. Among Catholics this is not true.” That is because of the promises that are assumed of the Catholic godparent. This is not an honorary role but one with significant responsibilities. It will assume that you are leading an upright Catholic life, attending the sacraments, are a person of prayer, and will help, in any way that you can, the young person to grow closer to Christ in the Church throughout his life. One is not chosen because, “Mikey is the youngest brother and the only one that nobody has asked yet. It would mean so much to him – once he gets out of jail for that terrorist bombing incident.”
Again quoting Mrs. Fenner, “If parents are themselves good Catholics who do their duty toward their child, the sponsor’s obligation is a slight one. But one can never depend upon its being so. The parents may fall away from their Faith. They may die (oh dear) and the child’s upbringing be entrusted to non-Catholics, or they may hold their responsibilities too lightly.” In cases such as these, the godparent, “must assert his rights and perform his duties as the spiritual parent of the child.” If for any reason a person realizes that he is not up to this responsibility of becoming a godparent, he should decline the role and parents should gracefully accept the answer kindly and without asking those questions that would give them the opportunity to say “Oh, but we don’t care that you are having doubts about God’s existence! You are a good person. We want you to be godparent anyway! By the way, what a nice crystal you are wearing.” What a noble thing it is for someone to decline for the spiritual welfare of your child and that should be accepted.
It behooves parents to know who may and who may not be a godparent and what is expected of them before asking somebody to be a godparent. It puts everyone in a foul and festering mood when the priest has to say, “I’m sorry, but that is an impossibility for that person to be a godparent (hence one of the reasons for the class mention last week.)
There is to be a godparent. If there are two, one must be male and the other female. There is no fudging on this. They must be fully initiated and practicing Catholics. They must obtain a sponsor certificate from the parish at which they are a member that they are supposedly supporting and are well known enough that the priest feels comfortable saying that he recommends them. All of this because the godparent is welcoming them and guiding them into a way of living. The godparent cannot be the mother or father of the child – you already have a job.
“But I already asked my brother Mike and his husband George, a Unitarian universalist, and their 5 year old child Feebee to all be godparents! You have to let us do this Father!” Fortunately for Father he does not have to refuse the parents demand. It is no more in his power to grant this permission than it would be to give them permission to paint graffiti on the White House. He will merely state, “I am sorry, there is nothing I can do.” Having the rules in mind before asking can save worlds of hurt between family members, friends, and between the general public and the Church.
I thought there would be enough time and space to get into “Naming the Baby” but the topic is just too precious and long to tag onto the above. So we will hit that next week.