July 26, 2006 | 21 comments

I just realized that I must have godparents. I was baptized in the Catholic Church so I have to at least have one godparent, right? It’s kind of sad that I’ve never heard anything about it and don’t know who it might be. I’ll have to ask.

So anyway, speaking of which, now that the new baby is here I’m going to get both of my children baptized at once. I’m really looking forward to that. I just have one problem: the godparent issue. I know that you want people who take their Catholic faith seriously, and ideally who are close to you in age so that they would be around to guide your children in the faith if anything should happen to you and your spouse.

Hmm. My husband and I are both only children, none of our parents or cousins are practicing Catholics, and none of our good friends are practicing Catholics. In fact, there are only two people who we know well who are Catholic and take their faith seriously, both aunts who are over 50 years of age. We do know a few couples who are devout Catholics, but I wouldn’t consider them close friends, they’re more “good acquaintances”.

So what do people usually do in this situation? I know I only have to have one godparent per child, so the two aunts would do in a pinch, but I’m out of godparents then for future children. What about these Catholic acquaintances? Should I even consider them? I really don’t know any of them well and they’d be quite surprised to be asked, and I would be concerned about placing such heavy responsibility on people I don’t know that well. But maybe I should consider it as an option. At least they’re roughly the same age as we are.



  1. Anonymous

    I would choose one of the serious aunts over acqaintances. It’s another bond with the child, and you should expect them to live these days until the child is an adult. In the event they have to take over full time for you, their seriousness means they will see that they get the right kind of help to see it’s done properly. Jim McCullough, DRE Our Lady of Grace, Greensboro, NC

  2. Jennifer

    Go see your priest—and get into RCIA right away! Perhaps your sponsors would make good candidates—or you will meet other people.

    It is most important that the two you pick will ensure that the child is raised Catholic. Most devout Catholics would be honored by the request. Don’t worry about closeness of relationship. The request will make the relationship.

    I’m so excited for you!

  3. Anonymous

    Even if you can’t start RCIA right away, you should try to sign up for the next baptism classes. Sometimes those can hold up the baptism for awhile. I think I’d be more likely to choose young-couple-devout-Catholic acquantances than older family members, but that’s just me.

  4. knit_tgz

    I agree with the other Jennifer “It is most important that the two you pick will ensure that the child is raised Catholic.”

    I was baptized as a child. My godparents were my grandmother (very devout and loving, who, unfortunately, died a couple of months later), and a close family member who, unfortunately, never contacted me since my Baptism. I wish I had had a godfather who wanted to know how my faith life was going…

  5. Ersza

    Just do the best you can on godparents. RCIA will help you find a sponsor (your “godparent”). You can ask someone from your parish. It’s ideal if the godparents can be part of your child’s life permanently, but that doesn’t always happen. I don’t know mine from Adam.

    As for baptism, consider waiting until next year, when you are received into the church at Easter. Our parish initiates adult catechumens and baptizes their children under 7 with them. (Children over 7 go through children’s RCIA and then get baptized, communed, and sometimes confirmed at the same time as their parents.) This is a beautiful ceremony, and you will love it. Most churches now initiate new Catholics at the Easter Vigil, which is absolutely the most beautiful mass of the year. It beats the heck out of standing up for a couple of minutes at a regular Sunday mass for baptism. Plus, you shouldn’t need to do a separate baptism class that way.

  6. Anonymous

    I will say, though, that the Church encourages baptism within the first weeks of birth. I personally wouldn’t wait and put my child’s soul at risk just to wait for Easter vigil or to avoid taking a baptism class. Some priests will do private baptisms, which is what we did when our children were one week old. And I don’t think the Church can deny baptism just b/c the parents aren’t fully initiated, right?

  7. Ersza

    Actually, Blair, there is such a thing as emergency baptism, which can be ministered by anyone, Christian or not, if you are worried about the child’s soul being in danger. I don’t know in what sense you are speaking for the Church, but *our* church encourages family initiations, which is as it was done in the early days of Christianity. The Church has somewhat reformed its initiation procedures since the old days. Hasty baptism of infants is not practiced so much anymore, in favor of careful attention to the formation and intentions of their parents. Most of the infants baptized at our church are 3-6 months old. (We get four each Sunday!)

  8. majellamom

    I’m with you on the godparent problem as a convert…and my hubby is a cradle Catholic…and we are STILL having trouble coming up with serious godparents!

    Your RCIA sponsor will be your godparent. I haven’t spoken to my sponsor in years now, so I have no real relationship with my godparent.

    We chose one of my hubby’s aunts and his brother as godparents for our daughter. With #2 on the way, we are having extreme difficulty coming up with godparent ideas…I think this one might get hubby’s sister (who lives on the other side of the country and hardly ever comes home to visit) and hubby’s great-uncle (who is hubby’s godfather!) for lack of any serious younger Catholic men in our lives.

    Don’t know what we will do if we have more kiddos, as we are pretty much out of ideas (hubby has one more sister, but she married a non-Catholic, and are waiting to see if she sticks with her faith!)

    Honestly, the aunts sound like a great idea…and maybe you’ll meet some serious Catholic men in your RCIA program to give your kids two godparents (if you have two, it must be one man and one woman, but they don’t have to have any connection!)

    Also, keep in mind that you can recycle godparents! Just because someone is a godparent for your oldest doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be honored to be chosen as a godparent again in the future!

  9. SteveG

    Just a technical correction.
    Your RCIA sponsor will be your godparent. I haven’t spoken to my sponsor in years now, so I have no real relationship with my godparent.

    Jennifer, correct me if I am wrong, but you said you were already baptized, correct? If that is so, then as you mention, you have godparents already and your sponsor will be just that…a sponser; since you will be confirmed, not baptized when you enter the Church.

    A few other quick comments. I think the first anonymous comment is the best. Someone in the family is best in that it is more likely to be someone who the kids will know until they are adults.

    Friends are a wonderful idea, but with how transient society is today, how much chance is there that they will still be friends over the next 10 to 15 years. The aunts will still be aunts though.

    As to Ersza’s idea, it’s a wonderful one, and I’ve seen it done before, and it’s beautiful, and…..but!

    The Easter vigil at which you will be receieved usually last in the neighborhood of 2 hours. If you want to actually participcate in it mentally and spiritually, I would think brininging a 1 year old and 3 year old (maybe the 3 might make it) to the vigil will be asking for trouble. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I think that idea works out better when the kids are a little bit older.

    Finally, you might want to consider the idea of using a Christian Witness in addition to a Godparent. The rule is that at least one of the people picked must be a practicing Catholic. But the second person doesn’t HAVE to be (ideally they are), but could be a non-Catholic Christian you greatly respect. They will not ‘technically’ be a godparent, but will serve as what’s called a Christian Witness and will more or less serve a similar functon. Just another idea to ponder.

  10. Anonymous

    Dear Ersza,
    It isn’t widely known, but this is from the Code of Canon Law (you can Google it)–
    867 1: Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to prepare properly for it.
    2: If the infant is in danger of death, it is to be baptized without any delay.
    Here is the link (also Jen, there’s info on sponsors there):

    Hope that’s helpful!
    In Christ,

  11. SteveG

    Not to be nitpicky, but that canon could allow for a month, two, even three and arguably still be in the first weeks. There’s a good bit of latitude there.

    Jimmy Akin has a great post on that particular canon here…
    Delaying Infant Baptism

  12. Ersza

    Probably this will depend on what the practices are at Jen’s parish. If the option of having the whole family brought into the church at once at the Easter vigil is offered, I highly recommend it. The vigil is usually 3+ hours at our church, and people manage it with little ones just fine. You see babies and toddlers crashing on pews by the end. Some folks bring grandparents or caregivers. This is a BIG DEAL. People go out of their way to make it work, and I really think it is worth it. I had my son baptized at the same time I was confirmed and it was just lovely. We attend the vigil every year, and yes it is a challenge with a child, but so worth it.

    As to the quote on canon law, this is a bit of a different situation, as Jen is not initiated into the church yet. If she is not baptized, it is a bit strange for the children to be baptized while the parents remain unbaptized. From that point of view, I think it is more doctrinally correct for the whole family to receive the sacrament of baptism at once. If Jen was baptized Catholic, then it is probably more of an optional thing, she can choose the way that she would prefer to do it. Remember a lot of these practices came about at a time when infant mortality was extremely high, so it made sense to rush to baptism. Now, mortality is lower, and although we can’t assume a newborn will survive, it’s not so hard to figure out which ones need baptism immediately, and which can wait for grandma and grandpa and everyone to make the trip to town to see her dressed up in her pretty things. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Anonymous

    I agree, Steve, that “the first few weeks” leaves a bit of latitude. Personally I wouldn’t wait 9 months so the children could be baptized at the Easter Vigil. I can name several young children/babies I know who’ve passed away recently and weren’t ill. Although I trust in God’s abundant mercy, I’d still be so saddened if I had waited on this sacrament for my own child (and then they couldn’t even receive a Catholic funeral, right?).

    I’ve heard of priests also celebrating an initiation, marriage validation, and children’s baptisms privately for families who are coming into full communion together. I’m just an impatient person, though, and wouldn’t want to wait long for any of those sacramental graces, especially baptism!

    ~Blair, grace-hog ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Anonymous

    I’ll just have to agree to disagree, Ersza. Some good friends of mine woke last month to find their 2 yr old dead (still unknown cause). Thankfully she was baptized and had the most beautiful Catholic funeral. That’s obviously not the norm, but you just never know.

    I understand that Jen isn’t a fully-initiated Catholic yet, but I don’t think that matters as regards her children’s baptisms. I do agree that the Easter Vigil is a beautiful mass and children can probably make it through. I also think it’s nice for extended families to be able to attend if possible, but of course isn’t necessary. I would encourage Jen to find out what options her parish offers for these different sacraments. It’ll be an exciting time regardless!

    ~Blair ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Jennifer F.

    Just a quick comment to clear up that yes, I was baptized in the Catholic Church. My husband is baptised but in the Baptist church.

  16. Ersza

    I had assumed Jen was unbaptized. I was in exactly the same position–baptized but uncatechized. We did end up waiting until Easter so that my son could be baptized at the same time that I was confirmed, and it was fine. This is really up to Jen and her pastor. I am just throwing it out there as a very nice option, which, contrary to the discussion here is in no way against Catholic law, tradition, or teaching. Elsewise, I and some 40 others wouldn’t have been allowed by our pastor and our bishop to celebrate the sacraments thuswise. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Amy Caroline

    I would choose the aunts. My children’s godparents are older as well, because I knew they would take the honor seriously. Many people don’t really have any concept of just what an important role this is. In my husband’s family (they are Portuguese) he calls his aunt and uncle god mother and god father, as it is a higher honor.

    Just so you know, we didn’t know any young Catholic males when we got married and my husband had to have his father as his best man! So no one should think it odd to pick your aunts. It would be btter to pick them then someone who may not even be in your life in the years to come.

  18. Anonymous

    Grrrr .. godparents … grrrr … one of my pet peeves. As a convert, my sponsors were well-meaning folk, but they had no intention of serving in any sort of catechetical role toward me. Thanks be to God for the plethora of orthodox sources of self-education in our day and age. As a parent a couple of years after my own reception into the Church, I wrestled with the godparent dilemma. I chose one neighbor and friend who I thought was an orthodox Catholic, and the only male practicing Catholic in our extended family (though he lived at quite a distance). Neither has ever lifted a finger to encourage my children in the Faith. In fact, after a couple of employment-related moves, the friend won’t even return my calls or letters. The male practicing Catholic later joined Call to Action. Sheesh. I feel so very very alone.

  19. Melora

    I’d go with the aunts. Unless they are unhealthy, they should hang on long enough to provide some guidance until your children are pretty much grown. While it would be nice to have godparents who also would act as legal guardians should the need arise, I don’t think that this has to be the case. I think of a godparent as an additional loving adult in a child’s life, who takes an interest in the child’s progress in all areas, but particularly in spiritual progress. My kids have a godmother who comes and visits them, remembers them on holidays, and talks to them in an appropriate way about prayer and behaviour. She wouldn’t be prepared to be a legal guardian, I don’t think, but I believe she would do her best to guide the kids in their spiritual growth if we were gone, and that seems like enough to me.

    Regarding the Lovenox. Can you contest your insurerer’s decision? When I was pregnant, our insurance initially denied the request for Lovenox but agreed to pay for it (and I couldn’t believe the price either!) after we made a big fuss. I suppose they might look at it differently for a longer term (like the rest of your fertile life) perscription, but maybe you could get a special exemption on religious grounds?

  20. Catholic Mom

    I know exactly how you are struggling to find Godparents. My husband is a convert so no one on his side of the family is Catholic. My sister left the Faith when she was in college. My brother was nominally Catholic when I had my first two children so he was the Godparent for both of them. However, he subsequently became a non-practicing Catholic. By the time number 3 came along I asked my parents in spite of their advanced ages. When number 4 came along, I ended up asking friends who are about our age and solidly Catholic. The good news is my brother has returned to the Faith and is now taking his role as Godfather very seriously. The friends keep in touch at Christmas but are not too involved with my youngest child.I don’t think there is a perfect answer. Pray about it then make your decision. Then keep praying because you can’t parent without prayer.

  21. Kiwi Nomad 2006

    I was asked to be a ‘third’ godparent for a child, even though I was not a practising Catholic. I am sure that some of you will condemn that. Myself, I almost felt sick to be asked at first. But the parents wanted me there as I had such an involvement with their family. At the baptism itself, I was the one who ended up holding the baby, as one of the other ‘proper’ godparents was on crutches with a broken leg, and the other ended up having to attend to her own baby.
    Being a godparent has led to me having a special relationship with this boy who is now a teenager. We go out every few months these days for a special godmother-godson time, eg to have a hot chocolate. I was asked to his confirmation.
    I have not ‘returned’ to the church. But being a godmother is one way I have kept in touch a little with the church.

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