| Nearly everyone has heard of the term “Godparent.” However, hearing the term and actually knowing what a Godparent is are two completely different things. Several people, even those who are Godparents, are not fully aware of what Godparent means. So, what exactly is a Godparent and what role does a Godparent play in a child’s life?
What is a Godparent?
A Godparent is a person who sponsors someone at Baptism. Most often, this refers to Catholic, Christian or Orthodox religions. The purpose of a Godparent is to make a profession of faith for the person being baptized and assume an obligation to serve as a proxy for the parents if they are unable to, or neglect to, provide for the religious training of the child.
Although many churches only require one sponsor or Godparent, two are permitted, but usually must be of different sex. For the most part, godchildren have both a Godmother and a Godfather.
Traditional role of a Godparent
Traditionally, the Godparents were responsible for overseeing the child’s religious education and for caring for the child should they be orphaned. In other words, Godparents were chosen to assist with the child’s faith and nurture his or her relationship with God. They were also chosen to become actual caretakers of the Godchild, should something happen to the child’s biological parents.
What does it mean today?
Today, the role of a Godparent seems to have less of a religious implication. Nowadays, Godparents are usually chosen to take an interest in the child’s upbringing and personal development – not just for religious purposes. A Godparent is not a legal position, thus the godchild is not necessarily left to the Godparents should they be orphaned. For Godparents to act as foster parents, it must be legally specified through a will.
In the Catholic Church, in order to be a Godparent one must: be at least 16 years old, a confirmed Catholic who has received the Eucharist, not under any canonical penalty and cannot be the parent of the child. A person who belongs to another Christian church is not allowed to be a Godparent; however, they can act as a witness in conjunction with a Catholic sponsor. A witness does not have any religious role recognized by the church.
In the Orthodox institution, one must be in good standing with the church and be aware of the meaning and responsibilities of his or her role. They cannot be a minor, a parent of the child or a non-Orthodox Christian. In some Greek communities, it is common for the best man or bride’s maid at the couple’s wedding to act as a Godparent for the couple’s first child. The Godparent will then also act as a sponsor at the child’s wedding.
Choosing a Godparent
For some parents, choosing Godparents is an easy task. For others, it is much more of a struggle. First, the Godparent must be eligible with the church. If you have a person in mind that is not eligible, or in good standing with the church, there is little chance he or she can be a Godparent. Second, decide what your expectations are of your chosen Godparents and make sure whomever you choose is able to fulfill these
expectations. Lastly, make sure they have similar views and values as you and your family.
Long distance Godparents
Godparents do not necessarily have to live close to the child in order to fulfill their role. Many long distance Godparents play a significant role in their godchild’s life. You can be an active, long distance Godparent in many ways, including: praying for your godchild regularly, maintaining communication via phone, cards or email, spending time with your godchild whenever possible, remembering all the important days in your godchild’s life and giving useful, nurturing gifts such as an age-appropriate Bible, a rosary or a prayer book. Keep the communication between you and your godchild open so he or she will feel comfortable coming to you with questions or seeking advice regarding religion.
Sidebar: Famous Godparents
Jennifer Aniston – Godmother to Coco Cox-Arquette
Elton John & David Furnish – godparents to Brooklyn & Romeo Beckham
Michael Jackson – Godfather to Nicole Richie
Steven Spielberg – Godfather to Drew Barrymore
Jamie Lee Curtis – Godmother to Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal – Godfather to Matilda Ledger
Liz Hurley – Godmother to Madonna & Guy Ritchie’s son, Rocco