Recently, the Archdiocese of Catania in Italy announced that there will be a three-year ban on godparents at baptisms because 99% of those selected by area families have been found unsuitable for the role. What is that role? Basically, godparents are expected to be committed examples of Christian living for the newly baptized child.
Why are individuals failing to fulfill that job description? Archdiocesan leaders suggested too many moms and dads have been enlisting their sacramental assistance with a different goal in mind.
Parents and their faith communities may view a child’s baptism as “a networking opportunity for families.” Such a distraction from a loving focus on their child’s soul and their Church’s future robs the rite of “all spiritual significance.” So this Sicilian archdiocese will consider improvements while conducting the godparent ban as an “experiment.”
It is hoped that proper education of parents and prospective godparents will help reduce the growing drift toward secular indifference about the legacy of grace Catholics hand down through generations.
Education is definitely part of the answer for a better understanding of everyone’s responsibility when the Church presents a life-changing gift through family and faithful friends. But knowing the reasoning is not the same as holding the true reason in one’s heart. Remember the axiom: “One cannot give what one does not have.”
Why should we take it so seriously when we participate with the priest in welcoming a child into God’s own family — and promising that we are “all in” for helping that child pursue the full blessings of a deep relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
That’s easy. We all want the very best for our children, and the best gift we can give them is the example of faith they will see in their parents, their godparents, and all the interconnected People of God who desire to share committed love.
If we are just going through the motions around the baptismal font, or through our everyday lives, our example will not be anything special. It begins at the font, with some powerful words we say, often together with our fellow parishioners.
Presented with questions such as whether we reject sin and whether we believe in the Holy Trinity, the holy Catholic Church, forgiveness, and life everlasting, we’re making an important public announcement that we have gifts from God which we’re determined to share.
If one cannot truly say “I do,” with his or her best actions, at least efforts, then the role of a godparent may wind up as a poor example — to the child and to the whole Catholic community. A godparent pledges to assist the child’s parents in raising their child in the faith. If the real sense of purpose, responsibility, and enthusiasm isn’t there, does it make sense to accept the role halfheartedly?
Catholics outside the Archdiocese of Catania are blessed with the ability to be godparents, assuming all other Church protocols are met. The challenge of authenticity being faced in Catania may be a gift in disguise. It may be a gift to all Catholics who should ponder it.
Whatever role comes our way, we have the responsibility to be “all in” through lives of backup support for others and up-front commitment as the kind of example needed by kids, by adults, and by a world that needs nurturing.