Frequently Asked Questions About Godparents

Non-Catholic godparents, the history, and more

Q. I'm a godmother for a friend's daughter, and I disagree with some of their values. For instance, they rarely take their kid to church on Sunday. Can I step in and tell them about my concerns?

You surely have the right to do so. You were chosen to be a steward of faith for the girl, to serve as an added assurance (in addition to her parents) that she would be raised to fully understand her relationship to God and to Jesus and to have a life in the church. A good godparent is not just fulfilling a social role; presumably, you weren't chosen because you were only a good relative or the girl's mother's best friend. There had to be other qualities in you that inspired your selection.



A good godparent might pray for her godchild every day; give the child special, hopefully spiritually oriented gifts on her birthday or on the anniversary of her baptism; and make sure the child attends Sunday school and has an age-appropriate Bible. Some godparents even regularly pray with their godchildren. All this suggests the enormity of the duties you agreed to take on when you became a godparent. So you certainly have the right to discuss your concerns with your goddaughter's parents. But don't forget: As the girl's parents, they make the final decisions about her upbringing. You can attempt to influence them, but you have little recourse if they ignore you.



Q. I'm not a Christian and was wondering how the godparent tradition started.

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The responsibilities now borne by godparents began in the fourth century when the Christian Church, under persecution from Roman authorities, was concerned about being infiltrated by pagans. A person who wished to be admitted to the church had to have sponsors who would attest to his faith as well as assist him in preparing for these initiatory sacraments and in later living a Christian life. About the year 800, when infant baptism was the norm, sponsors would take the Profession of Faith in the child's name, as well as agree to instruct the child in the faith if his parents failed to do this. Such a sponsor was called

patrinus,

or "godfather."



Quite possibly, the idea of this witness who confirmed the intentions of someone converting to Christianity was borrowed from Judaism. At a baptism, or

mikvah,
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