March 6, 2008

Godparenting Troubles

One of the customs around here is the use of forms to certify godparents. If someone is chosen to be a godparent (or a sponsor for confirmation) they are supposed to take a form back to their own parish to be signed and sealed, in order to attest that he or she is a fully initiated Catholic and prepared to take up the role.

Sometimes this is a joyous and grateful moment. Someone whom you know or at least recognize from Sunday Mass comes to the office with a piece of paper to be signed, explaining how they have been chosen to be a godparent. They can easily recount the time and place of their own sacraments of initiation, and are happy with the new ministry they are accepting.

On the other hand, sometimes these are rough encounters. Sometimes the person looking for their parish priest's signature and parish seal is someone you've never seen before. And then sometimes they tell you that they either aren't confirmed or can't remember if they received the sacrament. In this case you have two choices: You can be "nice," hoping that this is a moment to hook someone back into church, and sign their form. Or you can try to explain that it doesn't make sense for someone to sponsor another Christian's initiation into Christ when they haven't done it themselves. Then you end up in a standoff in the parish office, with the visitor looking at you like you're being an unfair pain about what they see as a formality, and you looking at them as someone who is missing the fundamental nature of the whole exercise.

It's just one way that the sacraments become the place where our collision with culture becomes very apparent sometimes.


holy water salt said...

I had a different problem.

I asked a woman who I admired and respected- she ran a diocesan social justice office, orthodox etc.,
I looked up to her. So when I had my 1st child I asked her, she said no.

I get it intellectually, but it's something that still hurts. I ended up with a couple I never met before picked the priest. They send cards each year and I am sure still pray for my child- I guess I am fortunate.

ben in denver said...

I've had difficulty finding Godparents for my children too. I'm a convert, so none of my relatives qualify, and nearly all of my wife's relatives have left the church.

I've noticed a cultural bias against having godparents that you have known for only a short while. Many people feel that a godparent should be a relative of a family fried where the relationship is decades long.

This poses a chanlenge for converts. Often conversion can occaision the loss of friends and the old social network. The few reaming firends who stick with you may not be suitable or qualified to be a godparent. This all too often has lead us to us having poor godpartents for our children.

Of the 16 godparents for our kids, one couple has divorced and had their marraige annuled, 2 couples have left the church, and our relationships with another 2 of the couples have become very strained since we began attending the Extraordinary Form of the Mass once per month. This leaves us with 6 quality godparents out of 16.

My hope is that things will be different for our children. They will have plenty of aunts and uncles to choose from in selecting godparents.

An aside to holy water salt, I took a look at your blog and I think it might be a good idea for you to get some spiritual direction. Maybe there is a priest, brother or sister available locally to talk through some of these issues with you? When my wife was being troubled by some related issues, she got some really good advice from a nun.