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Faith of our Children: The Vital Importance of Godparents

July 15th, 2011 · 18 Comments · Mary and Martha Moments

I thought about titling this post, the second installment of The Faith of Our Children series, Keeping the Extended Family Close (aka “Living with the In-Laws”).

Although it might have been fun to poke (more) fun at my current living situation, I realized I didn’t have anything substantial to say about how living with my children’s grandparents affects their faith. I really couldn’t think of anything consequential at all to say about the relationship between the extended family and the faith of my children.

We have a few issues working against the extended family’s positive impact:

  1. My mother is not Catholic, nor any faith, which means that her entire side of the extended family doesn’t share our faith. If anything, it confuses my 6-year-old that we always go to church when we’re visiting together and they get to stay home, play, and eat brunch.
  2. We don’t see my father’s side of the extended family enough for my children to have real relationships with them, particularly when it comes to the faith.
  3. My husband’s family, beyond his immediate parents and sister, are mostly fallen-away Catholics, so any impact would be slim or negative.
  4. We each only have one sibling, both younger than us and as of yet childless, so there’s just not much that the aunts and uncles have figured out to share or enhance our children’s faith. Plus, my kids are only 6 and 3, so the aunts and uncles are definitely still in the “let’s have fun with our niece and nephew” phase, rather than “how can we share our faith with these kids?”

That story doth not a good post make.

If anything, I considered writing about how we hope – pray – envision – and witness – our children impacting the faith of our extended family.

The Faith of Children…a Beautiful Sight to Behold

When we religiously pray together before all meals, even lunch at a restaurant; when family members see that even our 2-year-olds know their prayers by heart; when we are able to invite aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents to join us for nighttime prayers, we really see how our children’s faith touches others. It is my prayer that they can be a good example and an inspiration to deeper faith for those who are fallen away or lukewarm.

Some of the best, most emotionally connected moments I’ve had with my father, mother, and sister-in-law have been when we’re praying nighttime prayers with the kids and we all are able to articulate out loud our gratitude for the gift of family, for the joy we have in these children, and for the preciousness of one another. Without children, we wouldn’t share that with each other.

As awesome as it is to reflect on how simply having children, raising them in the faith, and being bold enough to act out our faith in front of others may positively impact our family members’ faith, it’s still not worthy to be the central focus of an entire post.

What’s a Godparent For?

In the Catholic faith, the parents are deemed “first teachers of the faith.” It is our sworn duty at each child’s Baptism to raise them in the faith to the best of our ability. The godparents also take an oath, that they will be helpers to the parents in raising these children Catholic, with a heart for Christ (my words, not anything official).

Take note: godparents are not there to either

  1. Raise the child if the parents die (which is what I erroneously thought they were for, exclusively, my entire life)
    OR
  2. Make sure the kid gets an extra gift at Christmas and their birthday (which also might have been a pretty cool bonus in my childhood)

A godparent’s job, their God-given duty, is to pray for their godchild and help the parents pass on the faith of the Church. A weighty assignment to be sure!

I’m a Godmother Twice Over

I am blessed to have two godchildren myself, unfortunately far flung in Boston and Texas (I’m in Michigan), but I try to do what I can to help their parents pass on the faith, mainly through reminding them of their Baptism day with a gift or a card (not their birthday, their Church birthday) and making the gifts of a spiritual nature.

I should pray for them daily…but I admit, I forget. If you have a godchild, close your eyes and say a prayer for the building of their faith right now. I am.

Do Family Members Make the Best Godparents?

In my husband’s family, it’s very much tradition to choose a child’s godparents from among the aunts, uncles and cousins available. That tradition goes hand in hand with the tradition of buying Christmas and birthday gifts for both your godchildren and godparents. It’s mandatory.

Now that my kids have godparents, though, I wonder if that’s the best route to take.

My firstborn’s godfather ended up being my younger brother, sort of by default because of who his godmother was destined to be (see next section). As I am constantly praying for my little bro to return to the faith…that might not have been the best decision on our part for someone to help us raise our son as a Catholic (but it may turn out to be later, hopefully!).

Our second child followed the tradition of my husband’s family, so her godparents double as her aunt and uncle. Because they’re family, and on visits they are first aunt and uncle to two Kimball kids, and godparents to one of them as a distant second, sometimes I feel like little Leah got shorted in a way. Her extended family remained the same size after her Baptism, while my son’s increased by one.

Paul’s Godmother

That “one” new extended family member is my dearest friend from college and one of the holiest women I know. I couldn’t imagine NOT choosing her to be the godmother of my firstborn, even though I think I stepped on some Kimball toes over on my husband’s side of the family by going against tradition.

She has been such a gift to our family and to Paul in particular, and I really honor her as the ideal picture of what a godparent should be. I know she prays for his faith daily and fervently, and she puts a great deal of time and thought into her gifts for him, which are usually the perfect balance of something fun and something holy. For example: the Superman pajamas, cape included, and the “Heroes of the Bible” short stories book, which has been a favorite on his nightstand for two years.

But the best part?

She’s an extra person in his life to love, dote on, be proud of, and generally support him in everything he does. He always gets to chat with her on the phone when I talk to her, and when she visits, she spends genuine quality time with him. We even traveled together, mother and son, across the great Lake Michigan to Minnesota to visit her last summer, and what a pampering he received!

Most importantly, from the moment she held him as a newborn and I overheard her explaining to him God’s gift of a rainbow, I know that his faith is foremost in her mind. I know she understands and accepts her great duty as a godmother, and she’s already laying the foundation for and thinking about how she’ll be a confidant for him when he’s a surly teenager, and how she’ll always be able to guide him toward the Rock that is Christ.

I cannot express how grateful I am that my son has such a gift in his life.

Number Three

Which brings me to the baby due to be born in a month, another little boy. We’re out of siblings, and on neither side of the family do we see a candidate that is both holy and dear to us (other than those who are so far away in location that they wouldn’t even make it to the Baptism).

Besides that, having both experiences under my belt, I’d rather find two non-family members to be godparents, so our new little guy has a chance to have what Paul has.

Will we offend Kimball family members who expect that they might be on the godparent list? Maybe.

When I survey the tremendous impact Paul’s godmother has had and will continue to have on his faith and his life, do I care? Not a bit.

We need to pray and discern deeply over number three’s godparents, because they’re about to become spiritually connected as members of our extended family and responsible for helping us keep the faith in this as of yet known-only-to-God precious personality.

It’s exciting and frightening to have such responsibility, isn’t it?

As a godparent, how do you share the faith with those entrusted to you? As a parent, how did you choose your children’s godparents?

You can find all the Faith of our Children posts from KS here.

What Others Have to Say About Their Extended Families

Honored as always to work with six other amazing mama bloggers on this series…

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I though about titling this post, the second installment of The Faith of Our Children series, “Keeping the Extended Family Close (aka “Living with the In-Laws”).”

Although it might have been fun to poke (more) fun at my current living situation, I realized I didn’t have anything substantial to say about how living with my children’s grandparents affects their faith. I really couldn’t think of anything consequential at all to say about the relationship between the extended family and the faith of my children.


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18 Comments so far ↓

  • Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam)

    We don’t have godparents for our children, but their aunts/uncles do fill that role, and it’s a blessing. Casting this vision for our children regarding their faith is an ongoing day in and day out discussion of grabbing their hearts, isnt’ it? :)

    I sent through an email…my post is going up, but was off the list.

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  • Jeanne G.

    I was just thinking about godparents this morning. We don’t have kids yet, but our siblings are definitely not the choice for godparents when we have kids: my husband’s sister is an atheist, my sister is now Protestant, and my brother doesn’t practice any faith, though I think he still believes in God. None of our cousins is a good choice either, since his aren’t Catholic, and mine are pretty much the same picture like our siblings (except one, who I’m not very close to). We do have some friends that I know would make great godparents, I have just been reluctant to think of them because in my family, our godparents are all relatives. I like the point about adding someone to the extended family, though. I will keep that in mind when the time comes.

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  • Nicole

    Out of our siblings, we have one who is able to be a godparent. So she is our first daughter’s godmother and a dear friend, now a seminarian, is her godfather. We are due in Sept. with our third (second babe is a saint in heaven) and we decided on good friends who would be excellent prayer partners and witnesses to our child. We pray for our siblings and hope that they come back to the faith; we would love for them to be godparents later if we are blessed with more children. It’s a hard choice to make, but an important one:)

  • Kristen

    We went with my older brother and SIL for our son. While my brother is not actively practicing, he lives his life with intention and his behavior/choices are unimpeachable. He is a powerful guy (both mentally and physically), and is also one of the kindest and gentlest. I felt that he was an ideal counterpoint to my husband and I as a role model for my son. My SIL is Presybterian, but fully honors our wish that our son be Catholic- she actually purchases cards and gifts and books from a Catholic store for him. I didn’t feel like I had any Catholic nearest and dearest who could provide the rock of support that I felt they could.

  • Olivia

    Great post Katie! I needed to be reminded to pray for my Godchildren…

  • Shiree

    I am not Catholic, but a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am just curious where and when the tradition of choosing a godparent for each child began? I have always wondered.

    Katie Reply:

    Shiree,
    So sorry it took so long for me to answer! I wanted to find the right answer and then lost your question for a while.

    Here’s a start:
    “The role of the godparent for baptism is rooted in the role of the sponsor in the catechumenate, which originated in the early Church.” (Read the rest here and another Q&A (Q no. 2) here. Great question – I totally didn’t know the answer until I looked it up! :) Katie

  • Frances

    Not having many practicing Catholics among our siblings has also led us to choose faithful friends as godparents for our children. We take the decision very seriously and ask that they do the same…and so far we have been incredibly blessed! Our children’s godparents are definitely like extended family whom we love to spend time with AND practice our faith with!

  • Brenda

    Another beautiful post Katie!
    Until our 4th child, we chose only family members to be godparents. I regret that one set of godparents were later divorced and my 3rd child doesn’t have a godmother in her life since then. Sadly, my second child’s godparents also divorced, although, the godmother has remained close. For our 4th we chose a seminarian we were close to and loved to pray for as well as a lovely woman from our church. Without a doubt, I feel that our 4th child is most angelic and loving because of the prayers and postive catholic love she recieves from her godparents. It amazes me. So now to our 5th baby due next month, yet another difficult decision ahead, your post inspires me to pray hard about extending our family and inviting some great, holy friends to help us love and pray for our catholic baby!

  • Jennifer

    These are interesting issues that I have considered and am still a bit unsure about. I like the idea of adding people to the extended family and the families of our godchildren certainly feel like that to us. For our four children, we chose my best friend as a godmother to our first. She is still single and I have been disappointed that her gifts are not of a religious nature. I wish that the godparents could at least be there for the first Holy Communion but we live so far from everyone so that’s impossible. My brother is the godfather to my first and is, first and foremost, an uncle. My husband’s brother and sister-in-law are the godparents to our 2nd and 4th. Again, they are unable to travel, firstly aunt and uncle, but do occasionally send a religious coloring book at Easter, for example. My sister-in-law is the godmother to our third and my husband chose a good friend as godfather, and we’ve hardly heard from him in the past 3 years. Our 3rd is now 4 years old. So, ideally, a godparent should be a life-long friend, strong in the faith and experienced at raising children in the faith. I am a much better Godmother (to an 11 year-old girl, 4 year old boy, and my baby niece) now that I am raising my own children in the faith than I was before I became a mother.

  • lizi

    my husband’s parents and 2 of 3 brothers are devout catholic, as is the rest of his father’s side. my husband said to me that the family would already be there for our children, to help them grow in faith, so he wanted to chose friends as god parents. i really like the idea of EXTENDING the faith family.
    this made it difficult, as most of our friends are not catholic or even christian, but i am glad we took that route. my second child’s godparents are NOT catholic and that has never bothered us at all. they are christian, and they aren’t narrow minded Bible thumpers or catholic “snobs” which was important to us. we wanted someone who could teach and show our children that faith of the heart is not something you define with labels or judge others about and it has nothing to do with force-feeding dogmas that if you don’t believe you’ll go to hell for. it IS about loving your neighbor unconditionally as God loves us. this way our children can go forth and preach the Gospel in the best way, only using words if necessary.
    like the previous reader commented, it can be a hard choice. what if the godparents divorce? what is they move or you just grow apart? if you chose someone just because they are a family member, or just because they are catholic, i think there is more potential for it not to be the best godparent relationship. but if you chose someone who models the faith the way you and your partner want your children to be shown, and you chose someone of integrity who will make an effort to be a part of your child’s life in this capacity, then i think the choice has better possibilities for your family.

  • Robbie

    Our family tradition was that aunts or uncles are godparents, however, I have no relationship with mine and never did beyond a quick visit while I was at my grandparents’ once a year. I think I missed out.

    For my oldest, we went with what we knew: my sister was Catholic and my brother at leat baptized as such. They were the only Catholics we knew.

    For my second, we chose neighbors who are good Catholics; it makes it hard for my oldest that she doesn’t understand why her godparents aren’t involved in the way her brother’s are.

    I didn’t realize the full weight of it though until we became godparents. We were asked by the priest what we would do, my gut reaction was pray and to give her good examples (so starting with baby board books, etc.).

    No, I was told, it ought to be more, like checking it to make sure they’re routinely attending mass (which I don’t question with my sister), etc. Quite a responsibility when you think about it.

  • Lenetta

    It was a hard decision for us, as my hubs is lutheran and at the time of our daughter’s birth, he was an elder. We finally decided to have my Catholic bro & sis-in-lawAnd baptize her lutheran. It was the best compromise at the time. I have since told him that if we are blessed again, i want this baby baptized Catholic with his lutheran sis and cousin who converted as Godparents. We’ll have to see how it plays out.:)

    Katie Reply:

    Sounds like a pretty awesome balance, Lenetta. Now to keep praying for blessing no. 2!!! I’m on it! :) Katie

  • Emily

    My godmother is the only person – other than my mother – who has sent me a birthday card and a Christmas card every day of my life… even though I have lived 950 miles away for the past 18 yrs and rarely see my godparents anymore.

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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