How to choose good Catholic godparents

Choosing godparents for your child can be a difficult decision. Some stress over it and some don’t think about it enough. The Church lays out several guidelines for choosing sponsors for baptism, and Patrick Madrid discussed these on a recent episode of The Patrick Madrid Show on Relevant Radio®.

First things first, you need to baptize that baby! “If you’re going to baptize your little baby, which is good to do, don’t delay it. Don’t wait until the baby is six months old or a year old—that’s very unwise. And if you’re saying, well we gotta wait for people to come up from Mexico or we gotta have people come over from Europe—just have a party when they get there. Baptize your baby as soon as is reasonably possible after the baby’s birth. It could be two weeks after the baby’s birth, it could be a month; I wouldn’t extend it any further than that because if you want to be born again the bible way, that’s the Sacrament of Baptism, according to Jesus in John chapter 3. Because life is uncertain and we don’t know how things are going to go, you don’t want to take the risk of not having your child baptized,” said Madrid.

There are several requirements for choosing Catholic godparents that are outlined in the Code of Canon Law, 872-874, as explained by Madrid.

  1. A godparent must be Catholic. “A baptized Catholic above the age of 16 years old … and the Catholic who is baptized must also have completed the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Confirmation,” said Madrid. A baptized non-Catholic may not be a godparent but can serve as a witness along with a Catholic godparent.
  2. Godparents cannot be the parent of the child that is baptized.
  3. If the godparent is married, you must be married in the Catholic Church.
  4. A godparent needs to regularly attend Mass. “Nobody expects you to be perfect, although Jesus did say, ‘Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.’ But the Catholic Church does not require that you have like a halo … but you have to be making a good faith effort to be a good Catholic, to love the Lord and to grow close to Him.”
  5. The two godparents don’t have to be married to each other, but there can only be one male sponsor or one female sponsor, or one of each. In other words, you can’t have two godfathers or two godmothers.
  6. Non-baptized persons may not serve as a godparent. “Here’s why—this is not to be mean to anybody,” explains Madrid. “The reason this is the Church’s teaching is because of the role of the godparent who is making a promise before the parents, before the child, before the Church as a whole and before God, that to the extent that you are able to do something to help this child—whether there is some type of crisis, whether there is some detachment from the faith (maybe the parents go a-wire, they stop practicing the faith), well, you’re making a promise that you are going to do everything you can to assist that child in growing strong in the Catholic faith and loving Jesus.”

It’s important to do your best to choose good godparents for your children. “You can’t predict the future, you don’t know what’s going to happen down the road, but it’s important to be wise in the way you select a godparents. So don’t do it on the basis of ‘well, this is a really important person, I would like a really important person to be the godfather of my child’,” said Madrid. “That’s not a reason to choose that person. You want somebody who’s serious about the faith, who loves Jesus, who is going to make good on the promise to have a connection with your child. Somebody who is hopefully not so old that he or she is likely to die before your child reaches adulthood. So, you want to take all these factors into account.”

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.