Yesterday was Father’s Day in many countries. If you could dedicate a holiday to a more distant relative, who would it be — and why?
I’m stretching the definition of relatives, but I’d choose to have a Godparents Day. I’m assuming that a majority of children are baptized and I believe that in most churches that requires godparents. I can only speak for Christians; I don’t know what occurs in other religions.
I’ve often thought it’s kind of sad that we choose people to be godparents for our children whom we like and respect, but often that relationship doesn’t last, and sponsors fade from the child’s life. My godparents were friends of my parents, but really never took any special interest in me, and unfortunately it’s often this way. Strictly speaking, the godparents do make a commitment in the ceremony, but I doubt if this is carried out very often.
Sponsors for baptism can be documented back to 313, when the Church was under the persecution of the Roman Empire and had to be careful about people it admitted to its fellowship, for fear of infiltration by enemies. The role of the sponsor then was to attest to the integrity of the person, oftentimes an adult, seeking admission into the Church as well as to teach him or her about the sacraments, rituals, etc. By about 800 A.D., when infant baptism was truly the norm, these sponsors were called “patrinus,” or “godfather.”
Parents select godparents for different reasons, but people who are religious, may seek people who lead lives in harmony with the faith and the role to be undertaken. In our family, godparents have been relatives, sisters and brothers of the parents. They’ll tend to have more lasting relationship with nieces and nephews, and often share the same religion, so they have a common understanding of what’s expected of them.
These days, the more adults involved in children’s life the better. Families aren’t as close, geographically and socially, as they used to be, so involving responsible, caring adults who believe in baptism and what it means in a child’s life, are welcome additions as role models for a growing child.
If a day were set aside for godparents, it would remind sponsors that they made a promise at a baby’s baptism, and it might encourage children to seek out some special moments with their godparents when they’re around. Even if godparents just sent a card once a year, it lets a child know that they’re remembered in a special way. Sponsors receiving a card from their godchild would let them could help keep the relationship going, too.