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Friend, Mentor, Companion In Difficult Phases: The Godfather
Always well cared for and a strong and responsible friend: the godfather or godmother supports young members of the Christian faith community. Godparents are always the first point of contact in questions of faith and conscience.
They are there to talk to in difficult situations, to help with spiritual development, and, under certain circumstances, to ensure physical well-being. A responsible office – at least that’s how the godparent presents himself or herself at first. In fact, the role of godfather or godmother is often no longer taken so seriously today.
Can Anyone Become A Godparent Just Like That?
In most Christian denominations today, it is customary to baptize children at babyhood. This can be within the first months of life, but can also be delayed until infancy.
The decisive factor is how quickly the parents want their child to be accepted into the faith community. Once parents have decided to have their child baptized, they look for a godparent.
Usually a good family friend or a family member such as a distant uncle or aunt is chosen as the godparent. The parents will approach the godparent and ask to be the godparent.
Adult baptism is a little different. If young people or mature adults are baptized and choose the Christian faith themselves, they usually choose their own godparent.
They will have long conversations about faith topics and have many questions. In this case, the relationship of trust between the godparent and the person being baptized plays an important role. The decision for the Christian faith in adulthood is usually a conscious decision and is usually accompanied by deep spirituality.
If infants or babies are baptized, on the other hand, it is sometimes a decision of the parents that has to do with family tradition.
Expectations Of The Godparent
If you are asked to be a godparent, this usually involves a lengthy conversation. In this conversation, everything and nothing can be discussed. It is important for you to be clear about what the parents and the child to be baptized expect from you as a godparent.
You may have a great responsibility for your (little) protégé. If you are aware of this and do not want to take over the office, you can of course refuse.
Godparents Have Other Duties In Other Countries
In Europe, at least in the Catholic tradition, babies and small children are usually already accepted into the faith community. This acceptance happens with baptism. In other regions of the world, however, it is customary for young people or adults to make a conscious decision for the Christian faith and to be baptized.
They go through a preparatory phase with baptism lessons and clarify important questions about the faith in personal conversations with priests, parish workers, and older parishioners. In these conversations, they explore their own spirituality and mature in their faith.
Baptism is often followed by communion and even confirmation. All three sacraments are then administered in a single ceremony. In such a case, a godparent naturally already has a great responsibility during the preparation for baptism and is often present during the discussions.
You Must Fulfill These Requirements As A Godparent
What exactly the prerequisite is, whether someone mayor wants to become a godparent, differs in the various Christian traditions. In order to give you at least a rough overview of the different possibilities, we will only discuss godparents in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Protestant Church.
Roman Catholic Church Makes High Demands On Godparents
In the Roman Catholic tradition, people have two godparents: A distinction is made between a baptismal godparent and a confirmation godparent. Each baptized or confirmed person should have someone to help with questions of faith and spiritual development.
The original idea is that the godfather or godmother encourages the young person to lead a Christian life and assists in the fulfillment of the duties associated with it. Until 1983, church law viewed godparenthood as a spiritual kinship.
One or two persons are designated by the pastor or legal guardians to assume the office of godparent. A godparent must be at least sixteen years of age. He must be married and confirmed and should have received First Communion.
It is also a requirement that the godfather or godmother live a life of faith. Anyone who has already received a canonical sentence or is a parent of the person to be baptized is not allowed to be a godparent.
Anyone who is not a member of the Catholic Church may only be a godparent as an additional witness to the baptism alongside a Catholic godparent. Thus, this applies to Protestant godparents, Greek Orthodox godparents, and those who belong to other Christian communities.
Protestant Church Knows Godparents Only For Children
In the Protestant tradition, the office of godparent exists only in connection with infant baptism. Those who are younger than 14 at the time of baptism are assigned a godparent. The godfather or godmother is supposed to raise the child in the Christian sense and promises to do so at the baptism.
The sponsorship ends with the confirmation. This is because confirmation classes are also understood as “baptismal instruction” made up for – the young people are thus initiated into the faith and no longer need the guidance of a godfather or godmother. For adult baptisms, there are usually no godparents.
In some cases, however, infant baptisms without godparents are permitted. In this case, at least one parent must be a member of the Protestant Church. The number of godparents is not fixed: The individual regional churches merely make recommendations.
In the Protestant Church, too, godparents must themselves be baptized and belong to the church. Normally, they must be a member of the Protestant denomination and be confirmed. However, there are exceptions, so that members of other Christian communities may be godparents.
This is possible both in the case of individual godparents and in the case of additional godparents. Sponsorship cannot be returned or revoked by the church. However, it expires if the godfather or godmother is no longer admitted to Holy Communion. This is the case, for example, if they leave the church. Some regional churches then allow the subsequent appointment of a godfather or godmother.
Godfather And Godmother Do Not Have To Be Religious
Godparents have the task of accompanying their protégé in his or her development. In the event of the early death of the parents, the care of the godchild passes to the godparents. Therefore, godparents are also common in non-Christian communities.
The exact role of a godfather or godmother in this case must be discussed with the parents. As with Christian godparents, godparents can be noted in the family register.
What Is A Död, A Gurel And A Patt?
Godfather or godmother is the name given to the spiritual and material caregivers only in High German. The word godfather originally comes from Latin and has been in use in Germany for so long that the individual dialects have naturally developed their own terms:
- Rhöner Platt: Petter/Död and Dete/Döte
- Lower Franconian: Dou/Bad and Dout/Badin
- Siegerländer Platt: Patte and Gurel
- Rhineland-Palatinate and Eifel: Pättche and Jüttche
- Northern Eifel: Patt and Jott/Jött
- Hesse: Patte/Pätter and Godel
- Southern Germany: Gevatter/Geddi/Götti and Götchen/Gedda/Godda
The Greatest Christening Gifts
Of course, the question concerns not only godfather and godmother, but everyone: What do you give for a christening? Of course, parents are happy about practical gifts such as care products, diaper vouchers and clothes for the child.
After all, especially in the first two years of life, children grow very, very quickly and constantly need new clothes, which is a costly affair. But for an event like a baptism, you probably want to show that you respect the religious beliefs of the parents and the person being baptized and want to support the spiritual development of the family. Therefore, a gift with a Christian connection is appropriate.
Very popular gifts for baptism are books that provide inspiration for living by faith. Whether this is a collection of saints’ biographies, a children’s Bible for the already somewhat older baptized child, or a splendid edition of the Bible, is up to you as the godparent. Small protective amulets such as crosses or angel pendants are also frequently given as gifts.
Many Christian families attach importance to the fact that these pendants are consecrated by the priest in a small ceremony before the baptism. This is said to give them special protective power. Devotional objects such as images of faith, representations from the Bible in colorful and high-quality art prints, and crosses as room decorations are also popular gifts.
However, some godparents also think about the later development and education of their protégé and give a savings book with a smaller or larger deposit or securities. These gifts are usually administered by the parents of the person being baptized until he or she reaches the age of majority and do not become the property of the protégé until his or her 16th or 18th birthday.
If young people or adults are baptized and have a godparent at their side, a very individual accompaniment in the faith can also be given. A joint pilgrimage, a stay in a monastery, or a pilgrimage are then appropriate. In the case of an infant baptism, the gifts are of course different than in the case of an adult baptism.