Do What You Were Baptized to Do
Published on March 26-27, 2011 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
I was hesitant to say yes when my cousin Gloria asked me to be the godfather of her firstborn son. I was still in high school at that time and I didn’t think that I was ready to help her and her husband Francis in raising their son in the Catholic Faith. I already had the honor of naming their baby Jherome (de los Santos) and was among the first members of the family to have held him at his birth. But the thought of being responsible for him seemed to me to be more of a burden rather than a blessing. This was especially the case in our Filipino Catholic culture in which a godparent was not only asked for assistance in the education of his godchild in the Faith; he was asked for every kind of assistance. I knew that since I was still in high school I could not possibly afford this sort of religious and social commitment. And so I politely responded no.
It didn’t take long for my family to let me know that I had just committed one of the most glaring gaffes in our culture. My grandmother Elpidia came to scold me for my impertinence. Although I tried to explain to her that I found it impractical to be a ‘good’ godfather with a student’s allowance, she would not hear any of my so-called excuses. This has nothing to do with money, she said. “When you are asked to bear witness to your Faith in Christ,” she insisted, “there is only one possible response: Yes! Your cousin knows you have nothing to give, and yet she is willing to entrust her child to you. Do what you were baptized to do: stand up for your Faith!”
That was the only time that I ever got lectured by my grandmother. But I was so glad that she did because otherwise I would not have realized what being a good godparent meant. It is all about witnessing to my Catholic Faith, not only at my godson’s baptism but more so in the life that he sees me live.
My grandmother was right in one other thing: we were baptized not to nurture a private Faith but to profess that Faith in public. This is what godparents do at every baptism: they profess their Faith in Christ Jesus in the presence of the parents and of the Church (Her minister and Her people) so that what they would willingly acknowledge in the presence of the few, their godchild could expect them to profess in the company of the many. As my grandmother had reminded me, good godparents do what they were baptized to do: they stand up for their Faith and, by doing so, teach their godchild what being baptized is all about.