Often, it is thought that godparents are just a nice touch added to the baptism ceremony. But the Code of Canon Law puts a much heavier responsibility upon these witnesses. “Godparent” and “sponsor” are synonymous terms used interchangeably. A godparent is entering a spiritual relationship with the one being baptized. The font of the Church is considered the “womb” which brings forth eternal life. Through baptism we become adopted children of God, calling God our Father and the Church our mother. We need a sponsor to guide us by prayer and example in the ways of the faith.
In today’s society, while carrying no legal right to custody, the role of the godparent is completely spiritual. Besides praying for the child, the godparent should be actively involved as a Christian role model in the child’s life. This is why the term “sponsor” is used for a godparent. The godfather or godmother is to be a spiritual “coach” who teaches by example. Just like the lives of the saints give us examples of how to live our faith, godparents who practice their faith should be living examples.
Godparents assist parents in the Catholic education of the child. They never supplant the role of the parents, who are the primary educators of their children in the Catholic faith. However, at times when the parents are weak in the faith, it is not uncommon for a godparent to step in to make sure the children are being reared properly in the Church.