How do you fulfil your godparent duties if you live hundreds of kilometres away and visit your godchild only several times a year? It seems hardly possible, but I decided not to surrender, and that’s what I have come up with.
I was first faced with this challenge when a friend of mine asked me to be his second son’s godmother. Believe it or not, but I was totally startled. Although I consider him one of my closest friends, I expected him to pick a relative or an acquaintance who lives in the same city. I did have a feeling, though, that if he chose me, he expected something more than from a family member he could have chosen out of politeness. Especially after I warned him that I am not an expert in fashionable, expensive gifts.
“I know, and you also know that’s not the reason why we chose you,” the friend tried to reassure me, but made me even more nervous. If he wasn’t interested in presents, what was he after?
Eventually, I decided I would consider it a chance and a challenge. A chance to be a godmother I would most like to be: not an auntie that will be associated above all with costly gifts, but a witness of faith who will be gladly followed to Heaven. Due to the physical distance between me and my godson, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, and I shared my fears with the boy’s parents. After all, it is mostly their task. I am only here to help them. Once we reached an agreement, I moved into action.
Helpful books for a godchild
Firstly, I ordered some books presenting our faith in a child-friendly manner: illustrated prayer books, Baby’s Little Bible and Biblical Animal Stories. I had been reading all of them already to my own daughter. Then I sat down and wrote.
Text messages with hints for parents
In order to help parents to raise their child in the faith, I decided to text them a reminder each month with a very specific hint.
If you know the parents of your godchild well, you will probably think of suggestions they will gladly implement on your own. However, if you don’t know what to begin with, here are the text messages that I sent to my godson’s dad in the first year after the baptism:
(1) Hi! It’s been a month since XYZ’s baptism. Please, pray for his way to Heaven. I will also pray for it, and “where two or three…”
(2) Hi! It’s been two months since XYZ’s baptism. I’m glad I could recently see him. Please tell him that his godmother loves him very much, yet God loves him even more – more than anyone in the world.
(3) It’s been three months since XYZ’s baptism. If he’s not asleep yet, please hug him on behalf of his godmother and God!
(4) Have you already sung XYZ your favourite song from the pilgrimage? It’s been four months since XYZ’s baptism today – that’s a good opportunity!
(5) It’s been five months since XYZ’s baptism. He’s growing bigger and bigger. If you’re not doing it yet, I suggest you say one prayer at his bed before he goes to sleep. Take care! The Godmother 🙂
(6) It’s been six months since XYZ’s baptism. Do you read the Baby’s Little Bible to him? We have made a Sunday tradition out of it.
(7) Hi! Please remind XYZ that his mother, father, grandparents, relatives and godparents love him very much, yet God loves him even more 🙂 Take care!
(8) It’s time for a kind reminder: do you regularly pray at XYZ’s bed, and read him the Baby’s Little Bible on Sundays? We still manage to do it 🙂
(9) Is XYZ big enough to try to kneel at your side during prayer?
(10) I remember that our daughter had great fun when she “clapped Amen” and tried to make the sign of the cross. And how is XYZ doing?
How did the parents react to this gift?
I have to admit that my fingers trembled every time I was sending the messages. I personally don’t accept good advice readily, and although I tried to phrase my texts as lightly as possible, I feared they could be misinterpreted. Still, I was convinced that I was doing the right thing and that I only shoot the messages, and God disposes them. That is why I didn’t give up when I didn’t get any reaction to the first few messages.
Imagine my joy when one day my godson’s father wrote to me that his older son got interested in the “Our Father” prayer book and wanted it to be read to him. Several months later, the mother sent me a photo of the younger son fascinated with the pictures of “Angel of God” and added that his father regularly reads the prayers to his sons before they fall asleep, and the older one can already recite some lines.
What else can you do for your godchild?
(1) Monitor the Christian publishing market.
Its offer is much broader now than it was when I was a child. Yet not all titles are equally good. As a godparent, you may help parents find their way and offer their offspring suitable reading matter – adjusted to their age (possibly tested on your own children or recommended by people you trust).
(2) Recommend interesting Internet content to parents, and later the godchild directly.
Impressed by a vlog? Share it! A YouTube movie reminded you of your godchild? Send the link! Busy parents will surely be grateful.
I wonder how you support parents in raising up your godchildren. Please share your good ideas, so that other godparents may use them, too!
– Adapt your suggestions to the child’s developmental stage. A hint given a month after baptism will differ for a child baptised in the first month of life and a child baptised on its first birthday. Until a child is one year old, it is impossible to expect anything of it, but it is possible to do a lot of things next to it so that it grows accustomed to some rituals. Only after it begins to walk or talk, may you try to encourage it to kneel, do the sign of the cross or say “Amen”.
– If you find a great book, buy several at once. You may use them as gifts for the children of your friends and other relatives without fear that they may soon be no longer available. That’s exactly what happened to the magnificent “Baby’s Little Bible”, which I only managed to buy for one of my godchildren. Having learnt the hard way, I bought several sets of prayer books.