My brother is 23. He chose me as his Confirmation sponsor back in the day, and when I was expecting my first child, I chose him as the baby’s godfather. I had doubts about doing so, as my brother was not a regular church-goer at the time, but I made it clear that we expected that to change, and that we were looking for someone who would be a model of Catholic living in the future if he accepted this role. He said he would and thus, he is my son’s godfather.
Fast forward to today–it looks like he’s making plans to move in with his girlfriend. I believe I may have mentioned exactly this scenario when I first talked to him about the godparent thing, but either way, he apparently doesn’t care. I’m so frustrated and discouraged. I know he’s an adult and can make his own decisions, but it feels like there should be some kind of accountability somewhere–after all, he DID choose me as his sponsor, and he DID accept our “terms” when he said he’d be the godfather.
Any advice? Anyone ever face a similar situation? I don’t want to just speak out in anger but I’m lacking the words to say that might actually have a positive effect. Please help, oh faithful fellow Catholics…
**Well, we all have free will, including your brother. I can totally understand how upset you are that he is going back on his word. But to be fair, since he wasn’t a practicing Catholic at the time you named him Godfather I don’t think this should come as a huge surprise to you. Actions speak louder than words. There are so many threads here about choosing Godparents… hopefully you can be a voice of wisdom when the next person asks “should I choose my non-practicing friend/relative to be a Godparent to my child?”
This is also a very good example of why choosing family is not such a good idea. He already had the role of uncle… but he is also Godfather, for better or for worse. If you had chosen a non-relative instead it would have been easier to cut contact if they failed in their role…
But enough telling you what you could have done. I only mention it to highlight those points since it seems that there are always a lot of people wh odon’t see how things can “go wrong” when choosing a less than ideal Godparent for some reason other than they will make a stunning example of our Faith.
Now, what can you do? Pray for him. Get his Godchild to pray for him. You are right to not want to speak out in anger. Sometimes hearing that a child is disappointed in them changes hearts faster than harsh words from adults.
Also set very clear boundaries. You don’t say how old you child/his Godchild is. But if he/she is old enough to be spending time with your brother, make it clear that it is not to take place in his home where he is shacking up with his girlfriend.
I wish I had better advice for you and I am sure that someone who has been in your shoes will come to the rescue… in the meantime, please try not to let your anger and frustration get the better of you. Your brother is lost and I pray he can find his way. You and your child may be the light that leads him home.**
My sisterin-law is my daugther’s godmother, much to my dismay. She was asked to be godmother before my daughter was born, and after my daughter’s birth my husband and I decided that we had some problems with her lifestyle choices and her decisions not to attend Church. Basically, she cleaned up her life a bit literally 2 weeks before the baptism, so my husband asked that we allow her to remain Godmother. My SIL is sadly back to her old ways, and I really think that she just started back to Church to be godmother and am pretty sure that she hasn’t been back since!
Anyway, I wish I knew how to help you. My husband constantly tries to help her find her way back to the faith, but we both know that at the end of the day, she’s the one who has to initiate contact with the faith. Right now, she just rolls her eyes at our urging her to return to Church and stop her vices, but we haven’t given up on her. We pray a lot of her.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s about all we can do. We can’t undo the godmother designation… all we can do is lead by example and hope that she find her way back. People have to want to change and return to the faith. We can certainly pray that this change happens quickly, but they’re the ones that have to make that first step.
I know…I didn’t really want to choose him, but the pressure was REALLY on from my family, especially my mother. I agonized over the decision; my husband did so as well regarding choosing his sister as godmother (she is practicing, but some of her views on the hot-button issues are, shall we say, “non-conventional”). And it was the same thing on his end too–his mother would have just about stopped speaking to him if sis wasn’t asked. It would have caused a huge family rift if we had asked someone other than my bro; it was a choice between having a meaningful godparent situation or having family peace. As it is, it was a relief to get past the first child; when we had our second recently, we were thrilled to have the freedom to choose godparents who would actually take their role seriously. I still don’t know if it would have worked out any better if we had chosen someone else but alienated and angered the whole fam…
I guess the only thing that could have been done (if we only had the power to go back in time!!!) is you and your husband making a “rule” that Godparents will be someone outside of the family. I say this to help others who have not yet had to deal with this type of stressful situation. That way it is not personal. It’s not a “well, YOU aren’t good enough” move. It also helps to explain that you are trying to expand the number of good influences in your child’s life so you will choose from outside of the family because they already hold important roles in your child’s life…
things can still turn around for your situation. Your brother is only 23. If I look at who I am now compared to who I was at 23 I barely see any similarity. Hopefully your brother will step up and become a positive role model of the faith. **
I think you make a good point, and I like that. That’s a great way to put it to a family like mine or my husband’s, where it’s completely expected that you choose siblings first and shocking if you don’t. I would definitely recommend your idea to others.
I also agree with you on the second point. In fact, my sister-in-law has commented that becoming our son’s godmother has given her the kick in the pants she needed to make sure she stays on top of her faith, goes to church regularly, etc. I’m hoping it could have the same effect on him–but I suspect he needs more of a direct approach to help him see that that might be something to do.
I’m toying with the idea of sending him a copy of Mary Beth Bonacci’s article, “Living Together: Why Not?” I’ve used it with high school religious ed. classes before so I might send him a copy, with a note to the effect of, “As your Confirmation sponsor, I’m concerned about you and your spiritual well-being; and as the mother of your godchild, I’m concerned about my son. Please read this with an open mind; I’d like to talk with you about it more after you do.” But I’m not sure yet.
I can just see this becoming such a big issue down the line, i.e., a good priest tells them he won’t marry them in a Catholic church if they’re still living that way; and then he doesn’t move out, and they get married in a civil ceremony, which puts me in the odd position of “Do I attend or don’t I?” (he and the girlfriend are both Catholic, if only in name); and then it’s the issue of what do I tell my son as he gets older and starts asking questions (he’s only 2 now). And the most frustrating part is that no one in my family will take a stand or even suggest another alternative. They’re all doing the relativist, “Who am I to judge” thing. Argh!
I think that’s a good idea… only thing I might do differently is at the end let him know that you are open to talking about the book instead of making it sound like homework:)**
**And I am the Queen of “what if?”, lol. So take it from me… don’t borrow worry! Hopefully he will grow and mature in his faith before you ever have to worry about whether or not to attend his wedding. **
Not officially. Once a Godparent always a Godparent. But there is nothing from stopping any parent from introducing as many positive influences into their childrens’ lives as possible. And maybe they could even be called Godfather/mother kind of like kids call good family friends aunt/uncle…**
Just keep praying for your brother…if you child is older, include them in your prayers for your prayers. And then tell your brother that you both are praying for him to make a better choice in his life and most of all return to the church. After all the greatest thing we can do for those we love, is to do everything in our power to get them to heaven one day. And the best way to do it, is to pray for them! I will add your brother to my prayers as well.
I hope you understand now the responsibility YOU bear as to the choice made, and that your experience serves as a message to others. So many people make bad choices for their children because of pressure from family members – as if they, themselves, were children instead of adults making choices for their sons and daughters. So many Godparents are not adequate choices – and yet it was the parents who designated them as such.
As my father used to say – “Get a backbone, people!”
There’s also a commandment that says “Honor thy father and mother.” And a principle that suggests that a sinner can repent and change his or her ways, especially when offered a convincing reason to. All things considered, I thought I was doing–if not the perfect thing–an OK thing under the rather difficult circumstances I was facing. Perhaps if my own mother’s faith life was in a better place, full of less pain, it might have been different–but as it isn’t, I knew my choice was to choose a less-than-ideal candidate or to cause my mother a deep and abiding hurt–because either way, it’s a decision I couldn’t undo later on.
In any event, please remember that behind every comment you make, kind or harsh, there are real people–faithful members of the Body of Christ–with complicated lives who are trying their best to do the right thing in a fallen world. Remember, too, that the past can’t be changed either way. And that’s it’s God’s job to chastise in a situation like this. Let Him be the one to decide whether or not I need “a backbone.” I don’t see how blaming me now for something I can’t undo is at all helpful.
One of my children too has a godparent that is not a practicing Catholic and I do have my three older children pray for thier younger sisters godparent. By the grace of God some day my daughters godfather will come back to the church and be a shining example for my daughter.
No one is “blaming” you. But the other poster pointed out that this is ultimately your responsibility because you made this choice. You seem to be very angry at your brother for doing something that you probably could have predicted he’d do when you chose him. And the point was to illustrate to other people that choosing Godparents strictly because of family pressure hardly ever works out the way we wish it would…**
Picking a Godparent has many of the same requirements of picking a spouse. It is definately not an honorary position (so grandparents have to get over it) and you cannot expect the person to change eventually. I have the same feelings about Confirmation sponsors.
Truly, we all do what we think is best for our kids - or else we just wouldn’t do it. Even if there is a little doubt in our hearts because a family member isn’t living an awesome, devout Catholic life, the decision is made in good faith.
One of my kids godfather WAS my sister’s husband. After knowing him for more than half of my life and being married to my sister for over 25 years, he left.
While it was hard on everybody, it was especially hard on my husband and I with the choice that we made. And, it was hard on our son.
Our son asked another family member to be his “replacement godfather.”
But there is a big difference between choosing someone who fulfills the spiritual requirements to be a Godparent and then changes in the future and deliberately choosing someone who does not meet those requirements for whatever reason…
I really like the previous analogy to marriage.
You can marry a great guy who somewhere in the future turns into a jerk for whatever reason… or you can marry a jerk now. But if you marry a jerk now don’t act surprised when he does something jerky:p**