Godparents witness and affirm a baptism or confirmation and guide the person forward from the sacred event through new spiritual and religious terrain. Godparents' guidance does not end with the sacraments of Baptism or Confirmation, but endures for a lifetime. Godparents meet certain criteria, such as age and physical ability to touch the candidate as they receive the sacrament, and must be in full communion with the Roman Catholic, Orthodox Church. Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe godparents answer to God regarding their fulfilment of spiritual duties and the process of a Christian's catechesis, or religious instruction.
Godparents are in full communion with the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Church. They share in the sacramental life of their church, which includes attending Mass and participating in Holy Eucharist --- Communion. When godparents promise to ensure a child's spiritual welfare in the Church, they must reflect values such as obedience to God's Church. The Roman Catholic Church allows members of the Orthodox churches to stand as godparents. Godparents to Orthodox children must be Orthodox. Above all duties, godparents must help a child become a follower of Christ and a believer in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
During and After the Ceremony
Godparents stand at the baptismal font with the child, the parents and the priest during the ceremony. The godparent places the baptised infant in its mother's arms before the congregation. The godparents' duties enter a new and continuing stage. Godparents who live near their godchild attend Mass with the child for three Sundays after the baptism, carrying the lit baptismal candle. As the child grows, godparents stay spiritually active in her life, serving as role models for Christlike behaviour. According to the Orthodox Christian Information Center, faithful godparents follow the tenets of Christian faith, praying, fasting and living the sacramental Orthodox or Catholic life. The godparents' spiritual life and values inform the growing godchild's formation.
There is more to Christian faith than attending Mass and other holy days of obligation. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, asks godparents to tend to a godchild's catechesis, or Catholic instruction. The Catholic Church believes that godparents should teach their godchild that the Church of Rome is the sole ecclesial authority on earth and forms the Body of Christ. Godparents exercise their roles in a child's life according to the authority the Church extends to them. The Orthodox Church says godparents' greatest duty is to pray for God's guidance throughout their godchild's life.
Special Godparent Occasions
Churches and families celebrate baptism, godchildren and godparents throughout the liturgical year. The Greek Orthodox Church in America recognises godparents with "Godparents' Sunday," a celebration recalling baptism in all its sacred joy. Parents, godparents and godchildren may mark baptism day by annual gift exchanges. Sharing religious and sacred art, such as religious icons and Bibles keep the reality of godparents' responsibility alive.
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