Two weekends ago, Kathryn and I were called to be godparents once again, this time for the baptism of a seven-week-old son of friends who live in Oro Valley, a town about ten miles north of Tucson. Kathryn is already godmother to the newly baptized’s older brother.
Being called to godparenthood — my auto-correct seems to think that’s not a word, but I’m sticking with it — has been a great blessing for both of us. We don’t have any children of our own, and so it has given us the opportunity to share the joy of our Catholic faith with a new generation in a meaningful way.
In the good ol’ days, most parents and godparents were likely already well known to the priest ministering the baptism, having all attended the same church every Sunday for generations. Times have changed. Nowadays, people are much more mobile, especially those of child-bearing age. The parents may be relatively new to a parish, and the godparents may be complete strangers to the priest.
To get priests, parents, and godparents all on the same page, the pastor of the parish where the baptism will be ministered usually asks, at a bare minimum, for a letter of good standing from the pastor of the parish of the godparents. For Kathryn and me, this has been no trouble. Even though we’re often out of town on weekends, we’ve been there often enough over the past six years that the pastor would recognize our faces, even if he’d have to ask our names.
Moreover, since even parishioners in good standing may have been poorly catechized over the years, many pastors will insist on having the prospective godparents take a baptism class. That doesn’t bother me too much — as I’ve grown older, I’ve recognized how utterly worthless my own catechesis was.
What does bother me is the insistence of some parish baptism coordinators — not necessarily the priests themselves — that the baptism class be arbitrarily current. One such coordinator told me the class would only be valid for two years. I rather snarkily asked her if the theology of baptism had changed in the last two years. She snapped back that the theology of baptism hadn’t changed in 2,000 years. There wasn’t even a hint she caught the irony.
Fortunately, since we already had a history with these parents at this parish in Oro Valley, they were flexible about the currency of the baptism class, since we were at least a few months past the two-year cutoff.
And so it was, with the prerequisites completed, on a hot Sunday afternoon in May in Arizona, a new soul was claimed for Christ. As the godfather, I held the handsome little guy while he was anointed with oils and over the unnecessarily deep baptismal font while he received the waters, his mother looking on nervously.
We then decided against pictures outside. It was just too hot. We took photos in front of the main altar instead. It was easily 25 degrees cooler inside.
Although I have several pictures of the newly baptized, I’m not posting them. His parents have made a conscious decision to keep themselves and their children off social media, and I respect them for it.