The Godmother: Part I (Or, can I check this box?)

Bippitt boppity God. Photo by suttonhoo, flickr

 A long-awaited dream is coming true: I'm going to be a godmother.

The little squidget isn't here yet, but oh boy, she better get ready. She's going to get crosses, prayer cards, rosary beads, picture book Bibles, the works. Plus cards and books and little frilly outfits on holidays, birthdays, and special events that only I can deem. I might even share this blog URL with her when she's older.

If I do it right, the poor kid won't know what hit her.

Of course, the opportunity to spoil a godsquidget isn't the real reason I'm excited. My dear friends asked me to be a godparent because I "live my faith." I regularly attend Mass, participate in parish life, and do my best to cultivate my spirituality. The godsquidget's mom, one of my oldest and dearest friends, said I would be a great example for their little girl.

Talk about a most humbling honor. Not to mention a huge responsibility. ("Oh hey, would you mind guiding the spiritual growth of our offspring? Kthxbai.") So I'll be honest -- I'm a little daunted.

How come? you might ask. The godsquidget won't even be aware of faith for a couple years. You have time to perfect your spiel. Well, I'm not thinking of the godsquidget just yet. I'm looking at myself first in an examination of conscience prompted by -- of all things -- paperwork.

Guiding hands. Photo by themooring, flickr

In the steadfast tradition of the Catholic Church, I have filled out a form to become a godparent, which my pastor will sign to vouch that I am indeed a practicing Catholic who has received all her Sacraments. I know I'll pass that part with flying colors. What I'm left to chew over is some of the language from the form:

A. "I believe and hold true all the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church."

I'm certainly on board with the underpinning theology -- big stuff like the Trinity, Eucharist, love thy neighbor, etc. But I disagree with the Church's stance on homosexuality, its continued refusal to ordain women, and the way it handled/handles sex abuse within its ranks, for example. So how far does "official" go? And does the Church really want me to accept each and every tenet without question? Can I check this box?

B. "I am a practicing Catholic, participate in Mass and other Sacraments regularly, [and] believe and live according to the Church's teachings."

Despite my occasional disagreements, I think the Church's teachings generally outline a good roadmap for a life of service, gratitude, and contemplation. But I also believe in a God that transcends any religious institution, and my decisions and actions derive from the values I have cultivated through that personal relationship, not only through what the Catholic Church has said should be so. Can I check this box?

C. "I agree to support and guide this candidate, most especially by my own Catholic example, my witness and through my prayers."

I literally practice Catholicism; like any discipline, it requires study, reinforcement, and creativity. But even with all that practice, I don't consider myself an exemplary Catholic because I'm not an exemplary human. I try often and fail at the same rate. I neglect to pray. And when I do, sometimes I'm not sure anyone or anything is hearing me on the other side. I doubt and I question and I fall. Is this the example they want? Can I check this box?

Floating lights on the River Ganges. Photo by, flickr

Here's what I wish were also on the form: that beyond the crosses and beads, beyond the First Communion cards and Confirmation sponsorship, I will impart to the godsquidget the knowledge that faith is not easy or prescriptive. It is as much about her individual relationship with God as it is about her connection to our chosen religious tradition. Both can be fraught, but both can be fruitful, too, if approached with clear eyes and an open heart.

I hope my example is one of discernment and activity -- that I do not blindly or idly accept my faith, but fight to understand and live it. I want my faith -- and hers -- to come from a place of honesty and integrity. When people ask her why she believes what she believes, whatever it may turn out to be, I want her to know the answer and I want it to be wholly, authentically hers.

Above all, I want my godsquidget to grasp that she is desired beyond measure by a force greater than her mom, her dad, her brother, even her godmother. (Though I intend to give God a run for His money.) It might be years before she can articulate it, but I want her to feel in her bone marrow from the very start that she is loved.

These are the boxes I want to check for my goddaughter. Now where's the form for that?

Prayer #259: Prayer for a Godparent-to-Be

Divine Parent,

My puny human self will never live up to You. Yet I've been tasked with trying, so that another little soul down here can come to know she is part of something greater than herself.

I hope she finds community. I hope she finds wisdom. Comfort. Peace. I hope she finds Your mind-blowing, no-holds-barred, what-did-I-do-to-deserve-this love.

In the meantime, I promise to reflect that love in my puny human way and hold her hand until she's ready to walk to You on her own.