By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published March 18, 2010 | En Español
Anyone who has ever sought membership in a professional society or at a prestigious athletic club knows that the process usually involves having a sponsor. The application procedure includes not only the customary factual information about your background, but also the witness of someone who is already a member and who can attest that you are a person who will fit into the organization, follow the rules of the society and be a good member of the club.
The Church uses sponsors in much the same fashion. During the Rite of Election, the candidates who will soon become fully initiated members of our Church were accompanied by their sponsors who spoke on their behalf and assured the Church that these soon-to-be full members are good prospective Catholics.
Last week at Confirmation at Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City, one of the youngsters during an exchange with me asked me, “What’s a sponsor supposed to do now?” The young man wanted to know what his sponsor was supposed to do after the ceremony was over.
Like most questions that youngsters tend to ask, it was profound in its simplicity and yet probing in its importance. What are the sponsors for our children’s Confirmation supposed to do to fulfill the honor and the obligation that they have been given in being invited to serve in this capacity? The sponsors not only stand behind the candidates during the ceremony but also should stand behind them as they grow up in the faith and encourage them in that process.
I know that in many families sponsors are selected because they are blood relatives who traditionally serve in the capacity of being a sponsor—and that may be wonderful if these chosen ones are already good and active Catholics. A sponsor for the Sacrament of Confirmation should be a person who lives the faith and will continue to live the faith as an active member and source of encouragement for the young person that they are sponsoring. The life of a sponsor is intended to be a witness and an endorsement for the youngster as he or she continues to grow in the Catholic Faith. That is why it is so sad for me to see that a chosen sponsor does not receive the Eucharist along with the newly confirmed at the Confirmation Mass. Perhaps there is an unresolved marriage situation or a grave sin or some other obstacle that keeps the sponsor from Holy Communion, but at the very Mass at which they are witnessing the child’s Confirmation, they are not able to confirm that witness through the reception of the Eucharist.
So when the youngster asked me about the future role of his sponsor, I told him that his sponsor was supposed to walk the journey of faith with him throughout his growing up. In the same manner as their parents, sponsors are to guide the young person through their own good example into a deeper love for Christ—and our kids need lots of such role models in today’s world.
Professional societies and exclusive clubs would pay much more attention to the endorsement of an active member in support of an applicant than they would to one from a lukewarm or non-active member. So will youngsters find more credibility in the witness of sponsors who not only stand behind them during the ceremony of Confirmation, but who also walk beside them on the journey of Faith. There’s far more to being a good sponsor than simply placing a hand on the shoulder of a youngster at the ceremony. As usual, a child seems intuitively to know the right questions to ask!