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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The People Under the Stairs

I have a question for you to write about. You've said before that clergy and parents are responsible twice over when they sin or teach others to sin, but I wonder if you have any advice for godparents. I ask because my godchildren aren't going to Mass any more and aren't learning about their faith. I'm concerned about this, but unsure what to do, as I live hundreds of miles away, so can't take them myself, and don't really feel as though I should tell their parents what to do. Do you have any advice for me on being a good Godparent to the children of a lapsed Catholic? Thanks so much!

And nuns. Don't forget nuns. St. Teresa of Avila was shone, in a mystical vision, her own special room in Hell for her transgressions. I think it was under a stair case. I believe it was Hell, though, and not Purgatory. The people in Purgatory are happy. Suffering but happy. Like pea pickers. Suffering because picking peas is tedious, happy because they are going to eat fresh peas.

Please capitalize the "God" in "Godparents". Unless you are the godparents to idol worshipers, in that case, it would be okay.

But you are not.

I've been mulling it over. It's tempting to say that you should talk to the parents. Clearly they are going to move into St. Teresa's spot under the stairs, since Teresa herself is in heaven.

But you're right. It's not your place, really, to tell them how to raise their children. You might mention it to them. You might toss in the words "mortal sin". If that doesn't wake them up, I'm not sure what will. (Although, some people prefer a gentler approach leaving out the fires of Hell and opting for a syrupy "God misses you" tactic. Not me. Some people.)

Anyhow, I do think you should talk to the children directly. That is the very definition of Godparent. That's your whole Godparent job, the spiritual development of your Godchild. It really isn't birthday cards and graduation money, as much as we might want it to be.

I suggest a nudge when you talk to them on the phone. Don't mention Hell. They might not want to answer your phone calls after that.

Mention Hell in the letters you write them. I'm not suggesting you say, "if you don't go to Mass on Sunday, you'll go to Hell." You might say, "missing Mass on Sunday is a grave sin" and then in another letter mention what we mean by "grave sin". You'll have to add some syrupy "God misses you" verbage. It's true, anyhow.

You might start with a letter that mentions, after some thoughts on the weather in your area, how much you love Mass, asking if they glean the same graces. You can follow up with a letter about how much you're looking forward to this year's tomato crop and your pending visiting with Great Aunt Margie and ask how Mass is working out for them, adding information on why the Church wants you parked there every Sunday. Throw in some amusing anecdotes about the fun you had at Mass this week, that sort of thing.

Not that Mass is supposed to be a big party. But it's not a morose sorrowfest, either, so let's be encouraging.

Send them things besides Easter candy and birthday money. Holy cards. Patron saints. St. Augustine, for example, is the patron saint of beer and party animals and he pulled himself together and became a Doctor of the Church. There is always reason to hope.

In any case, keep in mind that your place is between the Godchildren and God. If you have a problem with the people under the stairs, remind them that they are the ones who hired you.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Sister Mary Martha! I enjoy your column very much ... You give me some great ideas here about how to care for my own Godchildren!

Incidentally, I thought I might point out that in the Catechism #2165 (which discusses the use of God's name), the word "godparent" is not capitalized. So this is more of a style issue for your blog than a general rule.

God bless you!

RadioPie said...

Does the Godchild have any responsibility toward the Godparent? My parents (unclear on the concept on why one would choose Godparents in the first place) chose the leader of a biker gang and his "female companion" to be my Godparents. Years later, I turned out Catholic. Should I try to get my Godparents to begin going to mass again (or for the 1st time...)?

Aaron said...

If you're going to aks for the intercession of St. Augustine, try his mom too. St. Monica must be the patron saint of praying people back into the Church.

Anonymous said...

Great advice, Sister, but more importantly, where, oh where did you find the icon of St. Augustine holding a beer??? I need one of my very own. (The icon, that is. I already have the beer).

Sister Mary Martha said...

Glad you like St. Augustine. I made him myself. Perhaps I should add him to the shop.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wise words. I need them. Our Goddaughter (my husband's and mine - she is my sister's daughter) is 10 years old and lives in Istanbul. My sister is married to a non-practicing Muslim and has broken all ties with us. We have had no contact for the last 5 years, in spite of our efforts to make things right. I have serious concerns about whether our dear Goddaughter is being raised a proper Catholic. Our only recourse seems to be praying the Rosary daily (we particularly think of her during the Joyful Mysteries, because we remember her as bringing us great joy) and by requesting Masses for her intention on a bi-monthly basis at our parish. - Susan

Anonymous said...

Is it just my bad eyes, or does the icon say At Augustine of Canterbury?

Anonymous said...

To radiopie: if you should have occasion to rekindle a relationship with your Godparents, then by all means, yes. If there are reasons why you must avoid them (they constitute an occasion of sin or a generally bad influence on you or those around you), then simply pray for them and make a sacrifice if you are so inclined.

I hear you, though. My mother is an apostate and my father a Protestant; I was reconverted in my university years and unless a miracle happens (which I do hope for), some things in life will continue to be very difficult.

To anonymous: about your Goddaughter: conversation, debate and interaction are wonderful things but real conversion happens through prayer and sacrifice. You're doing all you can.

Re: St. Augustine of Canterbury, it is indeed. By the way, there is actually a patron of barkeepers, St. Amand, to whom I have promised the namesake of my second son (if someday I should be fortunate enough to have children).