Thinking about skipping town this Christmas to avoid giving the obligatory aguinaldo to your many inaanak?
Relax. No less than Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has got ninongs and ninangs like you off the hook. (Read: The Five Best Gifts for a Meaningful Christmas)
“Being godparents is not about spending money,” he told parents and godparents in a 2019 mass baptism at the Manila Cathedral for 400 children from impoverished families. “Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to gift your godchildren. Not having gifts won’t make you bad godparents. Don’t feel bothered.”
Instead, the cardinal reminded ninongs and ninangs of what is really expected of them. “Always check on your godchildren, visit them, show them a good example, so they’ll realize you’re a good Filipino, a good Christian,” he said.
What Is the Purpose of a Ninong and Ninang?
According to Fr. William Saunders in “The Role of Godparents,” a godfather or godmother is technically known as a sponsor. “Insofar as possible, one to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who is to assist an adult in Christian initiation, or, together with the parents, to present an infant at baptism, and who will help the baptized to lead a Christian life in harmony with baptism, and to fulfill faithfully the obligations connected with it,” writes Fr. William, quoting the Code of Canon Law. (Read: An Expert’s Tip to Instilling Faith in Young Children)
As such, godparents are referred to as a godchild’s “second parents”— but only as far as their spiritual upbringing is concerned. Contrary to popular belief, a godparent is not obligated to adopt or raise a godchild should that child’s parents die. “Unless the parents have indicated this in their Last Will and Testament…the godparents have no custodial rights over their godchildren,” says catholicdoors.com.
Who Makes an Ideal Ninong and Ninang?
Though the affluent and influential are considered ninong or ninang material, the ideal godparent is neither rich nor famous. As per Canon Law, “the godparent must be at least 16 years old, and should have undergone the sacraments of baptism, reconciliation, Holy Communion, and confirmation. They must have a desire to be a godparent and be willing to help teach the faith to the child, if necessary.” (Read: Prayer to Live as a Child of God)
As Cardinal Tagle pointed out, an ideal godparent is someone who is actively involved in a godchild’s life, and who a godchild can turn to for advice or have meaningful conversations with. It helps too that the godparent practices what he or she preaches. Be a role model to your inaanak by showing kindness and compassion to others, and extending a helping hand to those who need it.
Can You Decline Being a Ninong or Ninang?
Yes. “Some adults collect godchildren like stamps; they end up with an impressive collection but never do anything with them,” says British etiquette expert Jo Bryant in a piece on choosing the right godparent. “If you think you are not up to the role or that the parents’ expectations may be too much, then it is best to decline politely.”
“I sure wish more would,” avers former Director of Religious Education Crislee Anderson Moreno to the question “What is the Catholic position on someone declining an offer to become a godparent?” “Most don’t take it nearly as serious as they should. The Church does require that those becoming a godparent are faithful, practicing Catholics. You can’t teach what you don’t know. It’s not just an honorary title.”