“So why did you pick me for your sponsor?” I asked my brother, following the instructions the Director of Religious Ed had given during our last Confirmation preparation meeting.
My brother squirmed in the pew. “You, um, know a lot about God, and you go to a lot of church stuff, so yeah…” Zing! A moment of humility. The DRE had said the Confirmation candidates had written beautiful reflections about their sponsors and that’s all my brother had come up with?
I smiled anyway. “Cool. Thanks. I’m glad you asked me.”
My brother followed the script and next asked, “What’s it like being a sponsor?”
“Scary,” I replied, making us both laugh.
The requirements for sponsors are pretty simple. According to the General Introduction of the Rite of Christian Initiation, paragraphs 8 – 10, one must be:
- at least sixteen years old and
- baptized and confirmed and received the Eucharist
- living an upright life
- No penalties (e.g., left the Church, etc.). Therefore, a Catholic who has left the Catholic Church cannot be a sponsor, and cannot be a “Christian witness” if they join another Christian communion.
Although I fit all these requirements, I know I must seriously conform to “living an upright life.” If I’m to lead my brother in the next stages of choosing the Church for himself, I need to be a worthy guide. Dante had Virgil; my brother has…me? Gulp!
I take being a sponsor seriously, and that’s why it’s scary. For the rest of our lives, my brother and I will have this additional connection that is not just a familial bond. He’s seen the worst of me: cranky, angry, sobbing, and worried. I have to hope he’s seen the best, too, since he asked me to be his sponsor.
The materials I’ve received have not listed what a sponsor does beyond attending meetings and the actual Confirmation with their student. Here is my personal list of ways to act as a sponsor:
- Pray for my brother more deeply than I have before, encourage him on the path to holiness and true manhood in Christ, and help him avoid pitfalls and sins.
- To do that well, I have to be the best-version-of-myself (as Matthew Kelly calls it). I need to grow in holiness daily and be a woman who can bring others closer to Christ.
- Attend Mass with him.
- Invite him to talk about faith and ask him questions instead of lecturing.
- Share my Confirmation experience and Confirmation saint (Hi St. Bathildis).
- Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and open dialogue about it with him.
- Pray a novena to St. Benjamin (his confirmation saint) together before the Confirmation.
Have you been a Confirmation sponsor? What are your suggestions for guiding a newly Confirmed Catholic in the faith? Are there any materials or presents you would recommend for a teenage boy? Please share! And please say a prayer for my brother!