A new little book by Paraclete Press, Becoming a Great Godparent, could just revive a glorious and needed tradition.

A majority of godparents, it's safe to say, were honored to be chosen, attended the baptism and are decent people. But how many stay involved in the faith lives of their godchildren?

Precious few.

Becoming a Great Godparent (Paraclete, Brewster, Mass., www.paracletepress.com, 83 pages) is a theologically sound yet simple book. It provides a path back for many adults who have been derelict. It's never too late to start again. Imagine the effect if your godchild gets a heartfelt communication and guidance in the faith, even as a teen or adult. It could be a life-changer.

A robust tradition of godparenting could be an important part of the New Evangelization, since godparents serve as one-on-one evangelizers, perhaps keeping young Catholics from breaking ties with the tradition.

The book is not condescending, but does offer the basics. Even a lifelong practicing Catholic will find much of the book helpful and fascinating.

The book starts out defining just what a godparent does and is, using such authorities as the catechism and canon law, which, it turns out, are clean and clear and helpful. By way of definition, the book also consults the wisdom of young Catholics, who speak about what their godparents have done, and not done. That's powerful testimony that will change hearts.

A fascinating and brief historical chapter traces the roots of godparenting to the Jewish sandek, a pious friend who is present at circumcision, the sign of covenant with God in Jewish life. The scholarship is solid, but not daunting to any reader. The history concludes by explaining that after Rome began favoring Christianity, there were so many converts that a sponsor was needed to testify to the sincerity of the one being baptized.

The book answers age regulations for godparents and explains church teaching on why it's preferable to have a Catholic godparent. For godparents who are nervous about the baptism ceremony, there is a chapter explaining the rite.

Becoming a Great Godparent includes helpful lists: good gifts to send (Why not stick with religious gifts? That's your role), how to stay connected, passages from scripture and church teaching that may be helpful to godparents and godchildren alike. There are blessings to say over your godchild as life goes on, even to the wedding day.

Near the end, the book deals with a common and ticklish question: What to do if you disagree with how the parents are raising your godchild.

This is a helpful and practical book. Parishes would do well to have a copy on hand to loan godparents. They could even buy stacks to hand out.