A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘Confirmation

Confirmation day

My son after his Confirmation

This past weekend, we had the joy of attending our son’s Confirmation. As he stood to get in line to receive the sacrament, he looked at me and grinned. And I wondered who this young man was wearing dress shoes and a tie—he looked too old to be my son.

Where does the time go? I’ve never felt the childhood years went by quickly; now I can hardly believe he’ll be 14 in a matter of weeks.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that he wanted shoes that lit up or dressed as a superhero for Halloween or asked for toys as birthday gifts. But on Sunday my son was confirmed in the Church, and tomorrow he’ll register for high school.

As parents, we know our job—perhaps even more in the teen years—is to teach our children the life skills they’ll need to live on their own: how to cook, how to clean and do laundry, how to manage money. Even more importantly, these years are a time for continuing to share our values and faith.

Sports, hobbies, friends—our children may drop some and pick up others at this age. And their faith may be no different, regardless of whether our children have been confirmed and attend a Catholic school.

So how do we encourage our youth in the faith after Confirmation?

  • Give them the tools they need: A copy of the Bible and the Catechism or YOUCAT, a rosary, prayer books, and so on. And encourage them to use them by example. We have a small bookcase with books on the faith in our home office where anyone can use them.
  • Pray for their growth in the gifts of the Spirit (see s. 1831 of the Catechism): Who couldn’t use more wisdom, understanding and fortitude, for example? Especially when it comes to selecting courses, standing firm in our beliefs, and choosing the friends we spend time with. This will be in my prayers for my son as he changes schools (and school boards) in the fall.
  • Encourage their involvement in the Church: The child who was confirmed one year could assist with Confirmation classes the next. Or help organize youth group activities. Or become a lector or sacristan at the parish church. Or serve as someone else’s Confirmation sponsor one day. At my son’s Confirmation, I noticed one sponsor was about 16 years old, and a young woman that age in our parish regularly serves as a sacristan.
  • Keep the faith as a family. We can regularly attend Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and Confession together. Pray for one another’s needs. Have reminders of the faith around the home, such a crucifix in the bedroom, photos from Baptism and Confirmation on the walls, and pictures of our patron saints. On my son’s bedroom wall hangs a banner from his Baptism, and he just received a frame to hold a photo from his Confirmation service.

I pray that we find ways to encourage both our own children and the other children in our lives to continue growing in their faith.

 

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With the feast of Christ the King yesterday, the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI drew to a close. But the opportunity to grow in our faith remains.

At all Masses in our parish this past weekend, young people (including my son) presented themselves to the priest as candidates for confirmation and received a cross from the Catholic Women’s League and Knights of Columbus. When the candidates came forward, each presented a letter to the priest stating why he or she wanted to be confirmed. My son’s letter gave his reasons quite simply: “I would like to receive the sacrament of confirmation in the spring. It is important to me because I want to grow in my faith and it is what I want to do.”

By expressing himself in words that were clear and honest and showed that his heart told him to follow his faith—even though he knew that not everyone in our extended family would support his being confirmed in the Catholic Church—my son demonstrated the childlike faith Jesus teaches us to have in Luke 18:16-17*:

“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

The young people rushing to line up to present their letters, and the boys and girls who excitedly processed into the sanctuary at last weekend’s welcome Masses for children preparing to celebrate First Eucharist, also showed the congregation that they wanted to grow in their faith and were eager to let us know it.

Just as we can model for our children and youth how to live out their faith, so they can model for us how to find joy in growing in our faith. How to be more open about our faith. How to welcome Jesus when he knocks at the door of our hearts:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

I pray that we would let the children come to Jesus, but even more, that we would encourage them on their faith journeys and let their simple faith inspire us on ours.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

  • it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which make us cry ‘Abba! Father!’;
  • it unites us more firmly to Christ;
  • it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
  • it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
  • it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith . . . .

– s. 1303 of the Catechism

Tuesday night found my son and I at our parish church. He made the decision to receive the sacrament of confirmation in the spring, and we were attending an information session explaining the registration and preparation processes.

I was happy to see the church full of young people considering confirmation—at an age when many young people stop attending church—and their families. And the church hall was busy afterwards as they enjoyed some baked treats and conversation.

During the information session, our priest stressed the importance of bringing our youth to Mass and involving them in the life of the Church, as well as the fact that confirmation is more than a rite of passage.

Doesn’t that go without saying?

Sadly, I don’t think so. Today many people state in polls and on censuses that they consider themselves Christians but don’t attend church. If we want our children and youth to consider the sacraments as something more than a rite of passage, they need to see the importance we place on receiving them.

That means they need to attend Mass to witness the baptism of infants and young children, confirmation of RCIA candidates, and First Eucharist celebrations and to receive the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation. They need to see our reverent attitude toward these sacraments and our joy in receiving them.

As our youth prepare for confirmation, we have a wonderful opportunity to share and grow in our own faith with them:

  • We can talk about our faith journey and our decision to declare our own faith in God, beyond the promises our parents and godparents made on our behalf at baptism.
  • Along with our priests, deacons and catechists, we can model for youth how to live out the faith and participate in the life and work of the Church.
  • As they go about selecting a confirmation name, we can also introduce them to other role models in the saints and blesseds.

And other parishioners can also support these young people on their confirmation journey by praying for them and by serving as a candidate’s sponsor if asked, recognizing the challenge of choosing a sponsor faced by those who are the only Catholics or the only practising Catholics in their extended family (a challenge for us as converts) or who are new to the area or even the country.

May we pray for those preparing for confirmation and the “increase and deepening of baptismal grace” awaiting them.

I never cease to be surprised at the advertisements for “spiritual” courses: lessons on the angels among us, the healing power of crystals, and the untapped energy of “the universe.”

I see these course descriptions not only in local papers but also in continuing education brochures for colleges and school boards, which is a sign of the real spiritual hunger in our society.

And it’s not only classes. There’s a plethora of books that promise to lead us on a path of spiritual enlightenment or reveal the secret to a satisfying spiritual life.

Now, I’m not opposed to self-help books. My bookcase contains a number of books offering advice from a Christian perspective. The books I’m talking about, like the courses, could never give anyone information that would satisfy spiritual hunger. They’re like fast food or snack packs: all flash and no substance. Just empty calories.

And so people crash after this spiritual sugar rush, no closer to encountering God than they were before. What they need is the religious equivalent of slow food: the faith that we find in the Church and learn more about by attending Mass, by reading the Bible and the Catechism, by taking courses and workshops offered in our diocese or through colleges, and by going on pilgrimages or retreats. As well as by participating in the life of the Church and serving in our community.

For those who might view the Church as being out of touch with modern life, we need to show them that we don’t live with blinders on—that we’re aware of and active in areas such as palliative care, ministry to youth and seniors, pro-life issues, environmental stewardship, and social justice issues such as human trafficking.

2013 March for Life in Ottawa

The Church is active in pro-life issues, with parishioners participating in events such as the March for Life this past spring.

And we need to show them that they’re welcome to “taste and see”—to visit our parishes and, we hope, find what they’re seeking: God’s presence among us, his Church.

I pray that, as we begin once more to prepare candidates for First Eucharist and First Reconciliation and/or for Confirmation, our parishes would be welcoming to the children and youth as well as to their parents and extended families, who might be searching for real spiritual food instead of empty substitutes.


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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