A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘youth

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.

 

We’re fortunate to worship with everyone from babies to seniors, but the children seemed to be front and centre during and after Mass yesterday—newly baptized babies, a toddler recently adopted into a parish family, children attending Mass in preparation for First Eucharist, teens talking about youth ministry activities and confirmation classes. Fitting, as we were celebrating the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord.

I have to admit I was a bit distracted during Mass by the sound of an infant crying in the parish hall and a toddler who kept saying “Mama!” to get her mother’s attention.

Sometimes it’s all too easy to focus on the noise—joyful or not—that children may bring to Mass and not on the fact that they are the future of the Church. That families need to feel welcome. That we have the awesome responsibility to raise children in the faith and be part of a supportive worship community for other people’s children and grandchildren.

So how can we support the faith journeys of children and youth? How can we make them feel included in the life of the parish?

  • Provide Christian board books or colouring pages for little ones (to help their parents enjoy Mass a little more).
  • Encourage young children to help with the closing worship song by shaking maracas or tambourines.
  • Organize family activities such as a movie night or coffee hour after Mass so children and their families can get to know one another.
  • Be a “prayer angel” for someone preparing for First Eucharist or confirmation.
  • Assist with the children’s liturgy, youth ministry or sacramental preparation by teaching and helping with crafts or contributing to snacks and setup.
  • Attend Masses where First Eucharist and confirmation are celebrated and stop by the reception afterward to show children and youth they are a welcome part of the parish.
  • Let the youth take over the church one Sunday by serving as greeters and lectors, collecting the offering, bringing up the gifts and participating in the music ministry.
  • Encourage older youth to assist the Catholic Women’s League or Knights of Columbus in making parish events (such as a yard sale, barbecue or charitable fundraiser) run smoothly.

I pray that we would see the presence of children and youth at Mass and parish events as a blessing and be guided by these words from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

The love, loyalty, and dedication of Mary and Joseph are an example for all Christian couples, who are neither the friends nor masters of their children’s lives, but the guardians of this incomparable gift from God.

~ quoted in “Celebrate February 2014,” Catholic Digest, January/February 2014


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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