We recently concluded our post-Easter round of confirmations at Sacred Heart Cathedral and in many parishes of the diocese. It was, as always, a life-giving experience to impose hands on our candidates asking the gifts of the Spirit be lavished on them and to anoint them with the oil of chrism.
When I confirm, I have a sense of the goodness of our candidates, of their openness to life and of their desire to live in the Spirit of Christ. Just being in their company at such a moment is a gift to me. Inevitably, they put me in touch with my own faith and lead me to pray in gratitude for that precious gift in my life.
At those rites, I think that I am not the only one so affected. Their sponsors, parents and grandparents and all of their loved ones who participate seem to come alive to the moment. I suppose that there are many reasons for that sense of engagement. It’s God’s good gift to us in the power of the Spirit that is ultimately responsible, of course.
But in human terms it is really the exciting witness of the candidates that touches the hearts who are nearest and dearest to them. Those who surround the candidates with prayer and affection when they come to the celebration, have watched the mystery of life unfold in the candidate — often from their very birth. At the time of confirmation, so many of those memories of growth come in the hearts of those who have observed it; and there they meet the dreams that they hold there for the future growth of the candidates they love so much.
Occasionally, a parent or grandparent or a sponsor will put it into words, “To be present at my daughter’s confirmation was more moving for me than I ever imagined it would be.” Or, “I was pleased when Peter asked me to be his sponsor, but I didn’t realize what an impact it would have on my own life.”
More frequently the joy and impact of the occasion are communicated in nonverbal ways — great smiles and easy laughter, hugs that are more ardent and longer than usual, attentiveness to one another or reluctance to leave the place.
I know that I will carry into the summer many happy memories of the girls and boys, the women and men I confirmed. Among them will be the young people who proclaimed the Word of God in the liturgy and who, in so doing, deeply engaged those to whom they offered that gift. I’ll remember for like reason those gifted to serve as cantors leading the community in song. Among my favorite memories are those of young people who are nervous and apprehensive when they approach the sacrament but who manage to relax in the doing and depart with great smiles on their faces. And then, there are the adults who for one reason or other have never been confirmed. They are a special joy because the clearly have longed for what they are about to receive. When they receive the sacrament they often enough do so in the midst of tears.
Sometimes people will ask me if I get tired of confirming. Having read the above, you will understand the response I always make to that question, “I sometimes get tired from confirming but I never get tired of confirming.” There’s just too much life there, there’s too much happening ever to grow weary or bored from the experience.
I ask you please to join me in prayer for, and encouragement of, our newly initiated friends. We know that confirmation is not a magic carpet that floats them into a future without pain, challenge or problems. Indeed, we know that they, joined to Christ in the power of the Spirit, also will bear the cross of Christ.
We cannot — much as we might like to — protect them from all of that. But we can remain with them in prayer and encouragement and help them face them with the courage of Christ himself.
No less importantly, we can encourage them by our own example of participation in the life of the faith community and by our fidelity to the teaching of Christ even when strong forces around us tempt us from that path.
Peace to all.