Gifted with the Spirit: Confirmation
Senior High, Lesson #2 “Your Community of Faith”
Dear Parents, Guardians, and Sponsors:
We are all called to be saints. That is to say, we are called to holiness. We are called to live lives as Mary lived, putting aside our own will and doing the will of God, living lives of humility, love, forgiveness, and service. We find meaning, peace, and joy in this life by living this way, and eternal happiness in the next life. Most of us, though, recognize how far from holiness we are; yet we continue to work on being more faithful to the Great Commandment to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40).
When Jesus ascended to the Father, He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to empower us to continue His mission. For this reason, Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the Church. This same gift will be given to your sons/daughters at Confirmation. For 2,000 years now, the Church Jesus established on the Apostles with Peter as its head, has continued to accomplish His mission in the world. The bishops fill the shoes of the Apostles and the pope fills the shoes of Peter. We have an unbroken Apostolic Succession that links every bishop and pope back to the original Apostles. This Church exists to proclaim the Gospel, meaning the “Good News” of salvation. It exists as the presence of Christ in the world, continuing the work of salvation until that day when “every tear is wiped away” (Rev. 21:4).
The Church, then, is the Mystical Body of Christ, and your children will be joining it fully in Confirmation. In the Church, we find Christ, and we share in the life and mission of Christ. This is especially true of the sacraments, which are visible signs of the invisible presence and action of God. In Baptism and in Confirmation, the visible signs of water and sacred chrism combine with words and gestures to alert us through our senses of what is happening spiritually—the Holy Spirit is filling the soul and giving it new life in Christ and empowering it to accomplish the mission of Christ in the world. In the Eucharist, bread and wine are consecrated and, while retaining the appearance of bread and wine, become the real body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ available to us as nourishment for the journey. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Penance/Confession), Christ is really present to forgive us our sins and offer us the mercy of God. In short, all the sacraments are gifts of Christ to us through and in the Church. They are gifts that assist us in our struggle against sin and for holiness and love. They are sources of grace, i.e. the very life of God within us.
In the Church, we are all mathetes, a Greek word that means both disciples and apprentices. As apprentices to Christ, we need one another to help us “learn the trade.” Together, we help one another to grow in holiness, so that we become less selfish and more capable of loving and being loved. “As iron sharpens iron,” says Scripture, “so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NIRV). At Confirmation, your sons/daughters will be fully initiated into this Church. They share in the call to holiness and in the mission of Jesus. They are not the Church of the future, as some people like to say. They are the Church now. Their presence, their gifts, their vitality, and their optimism are all essential to our faith community.
As apprentices, it is helpful to have a role model. For this reason, the Church asks its Confirmandi to each choose a Confirmation sponsor. This choice should be taken seriously. The Church requires that the sponsor:
- Be at least 16 years of age
- Be a fully initiated member of the Church (Baptized, Confirmed, and having received First Communion)
- Be a practicing Catholic
Because Confirmation is so closely linked with Baptism, it is suggested to at least consider a godparent as Confirmation sponsor. Whomever they choose, the sponsor should be someone who will help them to grow in their Catholic faith.
As parents, you have the most important role in your child’s faith formation. Some things to consider as they prepare for full entry into the Church:
- Are you helping them to develop a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer, Scripture reading, and the sacraments? Are you an example and a guide to them for these things?
- Have you communicated your own faith to them? Do they know why the faith is important to you?
- What Scripture passages, songs, wisdom from the saints, prayers, etc. have meant a lot to you in your faith journey? Have you shared these things with them?
- How have you modeled for them a belief in God “who is nothing but love and mercy?” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux)
- How have you modeled the Works of Mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, comforting the sorrowful, etc.?
- Have your own priorities shown the importance of Christ in your life, such as going to Mass every Sunday?
- Do you ever go to Confession with your family?
- In the difficult work of helping your kids become successful adults in a competitive society, it is easy to focus them so much on material success that they don’t see that our efforts to help them become financially secure are only a part of what we want for them. How have you communicated your hopes for their spiritual life and development?
- Do you make your home a “domestic Church” in which the Gospel message is lived out daily through the ordinary events of life? How do you do it?
- When you celebrate holy days like Christmas and Easter, is the Christian message clearly a part of your celebration?
Life keeps us all very busy, and so don’t feel bad or guilty if you look at these questions and think “I haven’t done enough.” Now is the perfect time to talk to your son or daughter about your faith. They may be wondering what the big deal is with Confirmation. Nothing a parish can teach will match your own conversations about the importance of faith and a life of humble service.
Whatever you are already doing, thank you for it! You are helping to build up the Church and to continue the mission of Jesus across the ages. Whatever you decide to do now, thank you for that as well. You are helping your daughter/son to appreciate that human life includes a deeply important spiritual and moral dimension. You are helping them to know Christ, and to fall in love with the God who is already so deeply in love with them. You are leading them to Heaven.
Kevin Dowd is a doctoral candidate in theology and education at Boston College, where he also received his M.Ed. A graduate of Harvard University, Kevin has taught in Catholic schools and public schools in both Massachusetts and New York. Currently he teaches theology at Anna Maria College in Paxton, MA and writes a weekly blog connecting the Sunday readings to life. You can read the blog at http://www.bayardinc.com/the-word-is-life/