It’s that time of year again! Lent is a sure reminder to all of us that the celebration of Easter is not too far away. With the coming of Easter is also the coming of a very special sacrament for many youth and adults: Confirmation. At a recent Confirmation Mass I witnessed, the retired Bishop (who lives in residence at my parish) laid out the fact that while it was nice to see everyone there, he knew he wouldn’t see many of them again until next Easter or Christmas, or perhaps not at all. It was a sad truth, but I was glad that he pointed it out. It acted almost as a reminder that if you aren’t going to commit, don’t say you will and then not fulfill your promise. I was honestly surprised when I didn’t see anyone walk out of the church. Perhaps it is just me, but there seems to be a misconception about the Sacrament, namely that it is only a rite of passage instead of a God-given Sacrament of Initiation.
When I was confirmed as a teenager, I put a lot of thought into it. I prayed to God to help me select a Saint. I knew what it meant to be confirmed, and I was happy I did it. I was accepting the teachings of the Church and asking for God’s help and the intercession from Saint Joan of Arc to help me grow into a holier person. Unfortunately, I witnessed many people be confirmed and only come back to Mass for Christmas and then the following Easter, or never again. In retrospect, I realize that often kids feel pressured to be confirmed, likely because it is jammed down their throats that they have to. Many parents feel they have to have their children confirmed or be looked down upon.
It is important to be encouraging, but it is also important to make sure that those who are preparing for Confirmation are actually informed about the Faith. There must be a true desire from the confirmand and their sponsor to want to know and love Christ and His Church and be fully Catholic. This sacrament is a reaffirmation of the vows made on the behalf of the confirmand at their Baptism. To receive the great graces given by God through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the receiver must be truly open. It must be a declaration from the heart to accept all that the Church teaches, and that the individual will strive to pursue and live the faith. To be confirmed with only the ‘rite-of-passage’ mentality abuses the sanctity of the Sacrament. It is like a man saying ‘I do’ on his wedding day because he felt pressured to do it by his parents, and then not remaining faithful to his wife the way he promised.
If a teen feels pressured to do something, often the first moment they can run, they will. Even if they don’t run, they may just never mentally engage the faith they are superficially practicing. I’m sure most of us know someone who stopped going to mass as soon as they left home. Many people, after being forced by their parents to participate in church have left. For them, Confirmation was just another thing they did while attending a Catholic school and nothing more.
Most parents want the best for their children. Many so-called catholic parents want their children to have some semblance of faith. I submit, however, that pushing faithless teens to be confirmed doesn’t achieve this end. The truth is that in order to grow in faith and knowledge of the truth, and in love with Christ, the True Faith must be practiced at home first. It is not enough to just have the Sacraments of Initiation and not practice the faith. To not accept joyfully the Commandments and the Teachings of the Catholic Church and still claim to be a Catholic is false advertising to the world and spiritual suicide. It may mean your child is not confirmed this year, or for several years, or perhaps at all. The question is, how much more joyful will it be for them if they truly want to be confirmed and grow in love for Christ and His church when the time comes to choose.
Confirmation is not a pre-graduation religious ceremony that all the kids do with their classmates for fun. It is not a passage into manhood or womanhood like a bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah. To be Confirmed in the faith is a fulfillment of our baptism. It is much more than a rite of passage, and parents and relatives need to treat it as such. Don’t use Confirmation as a superficial, gift-giving celebration. Don’t give porcelain crosses, but instead give them a crucifix where they can see Christ’s declaration of love for every single person. Don’t give them money, but give them spiritual bread that can be found in the scripture and in prayer. My grandmother gave me a Bible, and I dived right into it. I still have the Bible today and I read it almost every night. Give the confirmand something that will help them grow spiritually rather than superficially. They may not appreciate it now, but by God’s grace, they will one day.
I pray for all those being confirmed this Easter, and all year round, that the Holy Spirit may be with them always.
PS: If you are interested in how to update your parish’s Confirmation Prep program, we encourage you to check out this amazing resource!
The Sacrament of Confirmation
Confirmation is the second sacrament of initiation for Christians, after baptism. Although it can be done after First Communion, it is traditional for it to be done earlier, around the age of seven. Confirmation is the sacrament in which the Christian receives gifts of the Holy Spirit, and is given the grace to live the Christian life. Read the rest of this entry