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!
Sorry ladies and gents who’ve been waiting anxiously for their Wednesday dose of “Web Find Wednesday”…MamaJ’s a bit late. I’m blaming it on the pregnancy brain, I can’t keep track of what day of the week it is anymore. Anyway, a little bit late, but here you go.
1. Something You’ve Probably Already Watched
There’s a great video of Will Smith reuniting with Alfonso Ribeiro circulating around. I am actually old enough to have watched Fresh Prince back when it originally aired so…. this is as epic as seeing Leonard Nimoy in the new Star Trek movies, or really anytime Leonard Nimoy shows up in anything.
Ok . . . maybe not that epic. But still pretty awesome (and hilarious!).
2. Something You Probably Haven’t Watched
I have no words for this, and I apologise, but this song WILL get stuck in your head. Just do yourself a favor and watch all the way to the end. There’s some amazing dance moves you don’t want to miss.
3. Something You Can Read!!
Rebecca Frech, fellow blogger over at Shoved to Them, and online friend of mine just published a book called Teaching in Your Tiara. As my son has been approaching school-age I’ve been considering homeschooling, but I’ve been pretty overwhelmed about the whole idea, whether it’s right for our family, whether I can do it, where do I even start? I’ve only just begun reading this book, but if you’ve been thinking about homeschooling at all, I strongly recommend it. It’s an easy-read, and Rebecca’s voice is down to earth, experienced and funny! This isn’t your typical homeschooling primer, and if you aren’t one of those super organized, pinterest-crafty, prior background in childhood education kind of moms, this is the perfect book for you. You can get it on Amazon as an ebook, or your classic paperback! Check out her blog as well, because it’s also pretty awesome!
IVF ( or better known as In Vitro Fertilization), is becoming a more and more commonly used method for a woman to achieve pregnancy if her and her partner are having difficulty conceiving on their own. It is a painful, emotional, and stressful thing for couples to experience a longing for children, and yet can not do it the natural way. Many couples desire to bear children of their own, however, even in the case that a couple can not achieve pregnancy naturally, it does not mean that conceiving unnaturally is a moral thing to do. This being said, it does not mean by any means that children conceived in this way are unequal to others.
There are many deep issues with this ‘alternative method’ to pregnancy that are often overlooked or forgotten about. Many will ask “if the result is for the couple to have children, why is it wrong?”Marriage is naturally ordered toward the good of the spouses as well as procreation and education of children. While the desire to have children is good, the means to which to achieve this end must also be good.
The marital union is not present when this procedure takes place. Eggs are collected from one of the woman’s ovaries and the man must donate sperm into a sterile container, commonly through masturbation. Following these steps, the eggs and sperm are brought together in a laboratory of some kind to form successful embryos. Embryos that are formed that are not required are disposed of. Already, we can see how this deviates from the unity that is to take place between only the husband and wife. In addition to this, the procedure disposes embryos as biological waste. After the embryos are placed into the woman, it is a mater of waiting to see if any or all will implant. If they do not, the process can be repeated. The entire process is unnatural, going against the dignity of the spouses, the implanted child or children, and the other children still in the embryonic state of development that are either disposed of or frozen for future use.
The Encyclical letter Donum Vitae explores the issues of the Dignity of Human Life and discusses all forms of unnatural conception and respect for human embryos. It states:
Contraception deliberately deprives the conjugal act of its openness to procreation and in this way brings about a voluntary dissociation of the ends of marriage. Homologous artificial fertilization, in seeking a procreation which is not the fruit of a specific act of conjugal union, objectively effects an analogous separation between the goods and the meanings of marriage. Thus, fertilization is licitly sought when it is the result of a “conjugal act which is per se suitable for the generation of children to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh”. But from the moral point of view procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not desired as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say of the specific act of the spouses’ union.
The moral value of the intimate link between the goods of marriage and between the meanings of the conjugal act is based upon the unity of the human being, a unity involving body and spiritual soul. Spouses mutually express their personal love in the “language of the body “, which clearly involves both “sponsal meanings” and parental ones. The conjugal act by which the couple mutually express their self-gift at the same time expresses openness to the gift of life. It is an act that is inseparably corporal and spiritual. It is in their bodies and through their bodies that the spouses consummate their marriage and are able to become father and mother. In order to respect the language of their bodies and their natural generosity, the conjugal union must take place with respect for its openness to procreation; and the procreation of a person must be the fruit and the result of married love. The origin of the human being thus follows from a procreation that is “linked to the union, not only biological but also spiritual, of the parents, made one by the bond of marriage”. Fertilization achieved outside the bodies of the couple remains by this very fact deprived of the meanings and the values which are expressed in the language of the body and in the union of human persons.
In the natural order, the conjugal act between husband and wife is required for the process of having children. It is meant to be unitive and procreative, with the married couple being open to the possibility of having children. Those two factors can not be separated. To use the ends to justify the means is selfish even though it doesn’t necessarily feel like it. The unity of the couple is set aside in order to gain the child. However, the unity of the couple is crucial to the marriage. It is part of the sacrament of marriage for the couple to be completely open to God’s will in their married life in all circumstances.
Children are not a commodity. It is not a right to have children. It is a gift. As difficult as it may be to struggle with infertility, there are good, loving choices that can be made that still allow for a family. For those struggling with infertility, there has been an incredible breakthrough in that NaPro Technology was discovered. In reality, infertility is actually a symptom of underlying disease. While treatments such as IVF are simply a band-aid solution, and not a very effective one at that, NaPro Technology (Natural Procreative Technology) works to find out the cause of the disease, and work to treat or cure it naturally. It brings couples closer together, honouring their dignity and the dignity of the unborn, and is much more effective than IVF. Adoption is also a good and loving alternative. There will always be children in need of a family. Adoption can be lengthy, difficult, and often expensive, but the good that comes from giving a child a home is priceless, for both parties involved. In addition to this, foster care is also another option. Many children who loose their parents or are rescued from abusive households are in desperate need for love.
My heart goes out to all of those struggling with infertility issues. We must give our entire being to Christ. This includes our fertility and marriage. He will work great things in your lives. He will heal you. Trust in Him. God will help you bear all your struggles. He never promised that life would be easy, but that He would be with us the entire way to help us bear our cross.
Check out these great resources for more information
I’ve been trying to take my kids to daily Mass when I’ve had the opportunity. It has sort of been an experiment in patience, but so far it has gone pretty well, and I enjoy being able to teach my children about the faith in a more intimate setting. I’m not always sure how much my two little ones are actually absorbing, since they mostly seem preoccupied with going through every hymnal in the pew ad nauseum or trying to pick up the elusive Cheerio on the floor, left behind by another Sunday Mass-goer (proof that there ARE other young children at Mass! At least I hope that’s the reason…).
On our way out the door one morning my son started talking to me about angels, and that we were going to see angels at the church. Intrigued, I asked him what the angels were doing at church.
“Angels carry Jesus’ cross”
“Really? What else”
“Angels carry cross, and put it down. Open book for Jesus”.
Aspirations of my son’s mystical visions began dancing in my head as he animatedly continued his description.
“Open book. Jesus say ‘Lord be with you!’”
My excitement at having a great mystic for a toddler came tumbling to the ground as I understood he wasn’t talking about the angels and Jesus, but the priest and the altar servers. Apparently, in my attempts to teach my son about the True Presence in the Eucharist, I’ve only managed to confuse him into thinking that the priest is Jesus. It’s understandable, there certainly isn’t anyone else visibly up there when I point and say “Now, Jesus is here!” during consecration.
As for the angels, there are two twin girls who altar serve at our parish, who with their cherub-like corkscrew curls, and white altar serving vestments, do in fact, look an awful lot like the pictures of angels in many of my kids’ books.
I shook my head at the silliness of it all, and tried to explain to him who all these people truly in fact are, but I began to realize that my son had a point. In his child-like innocence he reminded me of the reality of the fact that Mass is heaven on earth. In that moment, the angels are present, ministering to Our Lord who is sacrificing Himself on the cross.
It reminded me of this little pamphlet I had seen years ago, left behind in the back pew in the Basilica. It detailed the testimony of Catalina Rivas in a vision where the Holy Mass was explained to her by Jesus and Mary. In it she says:
Immediately, the Archbishop said the words of the Consecration of the wine and, as the words were being said, lightning appeared from the heavens and in the background. The walls and ceiling of the church had disappeared. All was dark, but for that brilliant light from the Altar.
Suddenly, suspended in the air, I saw Jesus crucified. I saw Him from the head to the lower part of the chest. The cross beam of the Cross was sustained by some large, strong hands. From within this resplendent light, a small light, like a very brilliant, very small dove, came forth and flew swiftly all over the Church. It came to rest on the left shoulder of the Archbishop, who continued to appear as Jesus because I could distinguish His long hair, His luminous wounds, and His large body, but I could not see His Face.
Above was Jesus crucified, His head fallen upon His right shoulder. I was able to contemplate His face, beaten arms and torn flesh. On the right side of His chest, He had an injury, and blood was gushing out toward the left side, and toward the right side, what looked like water, but it was very brilliant. They were more like jets of light coming forth towards the faithful, and moving to the right and to the left. I was amazed at the amount of blood that was flowing out toward the Chalice. I thought it would overflow and stain the whole Altar, but not a single drop was spilled.
At that moment, the Virgin Mary said: “This is the miracle of miracles. I have said to you before that the Lord is not constrained by time and space. At the moment of the Consecration, all the assembly is taken to the foot of Calvary, at the instant of the crucifixion of Jesus.”
It’s easy to forget the enormity of what is happening during the Mass, to be dismissive even of all that is actually occurring unseen before our eyes. I often wish that God would just lift that veil and let us see all that we can’t. Then of course, the world would know, would understand, would come on bended knee before Our Lord and Maker in reverence and awe.
But would we? How could we approach Him if that veil was lifted? How could we in our wretchedness even dare to come close? I think in our fear and trembling we would hide and stay as far away as possible. So instead, He hides Himself, and all the glory that surrounds us when we step foot into a church and hear those words “This is My Body….This is My Blood”. There is so much hidden from our eyes during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, especially when distracted by the antics of a couple of toddlers, but my son reminded me of something important that day, and I’m going to try to see a little bit more from the heart, because he is right, there are angels at my church.