April 13, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Confirmands recognize signs of hope in season of hope

One of the signs of hope for our local Church is the impressive number of folks who, as catechumens, chose to be baptized, confirmed and receive first Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.

The same is true for those who sought to become members of the Catholic Church by receiving the sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist.

This is not only true of our archdiocese. The last official national count for the number of adults entering our Church at the Easter Vigil is from 2005: Some 154,000 adults were received. That same year, there were some 950,000 reported infant baptisms in the United States. There were probably more.

Throughout the year, but especially during the Easter season, hundreds of youth of our archdiocese receive the sacrament of confirmation. In a sense, this sacrament completes their initiation into the Catholic faith.

Sometimes the candidates for confirmation are encouraged to write a letter telling of their desire to receive the sacrament. Usually, their letters will say a word about their understanding of the sacrament. They usually mention their chosen patron saint for confirmation, and something about the service project in which they participated.

I just finished reading letters from candidates who were confirmed from St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. The quality of these letters impresses me. I think these candidates registered a good understanding of what they were about in receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Two other aspects of their letters caught my attention, perhaps more than usual.

The first striking feature was how often the young people mentioned those who were an important influence in their lives. They wanted me to know of this influence. So often, grandparents or a grandparent were mentioned.

It is not surprising that some feel the important influence of Mom or Dad. However, the fact that they wanted to mention them as a positive influence caught my attention.

Some of the writers also made a point about the influence of an older brother or sister in their lives, including their lives of faith.

I think we tend to underestimate the importance of our example and influence on our youth. I suspect they don’t say too much about this at home or when they are visiting grandparents. I am pretty sure they don’t tell an older brother or sister how important they are as role models. But there it is to be seen in their letters to me.

Another feature that caught my attention was the detail with which they told why they chose their confirmation patron. Most were not simply saints chosen because it was a grandmother’s or grandfather’s or a brother’s or sister’s name, although that was part of their reasoning.

Even in those cases, the youth researched the information about their chosen saint. (I figure a lot of this information must be on the Internet.) I learned things about some saints that I had never heard or learned before.

Among the young men, St. Sebastian, who is known to be the patron saint of athletes, was chosen. So was St. Christopher. Saints like St. Elizabeth were chosen because of their care for the poor.

One candidate chose St. Catherine of Alexandria, which surprised me. Her research told her this saint was a brave woman of faith who died as a courageous martyr.

One fellow chose St. Robert Bellarmine in honor of his grandfather, who died in the past year, but also because St. Robert, the patron saint of catechists, devoted his life to preaching about God and helping people in need.

He wrote: “I want to be more like this and use my talents to assist others. God has given me many gifts so I can share these with others.”

A candidate wrote that the Holy Spirit “protects me when I am in trouble, in sporting events, and helps me do my best. Over the last couple of years, when I have been doing service projects I have seen Jesus working through others. … I have seen Jesus in the people’s faces I have helped. In all this I have done, it has drawn me closer to God and taught me more about the Catholic faith.”

Another letter, chosen at random, reads: “God has blessed me with many gifts. My parents love me and have taught me the importance of my Catholic faith. They show this in their Christian actions. I am able to attend a Catholic school where I can further learn about God and my faith. I have been given many opportunities to serve God and my community. Through this service, I have learned that there are people who are less fortunate than I am.”

It is good to recognize these signs of hope in this season of hope. †

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