June 16, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Confirmed in the joy of committed faith

Confirmation is the sacrament that focuses the promise of our first sacrament, baptism. Parents usually dedicate their children as Christian believers by having them baptized when they’re infants. Then, when the babies become young adults, they may confirm that faith themselves. It’s a big deal.

Before Vatican II, the common practice in the American Church was for children to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion about the age of 6 or 7, followed immediately by the sacrament of confirmation. And, although my husband claims he was totally aware of what both sacraments meant at the time, most kids probably were not.

The concept of Holy Communion, in which we receive the body and blood of Christ to prepare ourselves to do God’s will, is something even young children can understand. They know it’s hard to be good all the time, to do what mom and dad and the teacher say is right. They realize everyone needs God’s help and encouragement.

But confirmation is another thing. This is the sacrament of faith in the unseen and dedication to following what in our society are countercultural demands. Personal responsibility, humility and respect for every aspect of human life can require overwhelming efforts. At an age when peer pressure is so intense, it may be hard for young people to accept the risks.

Years ago, for a cradle Catholic, confirmation was a sort of public acknowledgement of the family’s faith. Most Catholics expected to stay within the familiar Church environment, with the parish and its school at the heart of family life. The teen years and their accompanying doubt would come later, when the “habit” of faith was firmly established and included a supportive network of like-minded believers.

The same was true of many Protestants. I can attest to this because I was confirmed twice—once at age 13 in the Congre-gational Church, and again as an adult when I joined the Catholic Church. Confirmation in both was a given for me.

Today, it’s different. Life is busier, and what used to be thought of as temptations to sin are not only more blatant, but also frequently tolerated by our society. Tight-knit religious support formerly found in families or the wider community is often lacking.

At a recent confirmation liturgy at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indian-apolis, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein addressed those being confirmed. He challenged them to use the faith they had just affirmed to find purpose in their lives, to become leaven for the growth of the Church. He reminded them that confirmation was not an end, but a beginning.

The archbishop reminded the kids of their options in serving others, which is the heart of a purposefully Christian life. He mentioned committed lives as priests or religious men and women, as married people and parents, and as contributors to the betterment of families, parishes and communities.

Confirmed in the knowledge that they are empowered in their service by a just and loving God, surely these young people will indeed be a leaven, not only in our Church, but also in the world. And they will find joy. May God bless them.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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