June 24, 2016

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

The Holy Spirit can guide us through the light and shadows of life

Sean GallagherOne of the first columns I wrote when I began this “Faith and Family” column in 2002 was about the baptism of my first son, Michael, who was born on May 1 of that year.

Last month, Michael received the sacrament of confirmation from Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin. This sacrament completed his initiation into the Church that began when he was a little more than a month old.

As he walked confidently forward to have Archbishop Tobin anoint his forehead with sacred chrism oil, I couldn’t help but return to that day 14 years ago when my wife, Cindy, and I carried him to the waters of baptism.

Confirmation is closely tied to baptism, strengthening the presence of the Holy Spirit in the person being confirmed and his or her ties to the Church that were established in that doorway to the sacraments.

After having raised Michael for 14 years and foreseeing the challenges that lay ahead of him in this world, he’ll most definitely need the strength of the Holy Spirit and the faithful of the Church to help him to live out the vocation to which God has called him from all eternity.

I should have seen that clearly when Michael was baptized on June 8, 2002. We were all living in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. And there were so many other negative trends in our society then that had existed for decades.

Despite those challenging times, I couldn’t help but be hopeful for Michael’s future as Cindy and I brought him as a little baby to be baptized in St. Joseph Church in Shelbyville where I was baptized and where, at the time, I served as the parish’s director of religious education.

That optimism was as it should be. Cindy and I were overflowing with love for our first-born child, even if we were sleep deprived at the time, living in what we have come to call “baby boot camp.” With a future that was a blank slate, our hopes were as high as the sky—high as heaven—for him.

And, thanks to God’s grace, they still are high 14 years later. The experience of Michael’s first 14 years has also given Cindy and I the opportunity to grow in faith that God’s providence can make these hopes a reality—even in the face of the many hardships of our common broken humanity and the growing difficulty of living out one’s faith in this world.

So when Michael received the sacrament of confirmation last month, my experience of it was tied more to the grittiness of reality and the power of God’s grace to shine through the shadows of life then when I witnessed and participated in his baptism so many years ago—when I had no knowledge of the blessings and challenges that his life would bring.

Our lives are all marked by light and darkness. They’re part and parcel of the fact that, at one and the same time, we bear the weight of the effects of original sin and are lifted up by the redemption won for us in Christ Jesus.

So never give up or lose sight of the power of God’s grace as you face obstacles, often small but sometimes big, in your daily life. Have a conscious and active trust that the Holy Spirit, which the sacrament of confirmation strengthened in the heart of my son Michael and so many of you, can lift you up in your struggles and open your eyes to the light of Christ, which no shadow can obscure. †

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