By Fran Lavelle
Bishop Joseph Kopacz has begun his annual trek to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation with young people and their families around the diocese. If you are the parent, Godparent, grandparent, auntie, uncle or close friend of one of these confirmandi, you might want to clip this article and place it in their Confirmation card along with whatever encouraging words you may wish to share. Here goes…
Dear Young People: Confirmation is not Catholic graduation. You are not, by far, finished developing, learning and growing as a Catholic Christian. You, dear one, are just beginning your journey of faith as an adult in the church. As the years pass and you grow and mature in your life, so too will your faith.
Up until confirmation you had a team of adults to help you grow in your faith including: your parents (as first catechists), your priest and other religious, your parish family and your Catholic family. Your team members did their level best to help teach you about the faith, inspire you to follow the example of Jesus, and enkindle in you a love for God. In confirmation you complete the sacraments of initiation that were first begun with your Baptism.
Let’s talk about that word “initiation” for a minute. If you plan on joining a fraternity of sorority at college you become a full member after you have gone through a period on initiation. Civic and religious organizations have initiations too. It is a way of setting aside time to learn about the very organization you intend to join.
Who was the founder? What are the requirements to remain a member in good standing? What is the purpose of the organization? Are there dues? What purpose does the organization serve? Is it philanthropic? Educational? Social? Once you have learned about the history, structure and function of the organization during initiation one can make an assessment as to whether or not the organization fits your needs.
Confirmation is in many ways the same except our period of initiation lasts from the time you are Baptized until the time you are Confirmed. All that time in between is your Catholic initiation. During your Catholic initiation you learn about our founder, Jesus Christ; learn about what it means to be a fully functioning member of the Church; and, discover the rich gift of the Sacramental life of the Church.
Along the way you experience other rites of initiation such as First Eucharist and penance. These are sacramental building blocks that help you develop as a person of faith and as a practicing Catholic.
By your consent in being confirmed, you are completing what your parents began for you in baptism. You are telling the church that you are ready to fully participate in the life of the church as an adult. Congratulations, you are now in the position to own your faith. You are primarily responsible for your continued spiritual development. Fear not, you will not have to undertake this responsibility alone. In your journey of faith there will be many people who walk with you, challenge you and encourage you to keep focused on God’s will and his ways.
And remember, just as it took years for you to complete the initiation phase of your spiritual development it will take many years to grow into your faith as an adult. Keep in mind that God will meet along the way and love you right where you are. May you always walk with confidence of his great love for you.
(Fran Lavelle is Director of the Department of Faith Formation.)