Note: Last Saturday evening we had an informational meeting for Confirmation students and parents. Not everyone was able to attend, so I am attempting to recreate the brief Confirmation pep talk I gave, in writing, for those who missed out.
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I want to start with a question: Why are we here? Does anyone know? Is it just because I called a meeting?
I’m wearing one of my favorite shirts today: It has a drawing on it of two hands knitting what looks like a DNA strand, and if you look closely at the helix, you’ll see the word HANDMADE. At the bottom is a reference to Psalm 139:
You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. – Psalm 139:13-16
What does this tell us about why we are here? It tells us that God created each of us individually, with a specific purpose in mind, that He knows us intimately and loves us completely. Genesis tells us we are made in God’s image, and the Gospel of John tells us God is Love. We are made by Love, from love, to give and receive love. This is our whole purpose: to learn to love as God loves and ultimately find our way back to Him. The meaning of life is no more complicated than that.
The sacraments give us the graces we need love God and neighbor as God loves us. Through the sacraments of initiation—Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation—we are welcomed into God’s family as His children; we receive the gifts, graces and fruits of the Holy Spirit; and we receive Jesus Himself—Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity—so that we can become more like Him.
These three sacraments mark the beginning of our lives in the Church. Confirmation, in particular, is not the end of something. It’s not a graduation, and it’s only relatively recently been described as a teen’s adult commitment to the Catholic Church. (Historically, Confirmation was received at the same time as Baptism and before the Eucharist.) The sacraments of initiation, like all the sacraments, mark the beginning of something new or renewed. Marriage is the beginning of a new life between a man and a woman as “one flesh.” Holy Orders marks the beginning of a man’s new life as an ordained minister of God. Confession is an opportunity to cleanse ourselves of sin and begin a renewed life in Christ. As the third sacrament of initiation, Confirmation marks the end of the beginning of your life as a disciple.
Hopefully all of you desire this new life. Some of you may be “all in,” desiring to know God’s plan for your life and to receive the gifts and graces you need to live it out. Some of you may desire it because “Honor thy father and mother” is a commandment, and your father and mother desire it for you. Some of you might not desire it yet. Hopefully by the time the Confirmation Mass arrives in December, all of you have decided you want God in your life in this way—but you definitely have a choice to make. You have to want the sacrament on some level in order for it to be effective.
To that end, here’s what I want from all of you:
- Parents, the most important thing you can do for your teens in the coming months is to set a strong example. Make prayer and the sacraments a priority. Come to Mass every Sunday, get to Confession when you need to, and be sure to pray for and with your teen.
- Teens, be open. Believe that God has a plan for your life. Believe the Holy Spirit wants to work with and in you—and ask Him to open your heart and pour out the gifts and graces you need.
Last year I spoke to a young woman who said she wasn’t sure she wanted to be confirmed because it didn’t seem relevant for her future success. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding of who the Holy Spirit is and why He matters!
Too often people—including myself, as a 20-something father of two—are confirmed and afterward say they don’t feel any different. Students, do we believe God loves us and wants us to happy? Do we ask for His gifts and expect Him to answer?
Parents, do we expect our children to be changed by the sacrament? Do we ask God to shower our teens with His graces? Are we open to His plan for our children? As I’ve watched my older children grow and leave home, I’ve come to realize that if I had my way—if they had followed my plan for them—they would have been so much less than they already are. I’d have screwed it up. God’s plan is so much more than we can imagine!
So over the next few months, pray. Get to Mass. Choose a sponsor whom you can talk to and count on to pray for you—in this life and the next. Ask God to help open your heart to His gifts and His graces. He knows the plans He has for you, so that you may spend eternity with Him in heaven.