Confirmation is not just a one day event, it is a way of life
As we come to the end of June, many young people throughout the country will have received the Sacrament of Confirmation. So in some ways we could say: “It’s all over”. Parish teams and school principals will be happy if the ceremony went smoothly and they may also feel a huge sense of relief. Although the Confirmation day is over, it is important to stress that it is not just a one day event. It is a way of life.
Over the past 10 months, I have tried to encourage parents to journey with their child as they enter into an intense period of preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation. I affirmed the role of parish sacramental programmes as a tool which can offer support to parents and deepen the faith of young people. I have also explored the meaning of the ritual actions in the Confirmation ceremony and the value of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit in all of our lives. Like all sacraments, Confirmation is a free choice presenting a challenge for both the child, and the family.
The family is often referred to as the domestic church. In the frenzy of life today, it is very challenging for families to find time to be together and especially difficult to find opportunities to pray together. Family prayer can seem very awkward to introduce when children are older and yet it is the habit of ordinary simple prayer that communicates that faith is connected to all aspects of our lives.
The most important witness for children is to see how their parents pray at home. Talking about Confirmation with your child at mealtimes can give opportunities for the whole family to speak about faith, to light a candle and to say a prayer.
Some parents lack confidence in talking about faith with their children. Through the parish Confirmation programmes, You Shall Be My Witnesses and Confirming our Children, they are given an opportunity to be more actively involved in their child’s sacramental preparation which in turn can provide a springboard for adult faith development and catechesis for the whole community.
The parish is the local community of the Church. The mission of the parish is to be a living witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. When I see young families at Mass on Sundays, I know from experience, the huge effort that parents make to have their children fed and dressed in time for church. They often have to cope with complaints and resistance in order to be there on time.
The parish is vital in supporting the family as children grow through the stages of faith. When families come to Mass on Sundays they will want to come regularly if they experience an environment that is warm, welcoming and spiritually nourishing. When children experience a welcome and acceptance in their parish they are more likely to value church and, most importantly, associate God and church with love.
Rituals celebrated at home and in the parish can promote a sense of belonging. Children may not fully understand the meaning behind the rituals but participating in them can instill a belief that they are important.
Lead by example
Confirmation is a sacrament of initiation. It affirms that young people are now at the start of their journey towards an adult faith, not at the end. Your child will understand the significance and effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation by observing the efforts you made to be present with them for all their preparations. If you want to encourage your child to use their gifts within the parish, take part in parish life and use your gifts.
As your child experiences your commitment the message will become clear that they belong to a parish family where all gifts contribute to a vibrant Christian way of life.
Parish teams could reinforce the message that young people are important by inviting those who have been confirmed to become young readers. With training and formation, young people can realise the importance of participation and service within the liturgy. They are now full members of the Church. The Holy Spirit is at work in your child bringing all their gifts to fruition. They will be fruitful and give expression to their faith in Christ in their own time and in their own way.
This past year has been a special time of preparation with your child. I hope that you will remember that it was all worth it. I hope that as you continue to accompany your child on their faith journey you will grow closer together. Will our young people recognise and celebrate the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives after Confirmation?
Yes, I believe they will when we recognise and speak about the Holy Spirit in our own lives, sharing our faith and giving thanks in a way that gives witness to our faith in Christ. Confirmation should make us all better people.