“But mummy it is only 8 o’clock. I am not tired yet.”
“Tired or not we are back to school soon and you need your sleep.”
Many households are the same, trying to return to their old routine after the summer. For many including myself it is a new stepping stone as my youngest is going to start primary school for the first time. I have no idea where the time has gone. It feels like yesterday that he was born. For many the first day back is a step into the unknown. Familiar and unfamiliar faces, new friends and old friends, learning, discovering, exploring and experiencing. For parents a new chapter of letting go of their little child starts at that school gate. Remember yourself starting the new school year. What will the teacher be like? Will I be liked by others? Will I be able to get through it? We all have been there in one way or another. Like every new school year, it brings new challenges and new possibilities.
One difference this year might be that many children, now in third class maybe even fourth class, will not have received the Sacrament of Reconciliation or First Holy Communion. Many, now in first year, second year or third year will not have been confirmed. The pandemic forced us to put a hold on the celebration of those sacraments.
On the one hand I have been looking at this pandemic as an opportunity to evangelise in a new way. On the other hand, it has been just head wrecking when it comes to planning anything especially the sacraments. Trying to schedule, reschedule, postpone and at this stage I just want it to happen. In the parish I work in we have set dates for nearly 50 confirmation ceremonies over the next six weeks. Evangelisation is a huge word nowadays everyone talks about it but what does that mean when it comes to the sacraments? Fifty Confirmation ceremonies, about 500 young Catholics becoming full members of the Church community. Even typing it gives me goosebumps. Five-hundred candidates, 500 families, 500 sponsors, it sounds amazing, but then my head kicks in and I wonder how many of those candidates understand that they are the present and future of the Church? How many of those families are connected with the parish community? How many of those sponsors will pray for the candidate? I don’t know the answers, but I have hope. I trust that nothing is impossible for God. That he works in mysterious ways. We are not alone in all of this. We don’t need all the answers but we need to have hope and trust in the Holy Trinity. Those sacraments are moments of the grace of God. That God is at work through those candidates, their families, their sponsors. For some it is about the dates, for others it is life changing and for me, as a mother and a pastoral worker it is a reason to be joyful for the future. Those who “missed” out are now that little bit older, maybe they ask bigger questions, maybe they are more reflective, maybe they wonder what “it” is (faith/Church) all about? Pope Francis has big hopes and dreams for this generation. He encouraged and challenged them by saying “to change the world you have to get off the couch” (World Youth Day in Krakow, 2016). It is not only them who have to get off the couch, we, the parish teams, the community of the baptised too have to make an effort. Archbishop Farrell recently talked about “grim faces” – we should be beaming with the hope in our hearts. We should be shouting and singing the alleluia songs and be a light of Christ through our words and action.
We have a choice here. Do we want them to just get the Sacrament over and done with or do we want those 500 candidates, 500 families, 500 sponsor experience a church, a community that is alive because Christ is alive? Like Pope Francis wrote in Christus Vivit:
“Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world. The very first words, then, that I would like to say to every young Christian are these: Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive!”