Preparing the way for Confirmation

Faith formation – Rosemary Lavelle

My children have been fully initiated into the Church through the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Communion and Confirmation. Together with my husband, we started them on a journey of faith which began with Baptism. We wanted them to have a relationship with God that would enrich their lives. When my first child was baptised, I had hopes and dreams for his life, as all parents do. I did not fully realise in those early days how becoming a mother would change me. It has presented joys and challenges which continue to enrich my spiritual journey. Making a decision to lead our children in this way was not difficult because we both received support and nourishment for our faith journey from our parents, our schools and our parish. For us, it was the natural thing to do at that time.


Nowadays, we cannot escape the fact that we are in a fast moving world where everything is changing. The Church is changing. Family life is changing. Parents want the best for their children and wanting the best can often lead to financial stress as well as physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Even when parents want to support the growing faith of their child, they can find themselves struggling to know how best to talk to their child about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the face of uncertainties, doubts and scandals.


Parents make a decision to baptise their child for a variety of reasons. At the beginning of the Baptism ceremony, they are asked “What do you ask of God’s Church?” Towards the end of the ceremony, the priest prays that the parents “may be the best of teachers bearing witness to the Faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rite of Baptism). How can they be the best of teachers without the support of a faith community? The saying “faith is caught, not taught” highlights that faith is not something you can impart through knowledge alone. Faith is communicated in the home firstly through the faith expressed and lived by parents, grandparents and the wider family unit. Faith is supported by the catechetical programme in Catholic schools and it is celebrated in the parish community when we gather for Eucharist on Sundays.


It is necessary to stress that Confirmation is a Sacrament of Initiation. Therefore, it is not about final commitment or just about maturity in faith because as we know maturing and growing in faith takes a lifetime. The Sacrament of Confirmation heightens the awareness of the activity of the Holy Spirit already given to the young person at baptism and focuses on the gift of the Holy Spirit strengthening them at a time of huge change and growth in their lives. Confirmation completes the journey of initiation which was begun at Baptism by parents. It is the beginning of a young person’s journey towards fuller participation in the Church. Confirmation celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit that is shared in the faith community and is present in each person. Like all sacraments, Confirmation is a free choice. It is important that parents talk to their children about the choice they are making.


Over the next few months I will share what I have learned about Confirmation and encourage parents and those who prepare young people for the sacrament. Many parents have not had a chance to develop their faith since they left secondary school. They can often feel unsure and inadequate when it comes to talking about faith and preparing their children for the sacraments. Parish sacramental programmes such as ‘You Shall be My Witnesses’ and ‘Confirming our Children’ take place in some parishes and they provide opportunities for parents to take a more active part in their child’s faith formation, while also nurturing their own faith. Such programmes can provide a springboard for adult faith development and catechesis for the whole community. Family prayer time and Sunday Mass are private and public ways where faith can be nourished and where families can experience a sense of belonging to a faith community.

Pastoral support

Questions such as “What further pastoral support can parish teams offer to parents?” and “How can young people and their parents be supported after the ceremony is over?” arise every year. The Sacrament of Confirmation is celebrated at an important stage in the life of a young person. It happens that many young people stop attending Mass shortly after their Confirmation and therefore Confirmation is often referred to as the ‘exit’ sacrament.

While this is the reality we experience in our parishes, from a faith perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. Confirmation affirms that young people are now at the start of their journey towards an adult faith, not at the end. The role of parents, supported by their parish and school, is to accompany their sons and daughters through the crucial years of that faith journey.