Confirmation offers parishes the opportunity to embrace the gifts of the Spirit
When I received the Sacrament of Confirmation I was given a medal with a silver dove fixed on to it. It was an image of the Holy Spirit often depicted in Church art and taken from the story of Jesus’ baptism in the Gospel when the spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. It conveys the gentle quiet presence of the Holy Spirit.
As I grew in understanding and knowledge of the Holy Spirit I was drawn to the images of wind and fire. The dynamic energy of love and the excitement and possibility of change helped me to believe that God’s spirit could do anything and could change closed minds and melt hard hearts. In one of the last appearances of Jesus before the Ascension, Jesus came to the apostles and breathed on them saying “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
The Hebrew word for spirit is ruah, which, in its primary sense, means breath, air, and wind. The Spirit of God cannot be contained but blows where it wills.
On the day of Pentecost, the apostles experienced the manifestation of the Holy Spirit as a strong wind. The wind communicated the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit.
The apostles were transformed from a state of fear to being people of courage and inner strength boldly preaching the good news of Christ’s resurrection. They were changed completely and were now ready to take up the ministry to which Jesus had called them.
From your own Confirmation preparation you will remember studying and memorising the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Your child already knows the seven gifts of the Spirit; Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgement, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence and Wonder and Awe in God’s presence.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not just for our children. You can often easily forget that you have already received these gifts at your own confirmation and they are already active in you.
You will need them as much as your child needs them to adjust to all the changes that take place in the young adolescent.
The Gifts of the Spirit which God gives can inspire you and help you to cope with the many decisions you have to make as your child grows up; when to speak and when to be silent; when to offer advice and when to trust the Holy Spirit; when to give more freedom and when to hold back.
Parenting teenagers is often like walking on egg shells in the dark not always knowing where you’re going and what’s coming up next. Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised by the words of wisdom of your own child or the spontaneous gesture of love that can come after tough decisions are made.
The Spirit of God can give you moments of peace in times of anxiety and help you to discern the best way forward as you journey with your child.
Preparing your child to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, presents an opportunity and a challenge to reflect and ask some questions: Do I really believe that the Holy Spirit has any meaning in my own life? Do I recognise gifts in people in my parish community? Am I using my gifts for the service of others? If you want to encourage your child to use their gifts within the parish, they will be more inclined to do so if they see you using your gifts.
As they experience your commitment and see you participating in parish ministries and activities, they will understand that there is more to do and that they belong to a parish family where all gifts contribute to a vibrant Christian way of life. The Holy Spirit helps us to discern our gifts and affirm the gifts of others.
The parish community has a very important role in manifesting its interest and support as the children go through the process of growth in the Holy Spirit.
The preparation for Confirmation from parents, school and parish is an opportunity for children to move into a closer relationship with their faith community.
Every year Confirmation is celebrated, the parish has an opportunity to reflect on how well the gifts of all the baptised are being encouraged and celebrated in the parish.
We will see wonderful art work depicting the gifts of the Holy Spirit displayed around the church at this time of year. They will be eye catching and we will be amazed at the artistic talents of the children. It would be good to see those images stay with us until the Feast of Pentecost.
Let’s hope they continue to remind us long after the celebration is over, that Confirmation offers the parish the opportunity to embrace the gifts of the Spirit wholeheartedly once again.
*Rosemary Lavelle is Pastoral Coordinator in the Office for Evangelisation and Ecumenism in Dublin.