A wonderful, but not very well known event will take place over the next couple of weeks. About 35 young men and women from the Catholic high schools in our diocese will receive the sacrament of confirmation.
What is so special about that? This is the season for confirmations and all Catholics are confirmed around this age. Actually, that’s not the case.
While nearly all Catholics receive the first two sacraments of initiation, namely baptism and first Eucharist, many do not go on to receive the third, which is confirmation. This is unfortunate as these are the three primary sacraments upon which life as a Christian depends.
Received in the western Church at different ages, these three sacraments represent milestones on the journey of faith. Unlike first Communion, where the child’s main interest is – understandably so – not on the sacrament itself, but rather on a new outfit, a church banner and the party afterward, confirmation demands that the young person take an active role in developing his or her spiritual life.
Whether as part of a Catholic academy, elementary school or through a parish religious education program, confirmation almost always occurs during the seventh or eighth grade. Through classroom instruction, faith-based activities, retreats, conversation and interaction, students develop a foundation for a mature, loving and personal relationship with Jesus.
The preparation is not so much for the ceremony, as it is for the young people to be able to say: “Yes! I want to follow Jesus. I want to make His ways, my ways. I want to follow His teachings and live my life as a witness to His mission.”
While the reception of confirmation is special for all Catholics, for the young Catholic men and women, it is extra special, if not inspiring. Typically, a young person seeking confirmation through a high school program was unable to receive the sacrament during elementary school due to family circumstances. Some had transient lifestyles due to a parent’s employment or absence. Often the young adults are public school graduates who did not participate in any type of catechesis program, and were not exposed to any type of spiritual life through family and friends.
These young men and women have chosen to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation entirely by their own volition and effort. They are not part of a parish group or a school class. They are a little older than the norm, ranging in age from 15-18. Most had to prepare individually through programs provided by their Catholic high schools, and some will be receiving confirmation without the support of their friends or family.
Yet, all of them have had the courage to stand up and say: “I want to be confirmed. I want to be transformed by the Holy Spirit to become more like Jesus.” Their active choice to become full members of the Church is worthy of respect, deserves support and is in need of ongoing prayers.
Editor’s Note: Catholic high school students from Brooklyn will receive confirmation from Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto on May 15 at St. James Cathedral, Downtown Brooklyn, and those from Queens will be confirmed by Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez at Holy Family Church, Flushing, May 22.