“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. ” – Acts 4:31.
One late Wednesday night, I returned to my house after an ordeal of a night spent with my eight graders. It was an assignment that only recently became part of my life- I had become a new youth leader for my church in the small town that I live in but in my eyes, I was ‘dealing’ with the most challenging (in terms of patience and spirituality) batch ever- a class of 13-year-olds that were to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation after an entire year of learning what the Holy Spirit could do in their lives.
Weary Wednesday nights marked this experience of mine- I had good days and bad days. Good when the kids seemed curious about what I had to teach them day- bad when I failed to hold their attention to the topic of our discussions. Why was I doing this, I’d ask myself? Was it because I missed my 13-year-old sister who lived on the other end of the world and who would also be receiving Confirmation at the end of the year, or was I trying to bridge my gap with the other Catholic youth of my parish? I still don’t really know. But what I do know was that the Holy Spirit took and still takes me on a spiritual journey of a new kind!
A looming question within the minds of many of us, including those who have been confirmed- is, “why do we need to be confirmed when we were already baptized anyway?” Or a variant of this could be, “Why is there now a gap of a couple years between the Sacraments of Communion and Confirmation?” It’s simple. Think of it as a three-legged stool. These legs could symbolize Baptism, Communion and Confirmation. If one of these legs had to give way, the stool wouldn’t be able to stand on its own. The same is with Confirmation! It is indispensable – and there are so many reasons for this. The only issue is that these reasons are sometimes difficult to immediately understand because the Spirit works in its own time!
Baptism welcomes us to the Church- but at that point of infancy, we are unable to understand what we are getting ourselves into. Receiving Holy Communion for the first time is when we are halfway on our ladder towards understanding why the Holy Spirit is so important in our lives. And when Confirmation arrives, it takes us to a whole new level of faith. Like the word suggests, it helps us ‘confirm’ what we truly believe in! The Oxford Dictionary cites the exact meaning of the word ‘confirm’ as ‘ to establish the truth of’. If we could apply this, it could mean that by being Confirmed, we are able to delve deeper in the Truth we were raised with! After all, Jesus is the Truth, the Way and the Life.
Of course, there is also truth in the fact that most of us do not fully comprehend this even after being Confirmed. And this is completely normal! Like I said before, the Holy Spirit works in its own time, and so one formal ceremony in your Church cannot change everything overnight! I remember my Catechism teacher, Mrs. Fernandes tell my Confirmation Class, one evening that we could ask for any Gift of the Holy Spirit –but we had to be prepared that we would not receive it right away. It could be even years before we received it! And she was right. I prayed for the gift of Right Judgment of the Holy Spirit during my Confirmation but my teenage self had to go through years of high school mistakes before I got any. Today, I am a college student and I still have difficulty exercising Right Judgment in various situations but there is no denying that the Spirit helps me make wise decisions when I do!
Let’s turn to the pages of history, or Scripture rather. The first very Confirmation was at the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down to the apostles for the first time, to make them his soldiers. And so here’s our Post-Confirmation expectation- we are now Soldiers of Christ! Ready to defend our faith- especially in situations that may question it, cause us to doubt the Spirit’s working power, especially when we leave our safe Christian nest to potentially dangerous cultural maze. And so we may fight. Fight like the Bible tells us. “Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses (I Timothy 6:12)” .
So now that we know what Confirmation is, what is it not? It isn’t a coming-of-age ceremony, another religious hoop to jump through, graduation from Christianity or an eligibility requirement for Matrimony! It is a personal Pentecostal journey with the Christ whose regiment we’ve been training for. So far, going to church may have been like going to a museum- we stay in awe and respect of who we visit, the artifacts stored but at times fail to realize that it is a Home full of Living Gifts. Every Mass, we renew the Covenant the apostles made with Jesus, we store this in our hearts, we store this in the form of the Holy Spirit. It is living, it is breathing, and it is palpable. Let’s be more aware of this, let’s be more open to the Spirit, let’s realize that we have got to keep it stay within.
So yes, that’s the very Truth in Confirmation. The Spirit is alive and kicking – like a newly hatched baby alligator. It will be strong if we allow it to, it will work wonders in our lives, if we believe. This is why we need strong role models during our Confirmation journey- holy saints and faith-filled sponsors whose spiritual journeys we can emulate and learn from. It also makes for the fun part of Confirmation- choosing the name of a saint whose story really strikes us, choosing to meet with an adult who has experienced faith struggles alongside spiritual rewards.
If you’re yet to be Confirmed, or will be soon, know that it is an amazing feeling to train to be Christ’s soldier. And if you’re like me, been Confirmed for a while, realize that it was all worth the while- the spiritual rewards are endless.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands..” -1 Timothy 1:6.