Monday, August 10, 2009

Confirmation Blues

In a few weeks kids will start registering for Confirmation at our parish. Confirmation time is always a bummer, because in any given class you are statistically likely to run across those one or two kids who are completely unenthused and make no effort to know their Faith but expect to be Confirmed anyhow.

After a particularly thorny case last year (in which a boy being interviewed denied the Holy Spirit was God and said that lust was one of the Gifts of the Spirit), my pastor and I decided to revise our Confirmation policy. Below you can read the entire text of an article I wrote for this week's parish bulletin. Insofar as it is a bulletin article, it is a lot more "pastoral" in tone than you might be used to hearing from me, but I think it gets to the heart of things, and I am attempting to make this point to people who may be less than knowledgeable of their Faith . Let me know what you think:

Revisions in Confirmation Policy

Every year in America, thousands of Catholic teens will present themselves for the Sacrament of Confirmation. They will sit through the Confirmation Mass, hear some inspiring words from their Bishop, receive the Holy Chrism upon their brow, get their certificate and then abandon the practice of the faith immediately after. It is a sad fact, but unfortunately true, as any parish priest will tell you. Why do so many Catholics abandon their the practice of their faith immediately after receiving a Sacrament which is meant to confirm them in grace? If the faith is something that can be so lightly abandoned, what good do these persons think Confirmation will do them anyway?

The fact is many people have a “checklist” mentality about God. He is viewed as an impersonal cosmic bureaucrat who just wants to make certain we have all of our sacramental paperwork in order. Baptism, religious education, Sunday Mass attendance and the other sacraments are just marks on a list, and at the end of our lives, if our checklist is in order, then God has to let us into heaven.

Fortunately, God is not a government bureaucrat; He is a giving Father who wants a relationship of love with His children. The Scriptures tell us that love is the animating factor in all of our undertakings, whether religious or secular: “Above all…put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:15). Our Lord Himself tells us that love is the fulfillment of the law of God (Matt. 22:36-40). If we are truly motivated by divine love, then we will want to worship God and learn about Him, not just do the bare minimum to get our obligations out of the way.

One aspect of love is sincerity, which means that our exterior acts truly reflect our interior dispositions. A sincere person is transparent; they say what they mean and they act according to their convictions. Sincerity is an important virtue in all our actions, but especially in our relations to God, as when we approach the sacraments or petition God in prayer.

It has happened in previous years at this parish that kids have come forward for Confirmation with less than sincere motives. Sometimes they go years without any religious education and then expect to simply show up and get Confirmed when they turn 13. Others come through the program making very little effort to do the readings or understand what they are being prepared for and are shocked at the end when they are told that they are not ready to be Confirmed. Sometimes kids have no desire to be Confirmed at all but go through the motions to satisfy their parents’ wishes.

Receiving a sacrament is always an encounter with God. To better ensure that we are receiving the sacraments sincerely and with the best possible dispositions, we are making a few adjustments to the requirements for Confirmation preparation.

First, if you want your child to be Confirmed here but have had them in a religious ed program at another parish, we are going to ask that you call the office to set up an placement interview in order to ensure that they have the requisite knowledge to begin Confirmation prep here.

Second, if your child has not been in any religious education program recently and has not been home-schooled, they will be expected to complete two years of religious education prior to being admitted to the Sacrament of Confirmation. One cannot simply show up at age 13 with no instruction whatsoever and expect seven months of prep to make up for years of missed catechesis.

Finally, if you are a home-schooling parent who will be presenting a child for Confirmation this year, please make certain that you call the office and register your child well in advance, preferably at the beginning of the school year. Do not show up suddenly a month prior to Confirmation asking to register your child.

The Code of Canon Law, the governing legal framework of the Church, states that “to receive Confirmation lawfully a person must be suitably instructed”; the duty of making sure candidates are instructed falls to our parish priests, who “are to see that the faithful are properly instructed to receive the sacrament” (see Code of Canon Law, 889§2 and 890). Therefore, all candidates will be expected to satisfactorily complete an interview with the pastor prior to being admitted to Confirmation in order to guarantee that they are suitably instructed and properly disposed to receive the sacrament.

We hope you understand the reasoning behind these guidelines, which is the proper care of souls and the preservation of the dignity of the sacrament. It does no good to allow kids to receive sacraments when they do not understand what they are doing or even the basic tenets of the faith, and we only want to ensure that our kids experience the Sacrament of Confirmation as the solemn and grace-filled blessing that God intends.

Please do not hesitate to contact myself or Fr. G if you have questions about this policy. Blessings.


bgeorge77 said...

Well said.

It sadly reminds me of the old joke:

Two parish pastors were commiserating over dinner.

"Oh I have the worst problems with collections, and now to make it worse, I have pigeons roosting up in my belfry. I've tried firecrackers, poisons, everything, nothing works."

"Well," said the other pastor, "I used to have that problem too, but one Sunday afternoon I went and baptized and confirmed them all and I haven't seen any since."

Jack said...

Excellent Boniface, as someone who is (hopfully) being Confirmed in November its heartning to see that you and your priest are making sure that parents take the last Sacrament of initiation (in the west)seriously

Dominus Vobiscum

Maggie said...

This is awesome. I wish our DRE would do the same. sigh.