For many years Confirmation was widely seen as a Catholic rite of passage, a sacred ritual where someone accepts the faith for themselves and commits to the responsibilities of being an adult Catholic. What that has looked like here at MHT is that when a student reached a particular grade they started Confirmation preparation and were, for the most part, expected to receive the sacrament along with everyone in that grade.
However, for the past few years the diocese has been rethinking how we prepare students for Confirmation. They began by looking at what the Catechism and Canon Law say about Confirmation and discovered that the approach presented in these documents is much more personal. The Church is clear Confirmation is not a rite of passage where the individual confirms their own faith but rather an outpouring of grace where God confirms and strengthens the recipient. So rather than a “conveyor belt” of students receiving Confirmation because they reached a certain age, the Church expects the local parish to discern each individual’s desire and disposition for the sacrament they want to receive. Neither is it the decision of a candidate’s parents or family. There are only two people that discern the readiness of a candidate to receive Confirmation: the person themselves and the Church.
Based on this, Corey and I discerned that the best way to determine something so personal was to have multiple interviews with students. Those meetings focus on a student’s desire and disposition for Confirmation. Based on that interview we give each student a preparation program tailored to them that could include recommendations for daily prayer, retreats, catechesis, Mass, Confession, etc. These recommendations are their “Confirmation requirements” and each student’s recommendations look different. Then after a few months each student schedules another interview with us where we follow up on those recommendations. From that meeting the student and the interviewer discern if they are ready for Confirmation or if they should wait a few more months and meet again. Whenever they are ready they will attend a Confirmation retreat later in the year and then be Confirmed at the next Confirmation Mass with Bishop Boyea. This process means students are free to take however long they need and can be Confirmed any year during high school.
The switch from large group Confirmation preparation to personal discernment has been really fruitful. Because the personal interviews are focused on helping students articulate their relationship with God now and where they want it to grow, they have been like spiritual direction. Corey and I are able to provide really personal and concrete direction for each student to grow in their prayer life. We are able to answer their questions about the faith and address the specific struggles that they may have about a particular Church teaching. We are able to help them see where God is acting in their life and how He’s speaking to them in prayer.
Beyond that, because of the personal insight we are gaining about the students, Corey and I have been able to adjust our other events in order to meet the needs that we hear being expressed in the interviews. Further, one very practical and unexpected benefit of moving away from large group preparation was that the social distancing restrictions due to COVID have had little negative impact on Confirmation preparation because we are still able to meet with students one on one. Now, we are still figuring out the best way to have a Confirmation retreat later in the school year with the restrictions, but that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Please pray for all of the students in this process. Please pray specifically that the Lord will meet them exactly where they are at in their faith life and lead them forward. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal Himself personally to them and empower them like He did for the Apostles at Pentecost. Pray that they will have a renewed relationship with the Holy Spirit and, like Mary, hear His voice and respond to His promptings throughout their entire life.