First, I think it’s important to “get back to the basics” and look at what sacraments are in the first place. I think us Catholics are so used to the sacraments in our day to day life that we forget just how amazing they are.
The Catechism says that sacraments “are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (CCC 1131). Without all the big words, this is saying that the sacraments are ways, paths, that Jesus established for us to encounter him and be transformed into his image. We sometimes talk about grace like it’s some abstract thing, but grace is simply Christ in us, Divine life. The grace we receive from the sacraments transforms us into God. Next time you go to Mass pay attention to the words the priest says at the altar as he mixes the water and wine, “May we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
Jesus instituted Confirmation then, together with all the other Sacraments, so that we might have union with God, that we might participate in His Divine Life. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers of the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the Son of God (CCC 1129). Thus, in Confirmation, The Holy Spirit anoints the candidate with himself, thus bringing the candidate into a more profound union with God. In other words, Confirmation is not merely something we do, or even, something we receive, but it is a necessary moment in God's plan, God's unwavering desire, to draw each one of us deeper into the Life of the Blessed Trinity.
However, we cannot just go and receive the sacraments without first preparing ourselves. The Catechism says that the sacraments “must be preceded by evangelization, faith, and conversion. [They] can then produce [their] fruits in the lives of the faithful” (CCC 1072). The Catechism even gives us specific guidance for how to prepare individuals for the sacrament of Confirmation. So I want to use that passage to frame the vision for Confirmation preparation that we have here at our parish. That paragraph says:
“Preparation for Confirmation should aim at leading the Christian toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit - his actions, his gifts, and his biddings - in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life. To this end catechesis for Confirmation should strive to awaken a sense of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ, the universal Church as well as the parish community. The latter bears special responsibility for the preparation of confirmands” (CCC 1309)
Notice how the Church doesn’t say that we need to prepare people by sending them to a class or simply teaching them about the sacraments. Obviously those things are important, but the most important thing is that the students have a relationship with Jesus, “a more intimate union with Christ.” To that end, here at MHT we have the students preparing for Confirmation attend at least one (though most attended several) full weekend retreat. This can be a Steubenville conference or one of our own high school retreats. Corey Luna has some incredible things going with our youth ministry retreats, there the students have multiple opportunities to encounter Christ in Adoration, Confession, prayer teams, or small groups.
The second thing the Catechism mentions as essential for Confirmation preparation is that the candidates know the voice and actions of the Holy Spirit and are capable of taking on the apostolic, evangelical, mission of the Church. So on top of the weekend retreat we have the candidates attend a one day retreat here at the parish that focuses on who the Holy Spirit is, listening to the Spirit, and the importance of prayer. There we also prepare them for our Door-to-Door Evangelization Project. The best way to learn how to share Jesus with others is to put yourself out there and talk about Jesus with other people. So we break the students into teams and send them around Fowler going door-to-door asking if anyone has anything they would like prayers for.
Finally, the Church says that candidates should have “a sense of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ, the universal Church as well as the parish community.” So we incorporate multiple service projects into Confirmation preparation, some that benefit our parish and some that benefit the wider community, to help awaken that feeling of responsibility and belonging to the Church.
All of these things, and many that I didn’t mention, are directed toward helping the students really receive the fruit given to them at Confirmation. And what great fruit that is! The Catechism says that Confirmation “roots us more deeply” in the love of the Father, “unites us more firmly to Christ, increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us, renders our bond with the Church more perfect, and gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ…” (1303). Certainly this is fruit worth preparing for.
Please keep the Confirmation candidates in your prayers and consider joining us for the Mass with Bishop Boyea on Monday. The Church says that every Confirmation is a new Pentecost, so let’s pray that the Spirit will use these students, and all of us who have already been Confirmed, to spread the Gospel and heal our broken world like the first apostles did.
Christ’s Peace, Paul