Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

20 October 2018

Confirmation: A Lump Sum and an Annuity

Following the Catechism’s treatment of the Sacraments, which itself mirrors the ancient order of receiving them, I speak now of Confirmation. The Western Church by and large has reversed the order of the Sacraments of Initiation for historical reasons, postponing Confirmation to a time when children are “more ready”—more ready to stop going to Mass, that is, if ever they did go with any regularity.

I spot a condemnatory sarcasm in my words and tone, through which I nevertheless shall proceed in writing. At least I am conscious of it; the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom and counsel are prompting a gentle self-policing with the virtue of prudence. But exercising prudence doesn’t mean excusing the obligation to speak the truth in Jesus’ Name, whether it is the truths of Christ and the Church teaching, or the reasoned reflection on my own feelings and experience.

Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit completes and perfects the baptized Christian’s identification with Jesus and His Church. Whereas Baptism makes the down payment of the Spirit’s sevenfold gifts, Confirmation instills those gifts in fullness.

If a child profits from the care and direction of baptismal sponsors (Godparents) in the earliest years—even if "care and direction" are entrusted more concretely to the parents—all the more can a Confirmation sponsor’s efforts help the neophyte to live Jesus. Without necessarily hovering, the sponsor should initiate some degree of regular, Christ-centered communication. How the sponsor lives Jesus as a Catholic, publicly and “privately,” is just as important. 

I use quotation marks with "privately" because (1) nothing seems fully private in this technological time except for the seal of Confession and (2) Jesus ominously declared, “Whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops” (Lk 12:3).

In that section of Luke 12 Jesus is exhorting courage in the face of persecution from the Enemy of Salvation. Jesus reminds His followers that He “has our back,” we used to say fifteen minutes ago. “Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows” (12:7). 

Now that's an understatement, because the human person is on a different plane from birds and puppies and every other creature. That difference entrusts to us a certain stewardship (care and direction) over the other creatures, but also invests a certain humble pride: “Wow: God thought enough of me to create me as a human person, for whose salvation God the Son Himself became man.” 

Now God thought no less of the sparrow to create it a sparrow (for each creation has its contributions to the Kingdom), but “to which of the sparrows did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; this day I have begotten you?” (Heb 1:5, except the original text reads “angels” in place of “sparrows”).

I just wish these thoughts might seize the heart of a person, sufficient to enflame him with love for the fullness of truth, goodness, and beauty found in the Catholic Church, so that the Confirmation administered sooner or later might “take.” It doesn’t have to happen according to my personal expectations, preoccupied with outcomes as I am; it just has to happen before the person dies.

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