Last week, we learned about Confirmation – and we started off with an honest look at our readiness for this sacrament the hard way. We reviewed the questions to our test and discovered that most every item mentioned was something that should have been learned somewhere between kindergarden and 5th grade. In the process of doing this, we all discovered holes that we need to work on. You all agreed that you wanted to catch up on your prayers and other areas on your own time, so we can continue to learn as we do during class. Not to worry though. Did you know that formal classroom education and the university systems were first created by the Catholic Church? We have great, “classical” ways to learn more, learn faster, and with less effort. I will teach you these tricks during class time, all while using them on the other things you will be learning as well.
In the previous week, we learned that when we were Baptized as infants, we had godparents to help us during the ceremony. Our minds were not strong enough at the time to accept the responsibility that comes with being a Catholic. Confirmation fortifies, – or strengthens – the grace you received at Baptism. What makes it cool is that you will be professing your faith for yourself. You won’t need an adult to speak up for you anymore! But as Peter Parker was told just before he became Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
We talked about how it used to be long, long ago, that young people were often seen and treated as adults. They often received the same responsibilities, trial punishments, and expectations of adults, and so forth. As the expected level of education grew and grew, it seems that so did “adolescence”. Society continues to have lower and lower expectations of you young people. Not so with the Catholic Church. When you become Confirmed – when you speak up for yourself and say that you claim The Faith as your very own – the expectations become higher. If you can’t get a ride to Mass, you are expected to do your absolute best to get there. As you start to make some money on your own, you can share a personal sacrifice to help the community, or use it to light a candle for someone you want to pray for. If you have a younger brother or sister, you can help them with their prayers and religious ed homework. You should be praying at night without needing to be reminded. You can be the one to lead grace before dinner. Fasting and abstinence is something you would join in on as well. There’s no shortage of good things that you will be able to do to help our community through the Church.
Confirmation and Baptism. How are they alike? Let’s start with the oil.
There is that special oil called Chrism. It smells just Heavenly. It is used at Baptism, Confirmation, and during the ordination (or ‘making’) of priests. We talked about how body builders use oil to make themselves look more powerful, how women would used it to make their skin look more radiant, how fighters (and even today’s boxers) use oil when preparing for combat, so punches roll off of them better and they can continue to fight longer. But more importantly, we talked about how oil has been used since very ancient times to make someone a priest, prophet or king. While we have great respect these roles for their importance, you need to understand that YOU are being marked as someone who is responsible for making sacrifices (like a priests), speaking the truth (like prophets), and serving, feeding, and protecting the helpless (like a good king). When we receive the Chrism oil at Confirmation, we are choosing to support or shoulder these tasks along with those other adults in the Catholic Church who continue to take their faith seriously.
Sponsors! We talked about sponsors as well. During Baptism, we have a sponsor who speaks on our behalf. Throughout your preparation for Confirmation, instead of a godparent, you will have a sponsor who helps to coach you along. Do you remember when we talked about the traits you would want in a coach? Some of your answers included someone who knows the rules well, someone who played well, someone who played the game in a higher level or division, someone who knows what is needed to win, someone who takes the ‘game’ very serious. The fact is, if you want to learn how to be excellent, and enjoy being on the winning side, you want to pick the best possible coach. The same goes when picking out a sponsor. You get to choose who you want for a sponsor. Do you want a sponsor who doesn’t go to Mass? You’d be better off getting a coach who smokes and eats powdered donuts in a lawn chair in the middle of the track field.
Do you want to pick someone who goes to Mass once a week? I’d say that’s a good but minimum starting point. Do you want someone who prays daily? Absolutely. Do you want someone who goes to Mass during the week or is very involved at the Church? Sounds much, much better. Do you want someone who goes to Confession often? Now you’re working with someone who can teach you the strategy you need to win.
Oh, let’s talk homework again. We are warming you up in a way for your Confirmation – for when you receive it in high school. We are starting by having you think about who you would want to choose as a good Confirmation sponsor. Because, as we learned with our test, everyone has many prayers they need to know and memorize, you may need to be asking them for some help in memorizing them. And remember, praying is something that you do. It’s like hitting a baseball or playing volleyball. You can’t just think about it to be able to do it well enough to win. In fact, to practice the skills necessary to be good in these sports really means practicing these sports with others. In a nutshell, this will mean that you may eventually praying with your future sponsor as well.
We will talk a little more next week about Confirmation next week – the cool stuff that takes place during the ceremony. More to look forward to!