My youngest daughter was confirmed last Thursday. My Baptists parents graciously attended the ceremony and honestly asked: "What is confirmation? Are they confirmed in the Catholic Church? What does it mean to you?"
Well that was a fair and honest question and I cannot thank them enough for attending and for honestly trying to understand what it was all about. I also appreciate their very kind words about Bishop Mengeling (Bishop of Lansing Michigan) and how humble, profound, and authoritative he was. (I agree. I love our wonderful bishop! He has given me 8 Imprimaturs to date and said to me "Keep them coming. Your work is very important!") Geez, what a great guy :-)
But back to Confirmation. What is it? First, it is the Jewish. Everything in the Catholic Church finds its roots in Judaism. The branches and leaves on a tree cannot exist without the roots and trunk and the root and trunk of the Christian faith is the Old Testament faith of the Jews. The Jewish people are irrevocably blessed by God and we are the wild gentile shoots grafted onto their cultivated olive tree (Romans 11:24). Jewish boys were circumcised on the 8th day after birth. The boys Bar Mitzvah at 13 years old (the girls through Bat Mitzvah at 12 years old). This was a "coming of age" in the covenant. At childhood they were made part of the covenant people through circumcision; at 13 they took the faith of their parents as their own. "I am now a Jew and follower of YHWH on my own, not because my parents make me do it. I am now an adult Jew claiming the faith as an adult. I now take up the obligations and promises of the faith!"
Does that remind you of anything? Why of course, the Catholic sacraments, which follow on our Jewish heritage. Jesus did not deny the Jewish heritage to his followers but built upon it. In the Catholic Church baptism takes the place of circumcision (Col 2:11-12) and like circumcision it is applied to a baby before he is able to make that decision for himself. He is baptized by the faith of his parents, as was the Jewish baby. He is made a part of the covenant people of God — the Church. It was so from the very first century. St. Augustine wrote "Who is so wicked as to want to exclude infants from the kingdom of heaven by prohibiting their being baptized and born again in Christ?"
And then what happens later? Just like the Jewish children, at around the age of 12-13 the child, both girls and boys, are confirmed (Bar Mitzvah'd) into the faith. They take the faith as their own. "I am now a Christian based on my own choice and faith. I am no longer a child of the covenant just because my parents are. I am now an adult Christian ready to take the responsibilities and faith as my own, as an adult!" It is more than the Jewish ceremony though for there is a deeper spiritual reality that takes place in the teenagers very soul. They are indelibly marked by God. The Catechism brilliantly explains the sacrament starting with paragraph 1285.
So my daughter has taken the Catholic faith for herself. Here is what she wrote, "When I was 2 1/2 I was baptized. When I was 7 I received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Now I am 12 and I want to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation. I want to be fully Catholic. I love God and His Church. I want the Holy Spirit to strengthen me in my faith. I need help to serve my Father (God) more and to appreciate more his love and generosity for me. You can never love Jesus too much. I want to end up in heaven and confirmation will help me get there."
Blessed be God forever. Blessed be God for his Son and for his Church. And I thank God that my daughter is confirmed and has taken the Catholic faith publicly for her own. And thanks to Fr. Ed Fride and Christ the King for being the rich instruments of God's favor.
Steve Ray 5/15/2004