This Wed., Dec. 2, we will celebrate here at St Austin Parish the Sacrament of Confirmation. We are hosting Bishop Danny Garcia here to celebrate this wonderful Sacrament with about 30 of our parish’s high-school youth, about 30 young adults from the University Catholic Center, and a couple of others. So it will be a celebration of abundant grace. Please keep all the confirmandi, that is, those being confirmed, in your prayers.
Please note that I did NOT say please keep those who are confirming their faith (active voice) but rather those being confirmed (passive voice). Unfortunately this is frequently misunderstood.
When you make a reservation for a plane flight, or a hotel booking, or a rental car, you usually receive a long string of letters and numbers called a “confirmation” number. The confirmation in this case is like a guarantee. It proves you made the reservation. It is a promise of future service or goods. Similarly, in the Sacrament of Confirmation there is a promise or guarantee of future performance.
There is, to be sure, a promise made on the part of the one being confirmed, namely, to live more fully the life of faith of an adult and responsible Catholic. But this is greatly overshadowed by another and much more important confirmation or guarantee: the one made by God. God confirms, or re-affirms, God’s choice of the person as God’s adopted and beloved son or daughter. God made this original choice at the person’s Baptism. In the Sacrament of Confirmation God “confirms” that choice. This is made clear in the formula of the Sacrament: “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
It is not what we do, but what is done to us, that is important. This is why in some cultures (Spanish) children are often confirmed as babies at their Baptism. The Orthodox churches also confirm infants. Some Catholic dioceses (such as San Angelo,Texas) also confirm children BEFORE they make their First Holy Communion.
I think this would be a good practice for us to follow. It would make clear that the Sacrament is not a merit badge you earn by doing a certain number of service projects, going to a certain number of classes, learning certain things, memorizing certain passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, etc. Rather the Sacrament is grace, which means “free.” God pours His grace on the confirmandi, even though there is no way they could ever earn or be worthy enough to receive it.
It seems fitting and appropriate that we celebrate this Sacrament in the First Week of Advent, at the beginning of the new liturgical year, a time of new beginnings and new grace. I regret that I am not able to be here for this celebration, as I will be in a meeting in New York City Tuesday through Thursday of this week. But all of the confirmandi, their sponsors and their parents will be in my prayers. I hope that they will be in yours as well.