I was not one who hemmed and hawed over my decision to be confirmed. Blessed (or cursed) with as strong a devotion to the community of the Church as to the Holy Spirit, I never doubted that I would or should complete my initiation through the sacrament. The Church was where I belonged.
This evening I sang a truly beautiful confirmation service, and was more than moved by the commitment of the group that chose to be confirmed this Easter season. Poor confirmation, so maligned, so misunderstood. We have totally muddied the waters in the United States by slipping it in with teenage rites of passage, just another float in the “drivers license – prom – high school graduation” parade that defines American adolescence.
We tell kids that confirmation is about formalizing their commitment to the Church, or becoming an “adult in the eyes of the Church”. We fill them with misinformation about what they can and can’t do in the Church’s sacramental life if they don’t get confirmed. We insert one more familial power struggle into an age when kids are already desperate to define themselves as separate from their parents. Smack in the middle of all that anxiety and questioning, we insert a Big Decision.
I don’t agree with everything the Church says (No one does. The Church says a lot). Sometimes I get bored at Church (you are a teenager. Your life is defined by ennui. Additionally, church is sometimes boring). Sometimes the Church lets me down (get used to it). Sometimes I have doubt (welcome to the human race). I’m just not sure (there are very few things in your life, if any, about which you will be sure. Certainty is not necessarily the goal).
Someone suggested to me recently that discernment with younger teenagers has fallen by the wayside because Decision Making Time has been pushed farther and farther away from the teenage years. It would seem, on the surface, that people now make all of their Big Decisions in their twenties and beyond. I couldn’t disagree more.
I think that we start making our Big Decisions as soon as we hit the age of reason. What kind of person am I going to be? Am I going to be generous or stingy with my affection, resources, and good will? Am I going to value people’s opinion of me more than I value my own integrity? Am I going to be a bravely loving or fearfully selfish? Those are the Big Decisions, and we make them over and over again every day. The answers to those questions will help us answer all the other questions: should I marry? Whom should I marry? What job should I have? Where should I live? What shall my relationships be?
Maybe I’m overly idealistic, but I think the call of confirmation is to throw your lot in with those whose lodestars are the love of the Creator, the Light of Christ, and the passion of the Holy Spirit. Life is going to be difficult, whether or not you are a part of a community, so you might as well stay with us. No one is saying that the questions are going to go away, or that you are going to stop learning and growing – all we’re saying is that you won’t be alone in asking the questions, and you won’t be alone in seeking true Light to illuminate your answers.
None of the hymns we sang tonight said “thank you God for making us complete in this sacrament”. They all implored the Spirit for continued guidance as we keep figuring out the answers – and the questions. Confirmation isn’t about an end but a beginning – the beginning of a new life in a community into which one has taken a leap of faith.O breathe on me, O breath of God My will to yours incline Until this selfish part of me Glows with the fire divine.