Preparation for Confirmation

The lack of catechesis in the Church is frightening, the lack of theological preparation of young catholic men and women is sad. The current preparation for Confirmation is the symbol of our suffering modern Church. If one is curious to understand the state of crisis in our Church he has to simply attend confirmation classes in a dying parish to understand what I am talking about and see how the youth sees this sacrament as a sort of “graduation” out of the Church. Confirmation is seen as the end of the formal religious journey of a young kid, it’s the last ceremony, the last religious family gathering, nothing more. If people knew the responsibility that a confirmed christian has, they would tremble before the idea that the Holy Spirit is about to confirm an indelible seal on this young man or woman. This article is a short summarized catechesis for parents who want to form their children, or for confirmed Catholics who want to understand what happened to them on that special day. Of course if a young Catholic who is preparing for the sacrament is reading this article, this is also for him!
If one doesn’t have time to read the whole article I will write here below a short schematic summary

  1. Who is Jesus: God
  2. His Offices: Prophet, Priest and King
  3. He wants you to participate in them through Baptism and Confirmation
  4. Baptism gives you internal gifts as a son of God, Confirmation externalizes these gifts and makes you into a disciple. One must live out faithfully (not be in mortal sin) his baptism to receive the Graces of Confirmation
  5. Three practical ways to grow in your fidelity to your Baptism: Pray, Eradicate sin (and grow in repentance), Love radically
  6. Three practical ways to live your confirmation: Relational Ministry, Apologetics, Intentional Missions
  7. Two obstacles: Laxism and Pride. Solution: Devotion to Mary (for Zeal and Humility)

To explain the sacrament of confirmation we must understand who Jesus is. Jesus is God. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, who took on flesh coming down to earth to redeem humanity. He is the God-man. This is who He is.
But what did He do? I am an adopted son of God, but I am also a student, being a student is what I do, my role, my job, my office. Following this analogy, what were Jesus’ offices and functions here on earth? He had three offices. Jesus was a King, a Priest and a Prophet. He is the King of Kings, the King of the Universe, the fulfillment of the kingship of David, the King of the hearts of the redeemed. Jesus was a priest, the fulfillment of all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, the priest (and the victim) of the greatest sacrifice of history, the sacrifice for the redemption of humanity, the sacrifice of the Cross. Jesus was a prophet, the ultimate and definitive messenger of God to humanity, the completion of God’s message, He is the very Word of God.

But just as a father might invite his son to participate in his job, so Jesus wants us to share in His offices. Take for example a father who works at a pastry shop and lets his son hand a pastry to his customers, that would be a cute scene, a scene were a child participates, by a free non necessary gift, in the job of his father. Another example of participation could be a father that takes his son on his lap while driving in the parking lot and letting him (carefully and with caution) steer a bit the steering wheel. Jesus by his free gift wants to have us participate in His three offices. And He does that primarily in two ways. With the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. All what I will talk about cannot be done by our own power, it is always necessarily aided by God’s Grace.

With baptism we partake in the kingship of Christ by permitting Him to be the King of our soul. By eradicating the evil within us, by truly converting and submitting our whole being to the King. By doing this, by restoring His dominion over us, we share in His kingship.
With baptism we share in the priesthood of Christ by offering our lives as a sacrifice, we decide to pick up our cross, and suffer redemptively, every sickness, every failure, every delusion, we offer all our pain, all our hardship, we become conformed to Christ crucified, in this life long sacrifice of self to God we share in the priesthood of Christ.
With baptism we share in the prophetic office of Christ by witnessing the Truth and love of God with our deeds, with our lives. In every circumstance, we intentionally desire to witness Christ’s love, righteousness, beauty and truth, by giving a witness of our transformed lives.

With confirmation we are commissioned as disciples of Christ. We receive an indelible seal of the Holy Spirit on our soul that makes us into disciples. All these interior gifts of baptism are now externalized, made public for the building of the Kingdom, starting from the prophetic office of Christ. We are strengthened in the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that empower us as missionary disciples to convert the whole world to Christ (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord).
Starting from the prophetic office, with confirmation we are called not only to witness with our deeds, but we are called to speak, to proclaim the Truth of God, to make other disciples. We are empowered with the Holy Spirit to set the world on fire with our spoken evangelizing witness. This is how we live our prophetic office with confirmation.
From here, we are then called to offer as a sacrifice our surroundings, our school, our workplace, our family, like this we live out our share in the priesthood of Christ. We start to sanctify everything around us and our offering becomes not only our life as a sacrifice, but we bring our surroundings at the feet of the Cross too.
All of this has the final end to restore the Kingship of Christ in the whole world, not only in ourselves, but now we are called to fight the powers of evil that are fighting for the dominion over the world. We are called to subdue the powers of darkness with God’s help and bring forth the light of Christ to everyone so “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10:11)

Baptism Confirmation
King: Dominion of Christ over Self King: Dominion of Christ over the World
Priest: Offering of One’s life as a Sacrifice Priest: Offering of Surroundings as Sacrifice
Prophet: Witness with Life and Deeds Prophet: Witness with Words

(Taken and inspired from Dr Jacob Wood’s book, Speaking the Love of God)

We saw how all the gifts that are somewhat “internal” in baptism used for the personal conversion of a follower of Christ are then with confirmation “put on steroids” to be externalized for the conversion and sanctification of the whole world. What must be stressed to the person preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation is that he will yes get a permanent indelible seal of the Holy Spirit as a disciple, but he will not receive the Graces of the sacrament if he has a broken relationship with Christ (if he is in mortal sin). If one has not truly restored Christ’s dominion over his life, how can he then to that for the whole world? If one has not offered his life as a sacrifice, how can he offer his surroundings? If one is not able to be a witness with his life, how can one be a witness with his words? One cannot give what he doesn’t have, if you do not have Christ, you will not be able to bring Him to others. One must live out his baptism to be able to live out his confirmation. If a person received the sacrament of confirmation when he was unfaithful to is baptism, when he repents of his offenses and goes to confession, he will then receive also the graces of confirmation that couldn’t enter in him when he was separated from God, this is called “reviviscence”, it means to come back to life. Once one is not in mortal sin anymore he receives those graces, and from then the more he grows closer to Christ in his baptismal promises, the more effectively he will live out his confirmation. To make it simple, the best preparation for discipleship is to first become a saint! And even if this can start in one moment and there is an initial conversion and turning away from our sinful ways, yet this process is also ongoing during our whole Christian life, we must keep strengthening our baptismal sharing in the offices of Christ to then be effective disciples.

This nice theological explanation is beautiful , the chart is inspiring and this theory is fascinating. But how can one practically grow in his baptismal gifts and then practically be a confirmed disciple? There are three practical ways to be faithful and grow in our baptismal promises.
1) Pray, 2) Eradicate Sin, 3) Love radically with your actions.
Prayer is necessary to know God, to love Him, how can we have a relationship with someone yet never talk to him? Prayer is the foundation of the Christian life. We must grow close to the Eucharist in Mass, even daily Mass, then develop personal prayer and meditation, maybe with a daily or weekly holy hour in front of a tabernacle or in Eucharistic adoration. It is of fundamental importance that the Eucharist becomes the very source and summit of our life (just as the Catechism says)! A daily rosary meditating on the mysteries is also an amazing spiritual weapon. It is imperative to develop a prayer life even at young age. This is the basis, the most fundamental way to develop a relationship of love towards God, your loving Father.
One must live a life of virtue to have a relationship with God. Yes, God can reach for a lost soul, can touch his heart in the midst of the darkness of his sin, but then he calls him to leave his sin and follow Him. 1 John 2:15 explains this reality very well “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.” The commandments are the necessary requisite, foundation, protectors and guarantors of love (for more on this read the encyclical Veritatis Splendor of St John Paul the II). All of the law must be followed out of a relationship of love for Christ, it is not a simple checklist of deeds to do or not do, but the necessary conditions for a relationship of love for God. I would advise the reader to read 1 Corinthians 13 to understand better this reality. To develop this second point, it is imperative that one grows in a spirit of repentance and contrition, one must grow a hatred for sin out of love for God to truly advance in the spiritual life, and cultivate sorrow for having offended the perfect and loving God with our horrible sin. The best way to do so is with an examination of conscience and then the sacrament of confession. The Catechism defines repentance as the medium for ongoing conversion:

1430 Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.23

1431 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).24

1432 The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart.25 Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: “Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!”26 God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced:27

The Catechism reports this beautiful quote from S. Ambrose: “there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance”, repentance with confession restores baptism after one has betrayed it with a mortal sin. With repentance we know that no matter how far we fell, we are not too far to be restored in God and experience once again His amazing and consoling love, with repentance God will pick you up from the dirt you are in, put you back together and make a miracle out of you! To grow in repentance my advice is to read and meditate on Psalm 51, examine your conscience and then go to the sacrament of confession.
My third advice is to love radically the last, the outcast, the isolated, your family, the people at your workplace. One must start feeding the poor, visiting the prisoners, dying to self for love of others in practical concrete ways and commitments. It doesn’t have to be an organized association, you can also go and feed the homeless on your own, ask God to give you the strength and boldness to live radically the works of Mercy;

Corporal ones = To give drink to the thirsty; To clothe the naked; To harbour the harbourless; To visit the sick; To ransom the captive; To bury the dead.

Spiritual ones = To instruct the ignorant; To counsel the doubtful; To admonish sinners; To bear wrongs patiently; To forgive offences willingly; To comfort the afflicted; To pray for the living and the dead

There are three practical ways to live out one’s confirmation mission
1) Relational Ministry, 2) Apologetics, 3) Intentional Missions
The first one is to be a credible witness through relationships, once one is grounded and rooted in his baptism, he has to testify the power of Christ in his life to others by building relationships. He must build friendships (being very careful to not be led astray by bad friendships) and in those relationships show unconditional love and speak in the right occasion the reason for why he lives as he lives, Christ. It is through the personal relationships that we build at school, on the workplace, on social media, that we will be used by God as His disciples. This is a ministry based in the building of friendships and relationships. It is the most fundamental to proclaim Christ.
The second one is apologetics. This is the rational defense of the faith. If one loves the truth, he must also fight against error. One cannot love someone without also defending him. (Quote St Thomas). St Peter warns us against false teachers and heretics in 2 Peter 2:1-3. One must grow in the knowledge of the faith and know why it is reasonable and why error is also unreasonable. Of course our faith is rooted in the Holy Spirit and we don’t have to have a rational justification for all our beliefs at all times, but we must know that what we believe is true, and it never goes against reason, while error, no matter how appealing it might seem is also against reason. Some great resources to fight against atheism can be found in several places like: the books of Ed Feser, the books of Peter Kreeft, resources from Frank Turek (www.crossexamined.org), Werner Wallace (www.coldcasechristianity.com), William Lane Craig (his apologetics is good, even though one ought to not follow his theology for he is not Catholic, https://www.reasonablefaith.org), and some good defense against christian heresies and good explanations for Catholic doctrine can be found at the website Catholic Answers (www.catholic.com),
Go on mission intentionally. Follow the consoling inspirations of the Holy Spirit, enter into a solid orthodox group of Christians like Regnum Christi or the Opus Dei, build fellowship with solid Christians, you don’t have to fight this battle alone. Do mission trips that are centered in Christ, for everyone can do volunteer work, but not everyone can do Christ-centered charity and evangelization. Enter a youth group (but be prepared that not everyone will be on your same page, evangelize also them) But you can also do ministry on your own but always with submission to the Church like so many saints who didn’t wait for a group but started radically their mission as they could. Start handing out sandwiches to homeless people, use that as a way to talk to them and then bring them the message of the Gospel (be prepared to actually now it, https://confident-faith.com/2017/12/28/the-message-of-the-gospel/ ), if nearby where you live there is a “gay pride”, print out Bible verses on love, conversion and the beauty of repentance and be ready to share your testimony, every day that you go to school have in mind to speak God’s message to one person, be a light in your parish for you should evangelize also there because in the Church nowadays not all groups work for conversion of souls to love and Truth of Christ.

To conclude this very short preparation for the sacrament of Confirmation, I would like to warn the reader that there will be constantly two obstacles in your life that will try to turn the fire of the Holy Spirit down in your life: laxism and pride. Laxism a terrible tactic of the devil, it is directly opposed to Zeal, it inserts laziness in your soul, it puts you in a state of appeasement with the world when instead you should be fighting against the world, it will have you settle for lesser goods and tell you to stop trying to strive for perfection (something we are called to in Matthew 5:48). Laxism will turn your fire and your desire for God down and make you into an unfaithful servant. In times of dryness one must be prepared to persevere with the will, to concentrate on willing God through the dryness even when emotions are not there. The other obstacle is pride, pride will destroy all your ministries, will mix all your holy intentions and dispose you to evil, we must grow an awareness to pride and fight it within ourselves every time we sense it. The greatest antidote to these two cancerous spiritual dangers is a strong devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. Our Lady is the most perfect exemplar creature of zeal and humility, the opposing virtues of the vices of laxism and pride. If we learn from Mary, we will learn to be zealous and humble in the most extraordinary way. One must start praying the rosary with devotion meditating on the mysteries and I would encourage the reader to consecrate himself to Mary through a proper Marian consecration (for more information https://totalconsecration.newevangelizers.com/consecration-explained/ )
So grow close in a personal relationship of love and devotion towards Our Lady and ask Her everyday for greater zeal and greater humility, if you collaborate with those graces you will be the amazing, joyful, true, authentic, incredible, zealous, humble disciple you were created to be.

In Christ and Mary

Ed Da Pra

 

I will report even here the summary of the article

  1. Who is Jesus: God
  2. His Offices: Prophet, Priest and King
  3. He wants you to participate in them through Baptism and Confirmation
  4. Baptism gives you internal gifts as a son of God, Confirmation externalizes these gifts and makes you into a disciple. One must live out faithfully his baptism to receive the Graces of Confirmation
  5. Three practical ways to grow in your fidelity to your Baptism: Pray, Eradicate sin (and grow in repentance), Love radically 
  6. Three practical ways to live your confirmation: Relational Ministry, Apologetics, Intentional Missions
  7. Two obstacles: Laxism and Pride. Solution: Devotion to Mary (for Zeal and Humility)

One Comment Add yours

  1. Castory says:

    Hello Edo! Praise be to the Lord who gives us life and strength to serve him and fellow human beings. I would like to express my appreciations and thanks giving for the wonderful work you are doing sharing spiritual education to us. The article touches a source of some of the today’s spiritual matters specifically on the responsibility of parents into the spiritual formation of their children. In our African context we experience such problem too, that some of the parents do not take the spiritual formation of the children to be a serious role. The results of poor spiritual formation from parents lead into the weak faith among children and in most situations children after confirmation they think they are done with spiritual formation except for those join seminary etc. Thus i will share this article to my friends and comrades so that it may inspire them to realize the important of what you have presented.
    Thank you Brother.
    God bless you.

    Like

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