22 March 2007

A great encounter with God

Over the past two days I’ve heard in excess of a hundred confessions. Nearly fifty of them were our school’s second graders. The rest were various children in CCD and several adults who have entered the Church through a Profession of Faith. Their confessions were part of their preparation for receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation on Saturday, and for most of them it also will be the day they receive Holy Communion for the very first time.

Last year was our first year to have the restored order of the Sacraments of Initiation, returning to the more ancient sequence of receiving Baptism, then Confirmation, followed by First Holy Communion. Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, makes mention of the Holy Eucharist as being the “completion” of Christian initiation in section 17:

“If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the Church's life and mission, it follows that the process of Christian initiation must constantly be directed to the reception of this sacrament. As the Synod Fathers said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities the close link between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is sufficiently recognized. It must never be forgotten that our reception of Baptism and Confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist. Accordingly, our pastoral practice should reflect a more unitary understanding of the process of Christian initiation. The sacrament of Baptism, by which we were conformed to Christ, incorporated in the Church and made children of God, is the portal to all the sacraments. It makes us part of the one Body of Christ, a priestly people. Still, it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of Christ's Body and for ever greater witness to the Gospel in the world. The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the centre and goal of all sacramental life.”

This restored order is now the ordinary practice in some dioceses, and we are pleased to have returned to this venerable tradition in our parish. The Code of Canon Law states that Confirmation is to be administered to those who have been baptized and who have reached the age of reason. Since our bishops’ Conference has not decreed otherwise, it seems wise to follow the mind of the Church in this. Postponing the reception of Confirmation until the teenage years (when young people need it most) comes at the time when they are least likely to present themselves for it. Better to arm them with the grace early. It won’t go bad, and it won’t run out. And they’ll have it to use.

So Saturday will be the day. Lots of adults who should have been confirmed years ago will be presented, and it’s a great day for them. But especially moving to me is to present these young children, seven or eight years old. They will have pondered over their Confirmation names. We’ll probably have a dozen or so who take St. Therese – she’s always a favorite, and quite rightly so. There’ll be plenty who will add Francis or Anthony or Mary to their baptismal name. And we’ll have a few marchers-to-a-different-beat who will have searched Butler's Lives and found a new spiritual friend in an obscure saint whose name will forever shine in their life. And after they’re confirmed these new soldiers of Christ will be ready to kneel at the rail to receive the Body and Blood of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for the very first time.

I’ll be as happy and proud as a new father.