As we are taught in the catechism of our Faith, the three sacraments of Christian initiation are: baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. These sacraments form the basic action of our lives of Faith. In baptism, of course, we are reborn—cleansed of original sin—into the divine family; we are children of God. In the sacrament of confirmation, the baptized are “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” and they are thereby strengthened for service to the body of Christ.
Confirmation deepens the baptismal life that calls us to be missionary witnesses of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, society and the world. We receive the message of Faith in a deeper and more intensive manner with great emphasis given to the person of Jesus Christ, who asked the Father to give the Holy Spirit to the Church for building up the community in loving service.
Eucharist, of course, the summit of grace and participation in the fullness of the life of Christ, forges the strength that calls the children of God (of whatever age) into the active grace of discipleship. Using the power of the Holy Spirit, the baptized and confirmed believer is called into the world of the secular and relative to be an agent of change for God’s grace and the power of the life of Christ in a world that, in our society, moves away from His principles and the active order of change for the good, the true and the beautiful. The Eucharist is the active means by which the disciple is able to act like Jesus Christ.
This volume of Catholic Life helps us to focus our attention particularly on our younger members who are preparing for or celebrating the active life of grace in the power of the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of Confirmation. Considering the power of the incarnation, the Church teaches us to respect how Jesus grew and matured in human life as a young man.
During the greatest part of His life, Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God (Gal 4:4), a life in the community. From this whole period, it is revealed to us that Jesus was “obedient” to His parents and that He “increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” (Lk 2:51-52)
Pope St. Paul VI taught us in his allocution on the feast of the Holy Family in Nazareth, on 5 January 1964, about the “hidden life,” or the early years of Jesus.
The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus—the school of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us … a lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty and its sacred and inviolable character … A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the “Carpenter’s Son,” in You I would choose to understand and proclaim the severe and redeeming law of human work …To conclude, I want to greet all the workers of the world, holding up to them their great pattern, their Brother, who is God. (CCC #533)
The saintly pope reaches out to all humanity, but most particularly, to the youth of our society and our beloved Church, the action of grace that encourages the young among us to aspire to the gifts of the Holy Spirit that our Blessed Savior made His own during His life on earth—growing up, as He did, by integrating the teachings and the good example of His holy parents, Mary and Joseph.
Today, our young people are especially expected to put into action the life of grace by espousing the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord) and allowing these great virtues to grow within them as they mature, as Jesus did, in wisdom, stature and favor, before God and their brothers and sisters.The Catechism of the Catholic Church forms us to accept the example of Jesus by learning, through the Scripture and the tradition of the Church, how to live our lives as adult members of humanity who, of necessity, must live as members of Christ’s body, the Church. The sacraments of Christian initiation open the doors of life for us and encourage us to enter as Jesus did into the world. We proclaim grace and peace to redeem the world because it is His will and we are His disciples!
Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse
Published in the May/June 2022 issue of Catholic Life Magazine