“Confirmation isn’t a graduation”; a phrase probably hundreds of young people hear across our diocese as they prepare for confirmation. But what if it is? Not a graduation from the Faith, but a graduation to a deeper Faith; a new life in the Holy Spirit.
As I reflect on confirmation, I can’t help but think of my own. During grades 7-8 at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Independence, I had a bit of a conversion; some of my teachers and my pastor at the time gave me a good example and started to ask me serious questions about my Faith. I thought of things I had never paid much attention to during my whole tenure in Catholic schools: Is the Eucharist actually Jesus? What does the Church teach on x, y and z? How do these things change my life? How do these things not change my life? Does God have a plan for my life? During that time, my pastor also asked me if I had ever thought of being a priest; he planted a seed that would grow into an ordination some 13 years later.
If you have received confirmation, be sure to use the gifts you have been given. You have been given a new strength to live the Faith even when it is difficult.
All that being said, I had a lot of ground to make up! I had just eked by in religion classes for close to seven years. Further, we hadn’t attended Mass much as a family (although my parents were happy to attend after I started asking to go). So, as I started confirmation preparation, I started to see the Faith as so much more than just some nice Bible stories and some nice songs at Mass … infinitely more. There were well-founded reasons for all the things I had started to do and believe out of faith. Further, our Faith had eternal consequences. The seed of my vocation was certainly growing at this same time, and I entered Holy Cross House of Formation High School Seminary and began attending classes at Aquinas High School (Go Blugolds!) my sophomore year.
During the fall of that sophomore year, I was to be confirmed. I remember being interviewed by Sister Ann (the DRE at Ss. Peter and Paul at the time) as the day approached and still not knowing a lot of the answers to even some basic questions, but knowing I would learn them. I had come a long way in my Faith in that short time, but there was so much more. My confirmation was probably a very similar experience to pretty much anyone who has been confirmed; Bishop Listecki asked me some simple questions about my patron saint (St. John Berchmans) and, without much ado, sealed me with the Holy Spirit. Externally, my confirmation wasn’t terribly astounding, but, even if I didn’t know it at the time, my confirmation marked a definite line in my life; there was no going back. I graduated. I graduated from my former life of lukewarm Faith to a new life of Faith in the Holy Spirit.
The same could be true for any Catholic out there, confirmed or preparing for confirmation. Confirmation could just be a nice thing; wear some nice clothes, listen to a nice homily and have a nice reception. That could be the end; a graduation from the Faith. Or, it could be the beginning of a new and amazing journey in the Faith. If you are preparing for confirmation, don’t take it lightly; prepare well. You don’t have to be a published theologian at the end, but a little goes a long way; ask why we believe the things we do—your catechists will love the questions! The Holy Spirit wants to prepare a spot in you to dwell in a new way; to give you gifts and fruits you could hardly dream of. If you have received confirmation, be sure to use the gifts you have been given. You have been given a new strength to live the Faith even when it is difficult.
A graduation marks the end of something, but it also marks the beginning. When we graduate from high school, we don’t stop learning; the consequences for not learning just become greater. So as we reflect on confirmation, we come in all humility before a God who loves us; we ask Him to send us Himself in the Holy Spirit, to dwell in us a new and powerful way each and every day. We ask Him for wisdom, fortitude and all the gifts. We ask His help to graduate from our former life to a new life in the Spirit.
Father Brandon Guenther
Associate Pastor of Notre Dame Parish and Holy Ghost Parish in Chippewa Falls and St. Bridget Parish in Springfield
Published in the May/June 2022 issue of Catholic Life Magazine