Confirmation Ceremony (Foxford)
Bhúr gcéad fáilte. I want to welcome you all to this celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Particularly the 55 young people who are coming forward today to receive this Sacrament.
It is Saturday, always the day of Mary in the tradition of the church. And the Gospel story we will hear shortly captures the child of Mary and Joseph, Jesus, entering adulthood.
So as I welcome each one of you young people who are soon to begin the journey into adulthood, I welcome each of your parents too in a very special way. This is a significant moment in the life of each family here.
The family is the place where our best comes out, yes, but can also be the place where the worst comes out. So we need to be forgiven…and at the start of every mass we are reminded to acknowledge our sins, that God forgives, and that we must forgive each other.
‘Did you not know I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’
‘But they did not understand what he meant’…and that on top of ‘how worried your father and I have been, looking for you’.
Today 55 of you have come here with your families, and this story brings home to us a very important fact. The family we call ‘the Holy Family’ was the kind of family we can all identify with.
Jesus at the age of twelve, about to enter the teenage stage, becomes a source of major anxiety and worry for his parents. I doubt if there’s any parent of a teenager or young adult here who cannot identify with Mary’s ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you…’! Parenthood doesn’t get easier when children grow older and become more independent.
And then there’s the calm response of the precocious 12 year old: ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’
The matter-of-factness, the confidence of it! What’s extraordinary is that these parents make no response! Why I wonder? Because the child is telling the truth, his own truth yes, but isn’t it also the truth for every child moving into adulthood: Each one is a child of God first, each one on this earth to be busy with our Fathers affairs: each one has a task from God to do, a vocation or call that is unique to her or him, just as each parent here has been given this unique child to nurture as your unique task and call from God. It is not the task of the parent to decide what the child’s vocation is, but to stand back a bit and so help/enable the child become themselves, and discover for him or herself what ‘affair’ of the Father they are being called to busy themselves with for life.
During the past year, the Holy Father came to England to beatify John Henry Cardinal Newman. In the context of today, and ‘being busy with the Father’s affairs’, I’d like to read for you all, but especially for you who are being Confirmed, something Cardinal Newman wrote as part of a personal prayer that is very relevant to you this day- and to all of us-:
‘I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else has been created; I have a place in God’s counsels (plans), in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by people(man), God knows me and calls me by my name’.
[‘God has created me to do him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for his purposes…. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling’.]
‘God knows me and calls me by my name’. You matter to God. It is so important to know this, and Confirmation is about the fact that you matter to Him and to His plan for the world at this time. He gives his very own Spirit to you, and today you say yes to that Spirit and to that Sprit working in and through you…Each person is called, has a vocation from God, a task to do, a mission nobody else can carry out…
Mary and Joseph did not answer their child, not to mention get into an argument with him, but rather listened to him…and lived with not understanding him at that moment. [This is worth noticing. They respect the mystery of their own child. Every child needs their mystery respected] They could do that because they were people of faith…which means they trusted God, and because they trusted God, they could trust their own child. What a gift for a child it is to have parents who are people of faith! So today we adults are called very much to be renewed in faith, to be renewed in our own Confirmation.
And what a gift for parents to have a child today who is going to take her/his stand with them for Jesus, for Christ, for God, young people who have come to be Confirmed in their Catholic faith. You will stand up in front of us all and profess the faith of the Church, of God’s people. And then the whole congregation will join in prayer with me and the priests as we hold out our hands out over you in the gesture that we call the ‘laying on of hands’, all of us together with you praying confidently that the Holy Spirit come upon you and fill you with his Gifts, that your lives may bear the very best fruits…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
This is then a day of great hope for the future, which is very much in the hands of people who, please God, will bear these fruits. That’s why it is right to celebrate you this day, and that this be a day of celebration for this whole community and parish.