Confirmation: Sealed by the Holy Spirit
FORT WORTH — One by one, the young Catholics came forward in the sanctuary of St. Andrew Catholic Parish in Fort Worth, their sponsors’ hands firmly planted on their shoulders. Bishop Michael Olson waited at the foot of the altar to anoint the candidates with chrism while saying their Confirmation name.
“Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Olson told them.
Each boy and girl replied “Amen,” and then Bishop Olson said, “Peace be with you.”
With that brief exchange, 53 high schoolers between the ages of 15 and 18 were confirmed, completing the process of initiation into the Catholic community.
“For the candidates, the Mass is the time for them to confirm the Baptismal promises their parents and godparents made for them at Baptism,” said Kathy Lawson, coordinator of Faith Formation for Children and Youth at St. Andrew. “These people helped them to this point in their faith journey.”
Confirmation is an important step in their faith journey, Lawson said.
“When they receive the chrism from the bishop at the Confirmation Mass, this completes their sacraments of initiation and brings them more fully into their Catholic faith,” Lawson said.
In his homily, Bishop Olson related a story about something he saw in 2016 when he visited World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.
Bishop Olson said had gone to visit a friend and was at a transit station preparing to return to Krakow when he saw a young mother with two young boys at her side and holding an infant in her arms. They were waiting for the woman’s husband to arrive.
The younger boy, about six years old, was kneeling and coloring on a piece of paper, the bishop recalled. The older boy, perhaps nine, moved the paper, causing his brother to color outside the lines and making him cry.
The mother admonished the older boy in Polish and gave him a time out, sending him a few feet away to stand quietly.
Bishop Olson said the younger boy then said something in Polish to his older brother that the prelate translated roughly to “nah-nah-nah-nah.” That response drew an admonishment from the mother. All the while, she’s giving a mother’s attention to the baby, Bishop Olson said.
Soon, the father arrived and the family departed, leaving Bishop Olson with a lasting impression of a mother teaching her children while they all waited for the father in the hustle and bustle of a transit station.
It was a scene that reflected the Church itself, the bishop said. The Church has an emphasis on the Father and the Son, “but when the Church teaches, it teaches as a mother,” he said.
Bishop Olson told the young people, “Let us pray that what you receive today will leave you with gratitude.”
After the confirmation ceremony, dozens of parents, sponsors, and friends used cellphones and cameras to record for posterity Bishop Olson surrounded by the large group of smiling high schoolers. The bishop presides at about 70 Confirmation Masses annually in the diocese.
Lawson said the church family is important in the religious growth of the young candidates.
“If our team of adults and peer ministers, their parents, godparents, and sponsors can help the candidates be open to the Holy Spirit throughout their lives they will truly know God’s love and feel it every day,” she said.
Confirmation preparation varies by parish but can include classes, service to the Church or community, and a retreat.
“This [the retreat] is where I always see the youth opening themselves up even more to the Holy Spirit in many ways,” Lawson said.
At St. Andrew, the Confirmation team also had a sponsor and candidate lunch where Lawson said she spoke with the sponsors about being more than the person “who shows up at Confirmation Mass.”
She said that sponsors were given a workbook with three discussion topics to use with their candidates to begin a discussion about their faith journeys together.
Being confirmed is a true milestone for the youths.
“It meant growing in my faith and confirming for the rest of my life my faith, and what it means to be a Catholic,” said 17-year-old Paschal High School student Stephen Pinckney.
“I felt proud, and that more people could understand my faith,” he said.
Joshua Kinch, 16, also a student at Paschal, said Confirmation was the “pinnacle of my faith journey so far.”
The young man, who chose Saint Isidore as his Confirmation name, said that Confirmation “really strengthened me and will help me in my faith journey down the road.”