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Number 110, May 4, 2015
A Confirmation Problem
Recently Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu instructed his diocese to start the process of returning the Sacraments of Initiation to their proper order: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist. Presumably, that means no more confirmations for junior or senior high school Catholics.
That sounds like a good idea. After all, many of us remember those years as tough times: challenging periods with self-esteem questions, adolescent hormonal turmoil, initial sexual impulses, peer pressure, identity crises, doubts about being accepted, approval needs… the list really does go on and on. And our current society in the USA forces those confusing issues onto even younger kids.
Not the ideal setting for confirming our belief in God, Christ and the Catholic Church. Moving Confirmation out of that transitional time period makes sense to me. And I understand Bishop Silva's (and many others) argument about Confirmation as part of the initiation flow into Catholicism.
But my personal opinion is to leave Confirmation for adults who are more likely capable of making a genuine, life-time commitment to the Catholic version of Christianity. Not for infants or teenagers. Any time during adulthood would be fine with me, and baptized Catholics would not have to be confirmed to be full members of the community. I think that practice would be more honest and more effective. The Holy Spirit would have less trouble activating the grace of the sacrament with confirmed and committed adult Catholics.
Right now the Spirit has to get through all that pre-teen and adolescent stuff to plant the grace and seeds of a confirmed Catholic life. Whew!
Frankly, though, that's not my main problem with Confirmation. My primary concern now is with the celebrant, the Bishop. There are bishops who, because of their arrogance, terrorize the confirmandi, intimidate their catechists, berate their pastors, infuriate their parents, scandalize the community, pulverize the gospel, stiff-arm the Holy Spirit and re-crucify Jesus.
You don't believe me? I'm exaggerating? I can name names and catalogue anecdotes, parish by parish. And it is not just one diocese or one bishop.
We shouldn't be surprised. After 30 years of selecting bishops who did not become bishops because of their pastoral skills, we end up with bishops who don't recognize a pastoral moment when it slaps them in the face. They were selected for their doctrinal loyalty, chancery office experience, and their rigid personalities. They officiate at Confirmations but they don't “confirm”.
I know bishops who are warm human beings and who view the annual parish Confirmations as opportunities to visit with familiar faith communities, really confirm the people in their faith, and welcome the confirmandi into a new dimension of their Catholicity. They do not grill the students for how well they remember their catechism answers. They do not fuss over their confirmation names. They do not kick out adults whom they judge did not receive sufficient instruction.
Instead, these pastoral bishops rejoice in being among their friends, including the pastor, whom they don't get to see too often, and they encourage the students, their parents and the faith community to deepen their faith, to rejoice in the Christ who saves, comforts and challenges us, and to expand their love for God and others because God first loved us.
For these wonderful bishops, Confirmation is not about them, their authority, theological brilliance, proper procedures, or the hierarchy. For them, Confirmation is about the people and their needs, their desire for community, their intention of passing on the faith experience to a younger generation, and their concerns and joys. These bishops are like shepherds who know their flock.
The immediate issue with Confirmation is not when it should be celebrated. In my opinion, Confirmation is a sacrament in search of an identify, somewhat like an adolescent. Does it really belong as an extension of baptism, even infant baptism, or as a standalone, voluntary, adult faith experience? I hope the Church makes that decision sooner rather than later. Our current practice is probably the worst time to confer it.
In any case, it doesn't matter much if your bishop is the arrogant, me-first, cold personality, doctrine trumps everything, righteous type of bishop. The immediate damage these bishops do when they come to a parish or region for Confirmation far outweighs the immediate impact of the Holy Spirit on the confirmandi and the parish.
By the way, it is clear which type of bishop Pope Francis demands.
What Are You Reading - Church Chat #112, August 7, 2015
Hitler - Church Chat #109, April 17, 2015
A Confirmation Problem - Church Chat #110, May 4, 2015
A Church for the Poor - Church Chat #108, April 2, 2015
Ferguson - Church Chat #107, March 16, 2015
The Big Umbrella - Church Chat #106, February 9, 2015
The Book - Church Chat #105, January 20, 2015
Story versus System - Church Chat #104, April 5, 2014
Bishop Schneider's Dilemna - Church Chat #103, March 18, 2014
Bishop Schneider's Priests - Church Chat #102, February 12, 2014
Meet Bishop Schneider - Church Chat #101, January 26, 2014
Step by Step - Church Chat #100, January 7, 2014
A Christmas Wish - Church Chat #99, December 23, 2013
Survey - Church Chat #97, November 16, 2013
Church and Politics - Church Chat #95, October 11, 2013
Creed, Code, Cult - Church Chat #92, August 18, 2013
Rio Repeated - Church Chat #91, July 30, 2013
The Pope Francis Fan Club - Church Chat #90, July 12, 2013
A Priest Forever - Church Chat #89, June 21, 2013
People of Good Will - Church Chat #88, May 30, 2013
Urgency - Church Chat #87, May 6, 2013
Trickledown Papacy - Church Chat #86, April 16, 2013
Selection of a Pope - Church Chat #84, March 10, 2013
If I Only Knew Then - Church Chat #82, February 4, 2013
Suicide - Church Chat #81, January 16, 2013
'TIS NOT THE SEASON - Church Chat 80, December 17, 2012
Lunch - Church Chat 79, November 17, 2012
Revolution - Church Chat 78, October 29, 2012
Democracy - Church Chat 77, October 15, 2012
Religious Liberty - Church Chat 76, September 28, 2012
www.iamfrrowe.org - Church Chat 74, August 20, 2012
Feelings - Church Chat 72, July 10, 2012
Conscience - Church Chat 71, June 16, 2012
The Butler Did Not Do It - Church Chat 70, June 2, 2012
The Vatican Catholic Church - Church Chat 69, May 17, 2012
Schism - Church Chat 67, April 25, 2012
Fear - Church Chat 67, April 16, 2012
Holy Week - Church Chat 66, April 5, 2012
Church, Inc. - Church Chat 64, March 1, 2012
Loyalty to ? - Church Chat, February 16, 2012
The New World - Church Chat #62, February 6, 2012
Big Stuff, Little Stuff - Church Chat #60, January 20, 2012
Resolutions - Church Chat of December 29, 2011
New Liturgy Christmas - Church Chat of December 12, 2011
Doctrine versus Mission - Church Chat of November 25, 2011
The Diocese of Penn State - Church Chat of November 15, 2011
The Episcopal Woodshed - Church Chat of October 29, 2011
The Global South Model for All Catholicism? - Church Chat of October 18, 2011
Prophets With a Smile - Church Chat of October 4, 2011
Choices - Church Chat of September 20, 2011
There's Gotta Be More - Church Chat of September 5, 2011
Gaps - Church Chat of August 7, 2011
What If It's Narcissism? - Church Chat of November 24, 2010