Are your Confirmation Sessions teaching teens the faith or forming them in the faith?  Ok, this is a bit of a trick question, because we ideally need to do both: catechize so transformation will occur.  Recently we had a Confirmation Session with 100 8th graders that was extremely powerful and really blew all of us away at what the Holy Spirit did.

Some background

This year we have implemented a new format for our Confirmation Program by taking kids out of the classroom setting and gathering them all together and trying to do more formation in the faith as compared to merely a catechesis about various topics of the faith.  New Programs/formats always need tweaking.  We have learned a lot this year about empowering volunteers and engaging large numbers of teens.  We have had many frustrations with attendance, volunteers not showing up and a lack of the right kind of engagement from volunteers but we’ve persevered, continued to pray and asked the Holy Spirit to lead us.

Confirmation

We wanted to create a night that gave teens an idea of what happens during the Confirmation Mass.  Many who’ve been through it have said they didn’t really have much of a clue what was going on while it was happening.  So the following is what we did to try to change that.

Gather and Proclaim

We open the night with a humorous 2 minute video about what Confirmation is (the video does not give any answers).  We then had a skit entitled: At the Movies with Jesus and it focused on choosing Christ.  We then debriefed about the skit and shared how tonight we were going to explore a little about Confirmation and the amazing things that happen at the Confirmation Mass.

Break

Small group leaders then took their students to discuss some of the aspects of the Confirmation Mass.  The leaders shared that there was some good discussion during this time.

Send

We concluded by showing another movie clip and discussed that God is asking us to give Him permission.  Joe, one of our youth ministers shared a story and ended up giving away a rosary that was very valuable to him and blessed by the pope.  It truly was a Holy Spirit moment and it was very powerful for the person who received it. She had a hard time receiving it because she felt she didn’t deserve it (that’s exactly the point – we don’t deserve God’s gave and gifts but He cares for us so much that He freely and lovingly showers his grace and gifts upon us).

The Holy Spirit continued to work as we invited teens to come up and share why they were excited about Confirmation.  They came up and shared things like – It’ll bring me closer to God, it’ll strengthen my faith, it’s very important to me.  This was their way of standing up in front of others and witnessing their faith.  It was powerful and exciting to see the teens stand up for their faith.  We had one of those “they finally got it” moments.

It turned out to be a great night!  We were skeptical before the evening began regarding how it would go and how much involvement we’d get from the teens.  God certainly was not outdone is generosity.  Thank you Holy Spirit!

This is one example of how we’ve sought to really engage our teens and form them into the disciples Christ He is calling them to be.  We pray that their faith continues to grow.  Here is an outline of the night – Confirmation.

How About You?

What have you done to engage your Confirmation Candidates?


This past Sunday our parish began a new 8th grade Confirmation Program.  Our goal was to get our students out of the traditional classroom model of religious education and find a way to more fully engage them as well as involve the whole parish (public school and Catholic school students).  We want to foster a Confirmation program that is bringing all or our Confirmation candidates together in an environment that engages them and inspires them in their Catholic Faith. 

Here’s what we did on our first night:

We gathered 200 kids in our Gym for a few icebreakers which they seemed to really enjoy.  Then we moved into our youth room where we did a random skit.  We kept the kids laughing at the beginning of this night.  We really wanted to set the mood for this year and start things off right.  Then we introduced our theme for the night: “Come Follow Me”.  Jesus Christ is at the heart of our ministry to these young teens and we don’t just want to teach them about Jesus but we desire to lead them closer to Jesus and in a relationship with Him.  We showed video clips from 4 different movies that focused on making a decision to go forward, to do something that was challenging but significant.  After each video clip a 30 second to one minute commentary was given.  We wrapped this part up by reading from Matthew 4 where Jesus called Peter and Andrew to be fishers of Men. 

Next we had students gather in small groups (they will be in these small groups all year) and take some time to get to know one another as well as have the catechist/small group leader shared how they have followed Jesus in their lives and what difference that has made in it. 

We concluded the night by gathering back in the youth room and challenging them to follow Jesus and walk in His footsteps.  We had them put a sticker on the bottom of their shoes that said: Come Follow Me.  

It was a great night!  We are very excited about our new format which we hope really draws these students closer to Christ in a way that they will enjoy.  May the Holy Spirit continue to lead and guide us. 

What are you doing in your ministry to engage students?


Misunderstandings

Why does the Sacrament of Confirmation seem to be so misunderstood?  My pastor was speaking to a group of people about how the understanding of the Sacrament of Confirmation has been misunderstood.  Over the last  40 years it has been emphasized as a Sacrament of commitment, a sacrament of adulthood and a sacrament to personally make the decision to live one’s Catholic Faith.  Even though this is not all wrong, these do not communicate or give the central meaning of the Sacrament.  First and foremost the Sacrament of Confirmation is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as gift, just as it was at Pentecost.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost”(Para. # 1302).

Gift of the Holy Spirit

A Sacrament is a free gift of God’s very life.  The Sacrament of Confirmation is primarily a gift of God’s grace and life to the those who receive it.  The Catechism speaks of this gift in the follow paragraphs:

1288 “From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.”99

1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name “Christian,” which means “anointed” and derives from that of Christ himself whom God “anointed with the Holy Spirit.”100 This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means “chrism.” In the West, the term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.

How To Rediscover It

How do we help those preparing for this sacrament, especially those receiving it in middle school or high school?  I would like to suggest the following ways to focus on the gift of Confirmation through a catechetical renewal of sorts.

1. Put greater emphasis on God’s action of the gift of the Spirit being poured out into their lives.  It’s more about what God is giving than what we are going to do to respond (as important as that is).

2. When speaking about being witnesses for Christ and living out The Faith do this within the context of communicating the fruit of God’s life and love poured out to us.  Scripture speaks about how the apostles were compelled to respond to the great love and grace God had poured out (see Acts 2 and following).  Encouraging young people to “live out” their faith is a natural response to God’s generosity.   Repeating and emphasizing this is vital to an authentic renewal and rediscovery of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

3. During Confirmation preparation period speak of Confirmation not being a completion of their time in religious education but a beginning to the next step in their lives.  Confirmation is so much more about new beginnings than it is a graduation or completion of something.

4. Find ways to involve students long after the Confirmation Mass is over.

How have you succeeded at your parish in helping students continue to grow and be involved after Confirmation?


Over the years I have found one resounding misconception about the Sacrament of Confirmation – you do not become an adult in the Church when receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Paragraph #1308 says:

Although Confirmation is sometimes called the “sacrament of Christian maturity,” we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need “ratification” to become effective. St. Thomas reminds us of this:

Age of body does not determine age of soul. Even in childhood man can attain spiritual maturity: as the book of Wisdom says: “For old age is not honored for length of time, or measured by number of years. “Many children, through the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received, have bravely fought for Christ even to the shedding of their blood.126

The way I communicate it to parents and catechists is that the Sacrament of Confirmation is, for many, the third Sacrament of Initiation.  It calls one to take the next step in their life as a disciple of Christ and as a witness of the Christian life.  For so many who receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in 7th or 8th grade or even High School they do not become an adult in the same way that parents are adults who have to pay a mortgage and responsibilities of a full time job and providing for a family.  On the other hand by virtue of receiving our Confirmation one is being called to be a greater witness of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Catechism Paragraph # 1309 says:

“Preparation for Confirmation should aim at leading the Christian toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit – his actions, his gifts, and his biddings – in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life…”

The emphasis should be on a more intimate union with Christ and being called to be a witness.  Yes, it is true that they are called to “assume the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life” but the understanding that one becomes an adult in the Church is inaccurate.  I find that trying to empower candidates to see themselves as an adult in the Church is not putting the emphasis on the right thing but on reaching a goal or destination of becoming an adult.  The Christian maturity the Church is speaking of is an intimate union with Christ and the call to go into the world and live your faith.  We don’t have to be an adult to live our faith or be involved in our parish.  This Sacrament is just the beginning of a life lived for Christ and His body, the Church.