Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sealed in the Spirit

Tonight, the twenty-one students of my Religious Education Class at St. Joseph's in Joliet received the Sacrament of Confirmation at the hands of our Bishop J. Peter Sartain. Preparing them the past two years, and being intimately involved in the Liturgy and celebration has in a very tangible way been somewhat of a "reliving" of my own Confirmation eight years ago. The articles, stories, quotes, and teachings that I've looked up and prepared for my students have been just as much a blessing for me.

I especially love this excerpt which I found in an article on CatholicCulture.org (that website is a gem!):

Confirmation marks one's spiritual growing up. With Confirmation he is launched on the social aspect of his spiritual life, with which goes an even greater obligation to pursue his own sanctification. But self-sanctification is now dependent upon his relationship with all men. With Confirmation, he is equipped, by the strengthening in him of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to look at the world with new eyes, to desire its conquest for Christ with new love. He sees more clearly (if he is helped to see by his parents and teachers) what it means to be a member of the Mystical Body. Like a cell in his own body, he is a cell in the Body of Christ. Each cell is important, a part of a whole. Without it, the whole would be less whole. If one cell is sick (in sin), the whole is less well. Now he begins to see that it is up to him, as well as to the other members of the Body, to work for the total health of the Body; not only that — but to work for the further growth of the Body.

The absolute beauty of the Mystical Body of Christ is something that has, and continues to leave me awestruck — especially in the last year or two. Recently a seminarian friend coined a phrase that I thought summed it up perfectly: the interconnectedness of the Body of Christ. It is so, so much more connected than I think any of us realize. It's incredibly powerful to realize the truth of the above text: we literally and directly affect the life and health of the whole body. Amazing!

It was truly bittersweet to watch my spiritual children receive this Sacrament tonight. It's near the end of our time together so far (only 3 more classes before the school year ends), but I hope and pray that much more than an end, it is a bright new beginning for them. One of my students' mothers asked me tonight if I was nervous. And while I wouldn't describe myself as that, there were plenty of other emotions swirling around my mind and heart this evening.

And oh, but I so love our bishop. I was cheering (silently, of course) from the choir loft as he gave his final message to the youth. With authority and yet tenderness, he said some of the very same key points I've tried so hard to drive home for them this year: Confirmation is not the same thing as graduation. This doesn't mean you are done learning the Faith. This doesn't mean Religious Education is done for you!

Forgive me if I my reflection here is somewhat disjointed tonight. I wish I could summarize here somehow the culmination of graces for me the past few months. I feel as though I've had greater contemplation, and less spoken words than typical for me (perhaps my family wouldn't agree, but it seems so to me!). I am usually one to whom words come fairly easily, even about relatively awkward or in-depth topics. There are plenty of times lately, however, when I'm caught up in a kind of interior thought and find myself not saying much... or it's almost difficult when I do.

It might sound strange, but at times like these there is such a strange mixture of emotion when it comes to writing (at least, to blogging). My head and heart are simply brimming with things about which I wish to write, but interestingly, I'm almost reluctant to do so... as if I'm fearful that I won't have the time to do justice to the beauty or depth of the topic.

The Holy Spirit was indeed present in a very real way tonight. And He has been in many of our classes. There are days when I can stand up in front of those twenty-one seventh and eighth graders and know that He has taken over the words coming out of my mouth. And then I wish the clock would stop moving! I just hope that I have given these young people a glimpse into the treasure chest (rather, the gold mine) that is our Faith.

Father, grasp them in the palm of Your Hand. Son, encircle them in the abode of Your Heart, Holy Spirit, inflame them with the all-consuming fire of Your Love!


Gregory Cantor said...

I am going on a retreat tomorrow, and I'm happy to have read this before the event. It helps a lot!

Thank you


Veronica said...

It sounds like it was a wonderful evening! I am sorry I couldn't be there with you...I was offering up my suffering at home.

Isn't it interesting and sad that many people view Confirmation as a "graduation" or an ending, when really the exact opposite is true!