Confirmation—the Sacrament of Confirmation is, for the Catholic, the reception of the fullness of the Holy Spirit which was first given to the individual at baptism. It is in this Sacrament that we receive the fullness of both the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, piety, knowledge and fear of the Lord [Isaiah 11:2]), and the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).
These gifts and fruits help guide us to the Truths of Christ and lead us to freely choose to be His Disciples, so that we may become more fully His Image and likeness in the world in which we live.
Confirmation is given to us by the Church after we have studied our Confirmation prep program and after a cumulative study of faith formation through religious education. We don’t simply receive the Holy Spirit because we turn a certain age but rather after we have been educated to the love of God and His desire for us to be with Him for all eternity—and have the ability to freely say “Yes!” to Christ. In that process, similarly like in Baptism, we have a sponsor, like the godparent. This person helps us in living out the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit as we now become young Catholic adults in the Church. This is not to be thought of as a “graduation” ceremony and “whew, I’m out -of-here” but rather a new beginning that makes me part of the Church’s presence in the world—and her future. We are now being asked, by Christ, “come, follow me.” In freedom we may choose to say “yes” to Christ or to say “no, I have more important things with which to concern myself, Lord.” The answer we give will have an eternal impact.
The Sponsor takes on the role of guide and role model— choose carefully with whom you wish to walk this road—for the end result is very important. Again, as in Baptism, this person is not up for an honorarium but rather should be an example of the Catholic faith lived out well—not perfectly but well. And so this person must be Catholic, live the faith, have received the Sacraments for which you are choosing him or her as a role model (if someone never goes to Mass or hasn’t been Confirmed, how then can they be your role model?)
I think the perspective from which we should make our decision on this topic is: do I really and truly believe in God; that He sent His Son into the world for my salvation, so that I may enter the Kingdom of Joy, and Peace and unending Happiness as to become One with the Father? If the answer is “yes and I believe in heaven and in God,” then why wouldn’t I want the best “teacher or guide” for that journey? Do we put as much effort in this decision as we will put into selecting the right college to become a physical therapist, business executive or psychologist—all with a retirement date—whereas eternal life does not?
Holy Matrimony—is also one of the seven Sacraments of the Church, and in this sacrament we prepare two people for the fulfillment of the marriage covenant: “The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life, and which of its own very nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children, has, between the baptized, been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” (Code of Canon Law)
In the sacramental preparation, we process through a series of meetings over at least a six-month period of time discussing a series of questions and topics. Now before I go any further…I know someone will ask—as they always do—“must we really have these meetings or Father, what do you know about marriage?” Perhaps they know everything there is to know about marriage. I don’t know what they know. But what I do know is this: in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony the Church is bestowing upon the couple some serious obligations. We stand for the belief that marriage is forever; it is indissoluble. The Sacramental nature, the indelible mark, does not dissolve by a court-ordered decree. If the Sacramental nature took place at the marriage (an annulment is to determine if the marriage ever was in fact sacramental in nature—it does not invalidate a once-sacramental marriage) the marriage is valid no matter if one falls out of love, and so the Church must make the determination if the couple understands this and is able to freely enter into marriage. The obligation the Church places on the couple then requires conversations and so the meetings are necessary. After all, couples meet a few times with photographers and cake makers and wedding planners, so I personally see the wisdom in the Pre-Cana meetings.
In the marriage process we discuss, after a FOCCUS Inventory, topics ranging from the length and type of courtship of the couple, family and inter-family relationships, the styles and types of friendship each person has and how they interact with their future spouse’s friends, money issues, debts, desires for children and the kind of family they wish to have and to raise. We also consider their understanding of marriage and how that relates to the Church’s definition of marriage and more. These topics are all important and create great conversations that often times raises issues which some folks have never talked of (in laws, student loan debts, bankruptcies, previous relationships that didn’t work out and more). From these conversations the couple is able to continue to speak privately to their issues and move forward to resolutions, compromises or agreements to disagree.
In the marriage ritual, it is the bride and groom who are the ministers of the Sacrament in the Catholic Church. The priest is present to be the witness to the vows and to celebrate the Mass (and of course sign the State of Connecticut Marriage License). Two Catholics are expected to have a wedding Mass in the Church and witnessed by a priest (a deacon may witness the vows outside of the Mass or within the context of the Mass with a priest present for the Sacrament. Interfaith marriages have other options. Additionally, marriages in the Church are held on any day except for Sundays, when normally only the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. In some circumstances a Catholic and a non-Catholic may be married outside of the Church, though permission and dispensations are normally required by the (Arch) Diocese. When a bride and groom come to Church to plan a wedding, the first meeting consists of a Preliminary Investigation (on their) Freedom to Marry making sure the two parties have not been previously married and to review the entire process of Pre-Cana, no surprises are heaped on the couple during the process.