Monday, April 25, 2016

Confirmation is not Catholic Graduation!

Don’t Treat Confirmation Like Graduation

Being a sponsor doesn’t end when the party starts

For too many Catholic teenagers, the sacrament of confirmation is seen as a kind of “graduation from formation.” Having attended CCD since the first grade, they are finally, officially “done.”
That’s distressing. Formation in the faith takes a lifetime, and adult continuing education classes in every parish are sorely needed, but what adds to the problem is confirmation sponsors who believe their job is done after the party clean-up.
That is far from the truth.
Catechists instruct their students to choose a sponsor who is a witness of faith in their lives. This basic standard is even reflected in canon law, where it says that sponsors must “be a Catholic who … leads a life in harmony with the faith and the role to be undertaken.”
Perhaps sponsors should be taught that they are selected because something of their faithfulness and Christian character resonates with a teenager who is about to lose a longheld connection to church and to the parish. Their selection affords teens a means of continuing that connection, but in a different way, into young adulthood. They will continue to watch their sponsor (from afar) and will reach out to them when needed, assuming the sponsor is still available. The greatest tragedy is when the sponsor loses faith and abandons the Church.
Unfortunately, this happens more often than it should, and there are numerous stories of sponsors who stop going to church or who even leave the faith altogether. If this is how the life of faith is modeled, the sponsorship becomes empty of meaning. To whom can they turn to in a moment of spiritual crisis? Whom should they imitate?
Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that we do not live unto ourselves when he wrote, “We should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do, and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse” (Spe Salvi).
How a sponsor lives his faith will have an eternal effect on their candidate.
The greatest gift a sponsor can give is a radiant life, filled with the grace of God.
So, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that a sponsor needs to call up his or her candidate every day to check to see how things are going, but a sponsor should understand that he or she is charged to be a witness of Christ’s love, if not for the whole world at least for the candidate.
Jesus had some strong (and unsettling) words for those entrusted with the duty of leading someone else to Christ: “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
So, sponsor, don’t treat confirmation day like graduation. Your task has just begun. Be a light to the nations, starting with the teen upon whose shoulder, your hand has rested.
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