By: Kyle Hebel
On a June 3rd, 2012 on summer night in Eugene, 90 teenagers lined up in front of St. Mary Catholic Church. It was the largest group that Julie Rutledge-Sanchez, the Director of Youth Ministry at St Mary Catholic Church, has ever had to work with. Most kids were loose, as they were talking and fooling around before the ceremony started. One individual who did not feel this was Tirzah Romero-Reddick. As the ceremony began and the 90 teenagers began to proceed into the church, Tirzah was nervous as she was about to receive the sacrament of confirmation.
The sacrament of confirmation is the final step in receiving full initiation into the Catholic Church. Rutledge-Sanchez sees it as a process where “an individual becomes an official solider of Christ and is allowed to go out and witness the greatest this world has to offer.” It is the sacrament that is the threshold between adolescence and adulthood in the Catholic community. The individual must decide if they are ready to make Catholicism an aspect of their life. It solidifies a person’s right of passage in accepting Catholicism as a vital part of their life. Scott Richert, author of the article The sacrament of confirmation, says confirmation is the perfection of baptism. During the sacrament, the individual is anointed as a member of the Catholic Church by the bishop of that church’s district. The bishop puts holy oil on the individual’s forehead in the form of a cross and congratulates them on becoming a devoted Catholic and initiated as a full member of the Church.
Rutledge-Sanchez says through confirmation, an individual’s relationship with Jesus is strengthened confirmation is the third and final sacrament an individual receives (first is baptism and the second is Communion) in order to be full initiated into the Catholic Church.
However, it was not always this way. Jeremy Stafford, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for St. Paul Catholic Church in Phoenix, AZ, says, “Confirmation use to take place with the sacrament of baptism and First Communion during the days of the early church.” Stafford adds that as the church began to grow, it was not possible for the bishop to be at all the confirmations. The church decided to split baptism and confirmation into two separate sacraments. This is why confirmation is also regarded as the completion of the sacrament of baptism.
The importance of being confirmed in the Catholic community is a reminder of what being baptized means because for most Catholics, they are baptized as a baby and have no memory of it. Being confirmed at a much older age gives the individual the decision whether or not they are ready to devote themselves to Christ and live out his message as an aspect of their life. According to Jerry L. Schmalenberger, author of confirmation: The Stewardship of Baptism gives the definition of what this sacrament means to an individual who receives it. Schmalenberger says, “Confirmation has changed from being understood as a sacrament, marking the time at which a person receives his or her first communion, to a rite, a ritual in which the baptized is reminded of his or her baptismal vows and initiated into the community of discipleship.”
The importance of being confirmed in the Catholic community never became as clear to Rutledge-Sanchez as she witnessed Tirzah’s class from the altar. She never recalls a church filled with 90 teenagers, along with their family and friends, filling the church to max capacity.
“It was really breathtaking to witness because you knew something so much bigger was happening,” Rutledge-Sanchez says.
That didn’t help calm the nerves of Tirzah. She couldn’t understand why she was feeling this way. She had been preparing for this moment for a year and a half had studied the history of the sacraments with her grandmother ever since she was little but the moment was “too overpowering.” However, as soon as Tirzah heard the archbishop call her name, “all of those nerves just melted away.”
Not everyone in Tirzah’s family can remember the experience of the celebration of confirmation. Tirzah’s mother, Trirudad Romero, was confirmed at the age of 2. Romero was confirmed in Mexico, where during that time, confirmation was considered the second sacrament of initiation. Tirzah’s grandmother and Romero’s mother, Teresa Mosqueda, also was confirmed at the age of two. Mosqueda says it was a family tradition that their family would travel from the United States to Mexico to celebrate important events in their family’s life.
“It was a tradition in Mexico that a person would be confirmed right after their baptism” says Romero.
The church in Mexico changed the age requirement in the mid 1960s for the sacrament of confirmation from the time a baby was born to the age of 15. Romero says “I didn’t have the opportunity to be confirmed as an adult or young adult. You can say that I got the short end of the stick.”
Although Romero can’t remember her own confirmation she was a sponsor for her nephews but the feeling she got seeing her own daughter’s being confirm felt special.
“I almost feel like I missed out” says Romero. “I feel like the blessing came in when it was my daughter’s turn because it gave me the opportunity to really experience the preparation involving the sacrament of confirmation. It was like I was living my confirmation through her.”
The responsibilities receiving the sacrament of confirmation are huge in the eyes of the Catholic Church. It rewards the individual as officially being a member of the Catholic Church but they must be able to take what they learn and use it in their life.
“If you don’t make the right choices, you have no excuse” says Romero. “If anything confirmation has prepared you to face the world. It is not going to be easy but you have those stepping stones to get back on.” Romero adds that God does not ask the impossible from us but does ask us to be those solders and constantly battle temptation.
The Catholic Church sees sin as the main blockade through a better relationship with God. The sacrament of confirmation is a reminder of why Catholics received the sacrament of baptism in the first place. During the right thing is never easy and it is a constant battle between doing what is right and wrong.
“No one said this was ever going to be easy” says Mosqueda. “If we are being realistic, we are all human. This is just how we are because it is our nature.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it provides a person with the “special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith of the word” against the temptation of sin.
Rutledge-Sanchez says “this battle becomes our daily life and practicing our faith. It is our own actions that dictate the way we do our battle.” She adds the greatest temptation she fought as a young adult was the the attraction to the opposite sex because it was easy for her to slide into peer pressure. She feels like if she had the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to guide her back then, she would have made better life decisions. She tells all of her students about her mistakes in hopes that the Holy Spirit will guide them with the knowledge to always make the right decisions.
Tirzah sees this battle affecting our society today, more so than any other time because of constantly temptations that the youth in society has to face every day.
“It is a different than it was over a century ago” says Tirzah. “There is a lot more that we have to combat with so it is important for us to be confirmed because of all the constant temptations we have to face.”
Tirzah sees the gifts of the Holy Spirit guide her now in her life. Whether it would involve her studying for a test, relationship with her family and friends or always being tempted to do the right thing, confirmation has allowed her life the way Jesus expects all followers of Christ to live their lives.
As Tirzah heard her name called to receive confirmation, all of her nerves went away. She had a reinsurance that everything was going to be fine.
“Everything melted away” says Tirzah. “I did not even know the rest of the church was there.”
Tirzah took a deep breath as the archbishop sealed the chrism oil on her forehead. As she walked back to her seat the one word that described that moment was “bless”. The Holy Spirit enters all who which to receive it and confirmation is a reminder that everyone of us is a bless individual.
Sidebar 1: Q&A with Jeremy Stafford
1. Describe in great detail your confirmation (where, when, your reaction, etc)
I was confirmed in sophomore year of high school. It was something that my mom wanted me to do. My sponsor was a famiy friend named Dan Farley. It was done at the Catheradal in San Jose. There were a bunch of churches there and it was a nice service.
I did not start to truly live out my faith till I was in my 20s. Where a church attach my catholic faith and I decided to make it my own.
2. How does it feel working with the young youth of the church?
It is very rewarding working with teenagers. They have a lot of potential and is eseential they feel empowered.
3. Why is it important for Catholic youth to receive the sacrament of confirmation?
For Catholic Youth when it is done in Jr. high or high school it becomes a way for them to take ownership of thier faith. It is a way for them to say Yes to God.
4. How does it compare to baptism or the receiving the body and blood of Christ for the first time?
All three Sacraments are connected. They are called the Sacraments of intiation and each have its own purpose and requirements. Confirmation focuses upon the Holy Spirit empowering a people to go out and change the world. The challenge with sacraments is that we do not discover what they really do for us till after the event. Learning to live out one’s faith after Confirmation. Where we discover what it means to have Christ living in us after we recieve Eucharist.
Sidebar #2: The Seven Catholic Sacraments
According to americancatholic.org, the sacrament of baptism “is the first step in a lifelong journey of commitment and discipleship…Baptism is the Church’s way of celebrating and enacting the embrace of God.”
According to americancatholic.org, the sacrament of communion is “is both a sacrifice and a meal. As we receive Christ’s Body and Blood, we also are nourished spiritually and brought closer to God.”
According to americancatholic.org, the sacrament of reconciliation “has three elements: conversion, confession and celebration. In it we find God’s unconditional forgiveness; as a result we are called to forgive others.”
According to the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church (YOUCAT), the sacrament of confirmation is “the sacrament that completes baptism; in it the gift of the Holy Spirit is bestowed upon us.”
5. Holy Matrimony
According to americancatholic.org, the sacrament of holy matrimony is “a public sign that one gives oneself totally to this other person. It is also a public statement about God: the loving union of husband and wife speaks of family values and also God’s values.”
6. Holy Orders
According to americancatholic.org, the sacrament of holy orders is when “the priest being ordained vows to lead other Catholics by bringing them the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), by proclaiming the Gospel, and by providing other means to holiness.”
7. Anointing of the Sick
According to americancatholic.org, the sacrament of the anointing of the sick is “a ritual of healing appropriate not only for physical but also for mental and spiritual sickness.”