12th November 2023

During this last week, I met with a number of our young people and their parents as they plan for the young ones to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation from the Bishop in February next year. You will remember that a few years ago, Bishop Stock reduced the age of Confirmation from 13/14-year-old to 10/11. For some time, it seemed that Confirmation completed the Sacraments of Initiation whereby we mark the journey to spiritual adulthood in our young people. It has nothing to do with that at all. That model has created a sort of ‘rite of passage’ which has more in common with a Jewish Bar-Mitzvah than one of the seven Sacraments. Confirmation doesn’t complete the initiation into the life of Faith, Holy Communion does and if you go to the Easter Vigil and watch adults being received into the Church you will see them being first baptised (or formally received if they have belonged to another Christian denomination) then Confirmed and then, later in the Mass, making their First Holy Communion. Even with the Bishop’s renewed structure we’re still getting things out of sync.

When a person is Confirmed, they are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit by which they are enabled to live the Sacramental life of a Catholic Christian. Without those gifts none of us can hope to grow to full spiritual maturity in our lives of Faith. The Bishop wishes to move the Sacrament closer to the celebration of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion so as to ensure that more children have the opportunity to receive these gifts and so begin to live by the graces they promise. You might say that they have this opportunity now: they can choose to petition for the reception of the Sacrament if they’re that bothered. The modern reality is that by the age of 13/14/15 they are running out of steam and are being massively pressured to abandon their Faith by their peers. (And this pressure happens as much in our Catholic high schools as it does in any other school, so let’s not kid ourselves otherwise. ) It is hoped that with the grace of the Sacrament working within them they have at least a slim chance of resisting such forces.

Christ needs foot soldiers for the work of grace and mercy that is so necessary in this modern world. The majority of that work is done, not by priests and religious, but by the laity. Our bishop is making sure that the spiritual soldiers under his command are suitably equipped and prepared to meet the battles that must be fought. They are battles for souls: our own and everyone else’s. If you don’t believe in a spiritual life then that last statement is pure tosh and you may as well dress the children up in posh frocks and throw cake at them…oh, wait…that’s what happens to many of our children at Holy Communion-time, isn’t it?! But if the spiritual life means anything to us then we need to roll up our sleeves, assess the task and all it needs and then get cracking with the work in hand. We have been appalled when the government has sent our soldiers into war zones poorly armed and supported. Last year we Confirmed about a dozen young people from this parish. According to the records that ‘baptism year’ we should have been Confirming nearer 50. We have allowed too many of our young people to go out into a tumultuous world with less than we can give them. Please pray for the young people of our communities, and their families, as they embark on this journey of grace.

Last Laugh: I love to sing and drink scotch. Most people would rather hear me drink scotch. George Burns

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