By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde
Each year, during the fall and spring seasons, I travel throughout the diocese to meet thousands of young men and women and mark them with the seal of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation. For each of them, the sacramental event is their “Pentecost.”
Pope John Paul II told us, “On the first Pentecost our Savior gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins when he poured into their hearts the gift of the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit comes to you today in the Sacrament of Confirmation, to involve you more completely in the Church’s fight against sin and in her mission of fostering holiness.”
In recent years, I have noticed a growing receptivity among young people toward receiving the Sacrament. The confirmandi (those to be confirmed) recognize the need to “fight against sin” with the help of the Holy Spirit. Through correspondence and conversations, I hear sincere assertions of how the confirmandi wish to live their lives, the challenges that they face and their desire for this particular presence of the Holy Spirit within them. They also write enthusiastically about their confirmation saints, expressing with clarity the reasons why these holy men and women inspire them.
Each era has its own challenges and the 21st century is no exception. In my Confirmation homilies, I do not shy away from talking to teens about the realities they face (or will soon face) in society, including peer pressure, the abuse of alcohol, drugs, pornography and sexual temptations. It is essential that these young people understand that they are not alone. The Church realizes that these very real issues are truly a testing, that is, a temptation. Living virtuously is not always easy.
However, I point out these very real issues to emphasize an even greater reality – that during the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit enters our souls and strengthens us to overcome these inevitable struggles. It is a common misconception that Confirmation is simply a celebration of young Catholics becoming adult members of their faith. Although it is true that Confirmation completes the process of Christian initiation, we must remember that because we have been confirmed, the Holy Spirit is present within us as we pursue holiness, be it five, twenty or fifty years later.
As I greet the newly-confirmed at the end of the Mass, I hand each of them a card with the following prayer. I invite you to pray this prayer often, even every day, recognizing that with the Holy Spirit, we can win the battle against sin, placing our hope each day in the Lord:
Spirit of God, grant me the gift of WISDOM to see the world through Your eyes.
The gift of COUNSEL to make difficult decisions.
The gifts of KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING to use my mind to know You and to love You.
The gift of FORTITUDE to have the courage to live in faith despite difficulties and disappointments.
The gift of PIETY to be able express my special love and commitment to You.
And the right kind of AWESOME FEAR that makes me pause to wonder and to revere God’s love.