I have been asked to offer a short reflection at our parishes’ Confirmation class tonight about how I understand Confirmation when I received it, and how I understand it now. Here are my notes.
I missed Robin Ventura’s “Grand Slam Single” because of my mandatory Confirmation retreat. And the retreat was awful: the first thing I remember from the retreat is that the priest yelled at us because we had such a reputation for being terrible to the small group leaders. I don’t remember much else. My Confirmation wasn’t much better: it was crowded, the readers mumbled, and the bishop preached way too long (I think he gave the same homily for every Confirmation because I heard the same version at both of my younger brothers’ Confirmations too.)
I wouldn’t say that Confirmation didn’t do anything for me: I think it’s better to say that it took a while for me to realize what Confirmation was doing in me for a good long while.
And so, when I think back to Confirmation encouraging me to partipate in the life of the parish, I remember reading the second reading at my brother’s Confirmation. I proclaimed one of my favorite readings from Paul: that part of Romans where Paul claims that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. I did this all the while looking out at my mother, a cancer survivor, and knowing that it was only through many prayers, deep faith, and great doctors that she could be called “in remission.”
I think back to my Confirmation and remember the prayer, the bishop anointing me with chrism, and then remember re-teaching a man at the Shattuck Hospital the “Our Father.” The middle-aged man, we’ll call him “Joe,” had literally drank his life away. Needing a liver transplant, but unable to get on the list because of his alcoholism, Joe was a doomed man. Before dying, however, he wanted to relearn the Our Father and make peace with his estranged wife and kids. Joe couldn’t do more than repeat the first two lines, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” because of the toll alcohol had taken on his short-term memory. But he did reconcile with his family: Our Father who art in heaven!
I think back to my Confirmation and remember not feeling anything: wondering when the flashing lines and music from the sky would start. And then, many years later, walking out of my solemn profession, heart bursting with joy, wondering just what started me on an incredible journey.
I can’t prove that Confirmation put me on the path to these events in my life. What I do know, however, is that I missed the greatest game in Mets history, but I wouldn’t have missed any reading at my brother’s Confirmation, teaching a dying man the Our Father, or being a friar for the world.