Tuesday, December 20

Thoughts about confirmation

This weekend past we celebrated the sacrament of confirmation with four wonderful young men and women being welcomed as adults into our community.  The occasion and the homily attendant thereunto has brought to mind some reflections regarding this sacrament and it's importance in the past and present.

There can be a lot of discussion about 'vertical' component of confirmation and it's most common component which is mentioned, but I find that to be a red herring not unlike that of ordination into holy orders.  The journey to that sacrament is what matters in the spiritual dimension, not the ceremony itself.  That said, the 'horizontal' component of the sacrament is what I want to talk about.

Partly, it is a recognition of the church community that the confirmants are both adults and in the community.  In days past, this was of great significance and we still see this sort of 'coming of age' ceremony in certain cultures (QuinceaƱera, bar/bat mitzvah, etc.).  In today's western culture, though, I believe that it's significance is of lesser importance, as the general secular culture has far different cues as to a child becoming an adult.  This, btw, is a huge rant on my part, as we have culturally diffused and delayed this adulthood process to the point that it is hard to argue when it fully occurs.  Is it at 16 with the drivers license?  At 18, with voting and (probably) high school graduation? Is it at 21, when they can drink?  Is it at some undefined time when 'schooling' is over and they enter the workforce full time or when they move out of their parent's house?  Additionally, with the general rejection of specific denominations (and, more generally, organized faith systems), the 'seal of the Church' means far less than it did in an age when the church community was (effectively) the whole of the community.

In part, it is a public affirmation by the confirmants that they, after a lengthy education and discernment process, are willingly accepting the values of the church and dedicating themselves to applying said values. I find this to be a far more relevant and powerful portion of the process.  It is a public expression of a personal pledge to embrace the teachings of our faith and, more narrowly, the traditions and culture of the church.  In a time when organized faiths of any stripe are shedding people faster than an oak tree's leaves in October, to have youth affirm the relevancy of the church mission in their lives is heartening.

[note: originally written 14 November 2011]

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