DURING the coming weeks, most parishes will be celebrating the sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion.
Hopefully, theses moments hopefully are joyful ones, when families gather to celebrate and give thanks.
A lot of effort and preparation from the parish and school is given to these young candidates.
However, every year, more and more, I find myself asking the question: Ultimately, what is this experience all about?
Is it something that enriches the life of the parish community or perhaps highlights the huge disconnect many families have from faith practice and sacramental worship?
Confirmation and Communion ceremonies can often be noisy gatherings.
And most parishes have to police such occasions by constantly reminding those gathered that the environment is a sacred and reverential one, where the church seems alien territory.
One frequently witnesses mobile texting, facebook searching and a constant murmur that suggests for some ‘the sooner this is over, the better’.
Often, stewards are necessary to make sure conversation is kept to a minimum and smoking takes place at least outside the pews.
This environment is really regrettable for many families who support and encourage their children to take seriously the commitments they are making by becoming an active members of their respective faith communities.
This, of course, is a huge ask for any early adolescent Confirmation candidate to achieve on their own.
‘Faith is caught, more so than taught.’ If faith practice is not happening at home, it certainly will not happen to any Confirmation candidate who receives a warm invitation to become a full member of their local faith community.
A colleague recently shared with me the findings of a survey on Confirmation candidates: Four out 84 had attended Mass the previous Sunday. Church leadership should be acting upon this reality.
Now is the time to ‘get real’ in how we prepare our young people for the sacraments. Perhaps it’s too late for First Communion and Confirmation when we consider that more than 95% of parents Baptise their children and 20% practice their faith frequently.
I am not making judgements about their decisions but I do question their authenticity.
Would it be better for many families to have a baby party, a second class party and a pre-teen right of passage party packed with bouncy castles, music and dance and simply forget the Church altogether?
Young people are the future leaders of all our communities. Every day, I continue to be inspired by their enthusiasm, idealism and sense of justice.
I love young people’s sense of compassion. I often find them much more open to accepting difference than many adults.
I believe, as a Church, we need to take seriously the gift of our youth. If we hand out a sacrament willy-nilly, it does not speak about the integrity and example that true Catechesis can create.
It is not good enough and certainly not authentic to Confirm a young person as a full member of the faith community and not see them again until they are presenting a child for Baptism or celebrating marriage. In many European countries, Confirmation is not celebrated until late teens.
Throughout teenage years, during this important time of transition, young people through their faith formation, remain connected and engaged in a very real way with their local parish.
A recent decision shared by an episcopal conference in South America has deferred Confirmation until much later when, as an adult, one can truly embrace the full responsibility and gift of ‘choosing’ rather than ‘receiving’ membership of a local parish.
This is a time of transition in our Diocese.
Why can’t we take a break from the Sacrament of Confirmation for the next two years and build a new vision and theology in responding to the Faith Development of young teenagers in our Diocese.
There is something unhealthy when almost one hundred percent of sixth class children get Confirmed and yet perhaps only five percent of first year secondary school students attend Sunday Eucharist frequently?