In this week’s blog Fr Paddy asks why Confirmation, in many ways for so many young people, is the Sacrament of Exodus and suggests that the Sacrament of Confirmation needs to be seriously evaluated in the Irish Church.

Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist papers.
This column appeared in the edition published 4th May 2010.

The story is told about a church full of bats. Many people were frightened of the bats, not to mention the havoc they caused during liturgies. Many attempts were made to try and remove these bats but all failed. A parishioner asked the question. What can we do to help keep the bats away from our church? Cynically, a wise lady suggested  Why don’t we confirm them?

A time when we officially recognise and affirm young people and yet sadly say a formal goodbye. I imagine less than twenty percent of Confirmation candidates return back to church to receive Eucharist the week after being confirmed full members of the Church. This statistic I believe to be very true and speaks for itself. Confirmation is much more than just a Rite of Passage. Confirmation affirms a vibrant faith that says “Yes” to being an active member of a Christian Community. In this regard, I suggest that the Sacrament of Confirmation needs to be seriously evaluated in our Irish Church. There is much more expected and received by the Spirit than filling photo opportunities for our local papers and supporting our local bouncy castle industry.

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 of us adults. I believe, as Church, we need to take seriously the gift of our youth. If we hand out a Sacrament willy nilly, to me 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. In Bagenalstown Parish, twenty seven, seventeen and eighteen year olds are currently engaged with the Diocesan John Paul 11 Awards. This is an excellent initiative, that builds a positive and active relationship, between young people and the parish community.

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.

I have no problem in Celebrating a Para-Liturgy, acknowledging the important transition from Primary to Secondary School in a young person’s life. I suggest such an occasion would adequately meet the needs of many people and continue to allow families this important transition in their young loved ones life.