The Big Question...
How long will we need to wait to hear about what is going to happen with Confirmation? Are we moving the required age for the Sacrament, or are we going to keep it where it is. Well, the short answer is- T.B.D. (To Be Determined). That is probably not the answer we were hoping to hear, but the reality is there is a lot involved with making such a drastic change across the diocese.
In the Meanwhile
The good news is that we can be creative in the ways we prepare for Confirmation. One area we can look at is the Confirmation retreat. Some of us may send teens to a retreat in our diocese such as TEC, Higher Ground, etc. These are very good, but such retreats were not design to be a Confirmation retreat. That being said, one of the discussions we are discussion is what will be required of a Confirmation retreat. Until all that is detailed in writing and is approved by bishop, we can at least begin to look at what are some essential, or key ingredients for a Confirmation retreat.
What is a Retreat anyway?
We have gotten accustom to using the word retreat, but what is a retreat after all? The name seems to give it away. A retreat is typically a time to get a away in order to look deeper at ourselves and our belief. We can learn during a retreat, but it is always oriented towards experiencing and reflecting. To be a little clearer, a retreat is typically not a time to learn more information, but rather go deeper in the things we know in a more spiritual way.
How does this this relate to Confirmation?
By the time students get to a Confirmation retreat, they should have already picked up all the basic knowledge, and ideally have begun to be affected by that knowledge. A Confirmation retreat therefore is more like an immediate preparation for the Sacrament, that is, they are drawing nearer and are arranging their hearts and minds spiritually to receive the Sacrament. Just like with any Sacrament, there are key theological concepts of Confirmation, as well as certain signs and symbols that are part of the Sacrament. Let's look at some of these.
Key Elements of the Sacrament of Confirmation
Key Theological Concepts- One of the most important questions that gets asked often is 'what is the purpose of Confirmation'? To answer this succinctly we turn to the Apostolic Constitution for the Rite of Confirmation written by Pope Paul VI. Paul VI tells us, "Through the sacrament of Confirmation, those who have been born anew in Baptism receive the inexpressible Gift, the Holy Spirit himself, by which 'they are endowed with a special strength.'" In light of these words, the Pope alludes to the unity of Baptism and Confirmation. In the Constitution the Pope references the Acts of the Apostles, which describes the apostles laying of hands and through it the conferring of the Holy Spirit. Yet because in the Latin Rite, that is us, we have delayed Confirmation after Baptism, we often confuse how we receive the Holy Spirit. We say that we receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism, since through this sacrament we enter into the life of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives, but the way in which the Holy Spirit is active in Baptism differs than the way in Confirmation. In Baptism, the Holy Spirit sanctifies, and we can benefit from the graces he bestows. In Confirmation, he strengthens the baptismal graces already present and seals us with his gifts to live as his disciples in world more fruitfully. Theologically speaking, although both sacraments are distinct, there were not meant to be separated from each other. Practically that has been the case, therefore we can not lose sight how inseparable these sacraments are. Lastly, the final sacrament of initiation is the Eucharist which draws us more perfectly to Jesus Paschal Mystery.
Signs and Symbols- At the heart of Confirmation is the laying of the hands and the anointing with chrism. Both the bible and Pope Paul VI mentions the importance of the gesture of lying of the hands, which both symbolize and actually is a conduit for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The words that the bishop says is, "be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit." Notice how these words say Gift and not the gifts. It is the Holy Spirit himself that is at work in our lives, and brings that work to fulfillment by imparting the 7 gifts to us more fully that we are familiar with. In other words, first the Gift of the Spirit and then the gifts of the Spirit.
Adolescent- Simply speaking, the Holy Spirit does not just work in the air or open space, rather he works in the hearts and minds of individuals. In our case we are talking about teenagers, therefore it is important to at least mention things to hope for when putting a retreat together for teens. Without getting into the discussion about youth ministry in general, a few pointers of working with teens can be helpful. In a nutshell, teens want to be known, loved, welcomed, witness to, heard, have fun, relate, be challenged within reason, and be relevant. I'm sure more can be added to this list, but the point is all these pointers need to make there way into a retreat.
What has been described above are some useful and basic principles when thinking about a retreat for Confirmation with teens. We spoke about the what a retreat is, the purpose for Confirmation, key theological principles, the sings and symbols of Confirmation, and the importance of key ingredients in ministry with teens. To bring all this together in a concrete and practical way, check out our other blog on Resurrection's 2019 Confirmation retreat which describes how all these principles were put into practice.