Sep 25, 2015

What Confirmation is All About

15Confirmation left an indelible mark on me as a teenager: not just the grace of the sacrament, but on another level the experience of the liturgy as well. As I wrote in the confirmation program I co-authored, Chosen (note that the target audience of the reflection is teens…but you get the gist):

In general grace isn’t something we “feel.” We can smell flowers, taste burgers, shiver from a cold wind, but grace isn’t physical so sometimes it’s not even accompanied by strong feelings—but we can know it’s there because Jesus told us so. When we feel it, that’s a gift to us, often to teach us something or to strengthen us. When we don’t feel any consolation in prayer or from sacraments, God’s asking us not to get caught up in emotion, to deepen in faith, and to prove our love for him by seeking him for his own sake, not just for the positive feelings faith can bring. All that being stated, God let me feel the grace when I was confirmed.

I remember when the bishop anointed my forehead. As he pulled his thumb away from my head I felt the grace hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember it distinctly because it wasn’t a feeling I’ve had any other time before or since. It was the sense of getting hit with an enormous zap of power. I didn’t want to laugh. I didn’t want to cry. I just stood there speechless. I was supposed to say “Amen” in response to his words, “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit,” but I could barely utter a sound.

The months after I received that sacrament I noticed an undeniable change in the way I lived out my Catholic faith. The happiness, love, purpose, and peace I had from my faith became contagious. In my junior year of high school I made it my goal to share my faith or a Saint story with one person per day. “Give me someone to tell about you, Lord,” was my constant prayer. I helped to start a prayer and faith sharing group, recruited people to youth ministry at my parish, godfathered a peer who was baptized, stood up for the dignity of women in the locker room, stood by those being mocked, went to pro-life marches, and, by the grace of God, I did it all in a way that was strangely “cool.” Picture a longhaired teen guitarist in the 90s with baggy shorts talking to potheads about Jesus, with a rosary hanging from his belt. That was me.

My faith was no longer hidden from the world in the “upper room” of my heart. I wore it on my shirtsleeve. My friends who could get so drunk they could run through walls without feeling it were forgotten soon after they left my high school. They’re a dime a dozen. I was remembered years after I left. I had been a shining light of faith.

Such is the impact of confirmation. Even though my life was changed through youth ministry, I never dreamt of doing youth ministry. After surviving teenager-hood myself I had no urge to go back! God had other plans. I’ve given much of my life to youth ministry, and more specifically, to preparing kids for confirmation. I did this as a youth minister in East LA, then by giving countless retreats around the country for confirmandi and parents, and finally by writing Chosen with Ascension Press, which, thank God, is being used by thousands of parishes and with great effect.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Confirmation prep is one of the greatest opportunities for evangelization in the Church today. Teens in confirmation class are there because they “have to be there.” They don’t want to be there. They’re not all that interested in God. Sometimes they’re even a little angry.

Do you know how hard our evangelical brothers and sisters have to work to find people like that? We have a captive audience right under our noses! While it can be difficult to work with them, I’ve seen countless lives change. I’ve seen teens with no interest in God end up bringing parents back to the fold. I’ve seen young punks become young apostles – just like me – because their parents “made them go.”

Lives changed by sacramental grace, liturgical encounters with Jesus Christ, and effective catechesis.

That’s what it’s all about.

Chris Stefancik is an internationally acclaimed author and speaker. He has devoted his life to inspiring people to live a bold, contagious faith. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, calls Chris, “one of the most engaging young defenders of the Christian faith on the scene today.” Chris is the author of what is being welcomed as the best Confirmation program in the English language: Chosen.