Last week we celebrated Naomi’s and Hannah’s Confirmation.
Just before leaving home for the church I lined the children up for a photo in their special clothes, and on the spur of the moment interviewed the girls about what they were looking forward to most on their big day.
Naomi didn’t really answer, although she is trying to notice which of the seven spiritual gifts she is being strengthened in the most. Hannah thought for a moment and then with a little skip said: “I think if I pay attention when I go up to the bishop I’ll feel a rush of wind and see a little flame come onto my head.”
I loved that, though I wondered if she was too young to be confirmed if she didn’t understand the meaning of symbolism yet; if she was still in the magical thinking stage. But then I figured that she probably does understand and was merely hoping for something striking to happen, and anyway her level of understanding is no impediment to God’s grace.
The Holy Spirit might allow her to believe she’s seen and felt those things, and those memories will become a part of the rich history of what is unfolding as Hannah’s relationship with God. And who am I to interfere with or make judgments about it?
As we sat in the church waiting for the ceremony to begin I looked along our allocated family pew and there were our children’s grandparents and godparents, aunties and uncles.
The same people were there at our wedding, and our children’s baptisms, and although we are each so different I felt quietly confident that we’ll all be celebrating together in heaven one day. That was my wish/prayer anyway.
It’s nice to have that quiet confidence that God means for us to be together with Him, and has done everything possible (except impede our free will) to make that happen.
I felt so blessed to be there with my family tribe, there in the presence of our greater Catholic tribe, and also in the presence of God, the creator of the entire human family, the creator of all.
There were so many people at the ceremony. Around 60 children were being confirmed at our session, and 60 had been confirmed earlier in the day. The church was packed, with standing room only.
In the next day’s Gospel we heard Jesus saying: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for the Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Wow, what a magnanimous thing to say to what I imagine was a pretty typical bunch of ordinary people, not too different to the people you’d see turn up to a Confirmation ceremony in fact.
Just like at the Confirmation, some would have been dedicated friends of Jesus, while some others would come along to accompany a friend or relative who was a follower of Jesus. Some would have been bored. A few, like me, might have been severely distracted because they were hungry, being too busy getting out the door to have eaten anything since sunrise.
And Jesus’s invitation would have been extended to all.
The bishop did a great job of relating this spirit of invitation, acceptance, and mercy. He spoke briefly to the children about their friendship with Jesus, and his love for them. He thanked the adults for taking responsibility for the children’s spiritual formation.
After the ceremony Peter photographed the girls with the bishop and their sponsors, and Hannah told us that she had felt something during it.
So had I. It was the love of God the Father. It was Christ’s peace. And the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit something more like the quiet breeze felt by Elijah than the strong wind felt by the apostles.