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 | By The Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss

The power of Confirmation

One of the things that I have missed most these past few years is celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation with our young people. It has always been an important part of my episcopal ministry. Over the years, I have discovered that the most suitable age for this sacrament has been before the young people start getting involved in all the activities of high school. They seemed to be more open to the preparation process, learning about the sacrament and its importance for their lives as Catholics in their call to discipleship.

As you will see in this issue of Great Lakes Bay Catholic, the Diocese of Saginaw has implemented a new confirmation program for our young people, which will begin when they are 12 to 14 years old. The celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation will come at a good time in their growth into mature discipleship.

I sometimes wonder if those who have already been confirmed are aware of the tremendous gift that they have received. Perhaps they have forgotten the purpose of the Sacrament of Confirmation in their own lives.

A part of the preparation process in my previous diocese, students were required to write a letter to the bishop outlining why they wanted to be confirmed. I recall one year, a Confirmation student wrote in his letter, “I want to be confirmed because my heart is on fire with the love of Christ, and I want to share that with everyone I meet.” Wow! Should we not all pray for this daily? This student understood the purpose and the power of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In the Sacrament of Baptism, each of us not only received the Holy Spirit, but also received our unique call to follow Jesus. Confirmation deepens our baptismal call to be missionary witnesses of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, schools, society and the world. Through Confirmation, our personal relationship with Christ is strengthened through a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is one reason why the sacrament is important.

Jesus told his apostles before his suffering and death, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything.” (Jn 14: 23, 26)

After the resurrection, Jesus came through the locked doors of the Upper Room and breathed on the apostles who were living in fear and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He opened the disciples to a new world and gave them the courage and strength to hold firmly to Christ, facing the violence of their persecutors unafraid, stepping forward in public speaking of “the mighty works of God.”

This was their Confirmation moment – the moment when their whole lives changed, setting them on a new course.

When the Spirit took over, the disciples went out, turned the world upside-down and established a church that has survived over 2,000 years, inspiring billions of people to follow the way of Christ. This did not come about through money or massive buildings, but by the sheer power of the Holy Spirit working in simple men and women and children. Jesus told them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) This is what happens when we are confirmed and are alive in the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit bestows seven gifts—wisdom, understanding, knowledge, fortitude, counsel, piety and fear of the Lord—to assist us in our mission to carry the Gospel into the world. The impact of these gifts accompanies us in the various stages of our spiritual development and, if they are alive in us, help our growth into mature disciples of Jesus. This is the heart of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

When we are responsive to the grace of Confirmation and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we begin to bear the fruits of the Spirit. These twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit include: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity (cf. CCC, no. 1832; Gal 5:22).

When we embrace a life in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit will define our life and lead us to our personal mission for Christ. This is at the heart of this Sacrament of Confirmation. With the Holy Spirit alive in us, we can become extraordinary Catholics, extraordinary missionaries of Christ’s love – like the saints whose names we have chosen for Confirmation.

Christ will transform us and make us what they were, and what you and I are called to become. For Christ is calling us to become saints. That is the power of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

For many people, the gifts of the Holy Spirit have been forgotten and perhaps are inactive. The Lord has much more to give to each of us. We just need to ask the Spirit to make them come alive in us.

The Catholic Church needs to regain the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Again, he dwells in each one of us through our Baptism, through our Confirmation. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 6:19) The Spirit is the voice that guides us through good times and bad times. The Spirit brings clarity out of confusion, unity where there is division, love where there is hate, healing where there is sickness, strength where there is weakness, light where there is darkness, hope where there is despair. This is why the Sacrament of Confirmation is important.

Therefore, I would also like to extend an invitation to everyone. Let us rediscover the beauty of what we have already received by asking that Spirit to reawaken our hearts to the gifts given in our Baptism and Confirmation – sources of grace that are always present – to rekindle those small embers, fanning them into roaring flames.

The Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss is the seventh bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.