This time of year is really quiet in the parish. Families are already spending their weekends outside London. For catechesis, this is a time of preparing catechists and programmes for next year. As with anything, I’ve learnt that good planning in the quiet periods pays off in the busy ones…
Recently the new team of Confirmation catechists reflected on the purpose of Confirmation catechesis. What an important question to ask ourselves – often we dive straight in, all enthusiastic, without considering our goal: what is the purpose of what we’re doing, and how we are going to achieve what the Church asks us to achieve through Confirmation catechesis? So, we turned to the Catechism to ensure we had a clear idea of what the sacrament of Confirmation is about, and what the preparation should aim to achieve.
Often you hear people saying that being confirmed is about young people ratifying the decision that was made on their behalf at their Baptism. I really wanted to ensure that in our group of catechists we eliminated this idea – a sacrament is always about what God does for us, not about what we do. We studied what the Catechism said. Confirmation strengthens baptismal grace; it seals the candidate with the Holy Spirit so that they belong fully to Christ and are enrolled in his service forever; they are strengthened to go out and spread and defend the Faith. Read more at CCC 1285-1321.
So if this is what the sacrament does, what must be the goal of the catechesis? The catechesis needs to form and prepare the candidate so that they are disposed to receive these graces – the grace of the sacrament is effective insofar as the person is spiritually disposed to receive it (this is a different thing from saying that the sacrament doesn’t work if they are not disposed – as we know, sacraments ‘work’ ex opere operato – out of the very fact of their being performed). But the more someone’s heart is open and ready to receive the grace, the more fruitful it will be in their life. How do we form Confirmation candidates so they are as disposed as possible to receive the grace of this sacrament?
The Catechism underlines two goals: that they develop a more intimate union with Christ; and that they develop a more lively sense of the Holy Spirit. (See CCC 1309 below, which all Confirmation catechists should read!)
Preparation for Confirmation should aim at leading the Christian toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit – his actions, his gifts, and his biddings – in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life.
This strikes me as being an emphasis on spiritual formation. As I’ve mentioned before, the goal of all catechesis is union with Christ, all understanding should lead to conversion, and this happens through catechesis leading to prayer.
We are trying to develop a programme next year that will be as fruitful as possible in these particular areas: emphasis on spiritual formation, and catechesis that leads to prayer – a living relationship with God.