Meelyn was confirmed last night with an enormous group of teenagers (and some adults as well) at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. It was a beautiful Mass. When the confirmands processed into the church and Mee passed by our pew, her beautiful face peaceful, her hands prayerfully folded, I couldn't help but think about the first time I held her, her baptism, that first confession ("I am sometimes mean to my sister, but she deserves it"), First Holy Communion. I sniffled loudly, trying to keep myself under control. I did not want to go forward to receive communion from the hands of the bishop looking like a panda.
"Are you crying?" Aisling whispered from the left. She's at this age when any sign of great emotion from me causes her to fall down to the floor, laughing.
"Not quite," I said with dignity.
"Is he?" she asked, pointing discreetly to her father, who was standing at my right.
I craned my neck around to get a look at his face. "Yep," I whispered back.
"You two are such adorable, funny old things," she giggled.
I'm happy to report that I resisted the urge to step on her foot, since we were in church and all.
The bishop, whose name is William Higi, preached a very fine homily about what the sacrament of confirmation is: It is the completion of the work that was begun in us at baptism, each step along the way since then (first reconciliation, first communion) bringing the confirmands to this specific point where they would stand before him, the assembled priests and the congregation and confirm before God that they intended to serve Him for the rest of their lives; that they believe the statement of faith that Christians have been professing for the past 2,000 years, the beautiful creed codified at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father, God from God,
Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in being with the Father.
Through Him all things were made.
For us men and our salvation He came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary
and became man.
For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day He rose again in fulfillment of the scriptures:
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
The bishop told the confirmands that, although this sacrament was the last in the rites of initiation, this was by far not the end of their journey in Christ. In fact, it signaled a beginning: They are now considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be adults in their faith, with all the responsibilities that entails. "If you don't understand something about your Catholic faith," he said, "you are bound to learn about it. As a representative of Christ on earth, it is your responsibility to tell other people about the Catholic Church. It is your duty to help Catholics who have lost their way to find their way back home."
There was more along these lines and I found it very inspiring, especially when he said very seriously, "You have gone through a lot of preparation to get to this point, although we refer to it as 'formation.' In the process of your formation, you have learned why this sacrament is extremely important, and you also learned that you are making a profession and a promise before God. This is not a step to be undertaken lightly, because God holds us to our promises."
Michelle was Meelyn's sponsor and came in looking beautiful, as always, bearing a gorgeous sheaf of deep red flowers in her arms (she knows I know NOTHING about flora and fauna, so I know she'll forgive me for being clueless about what kind of flowers they actually were. I know pansies, roses, daffodils, tulips, petunias, geraniums and pretty. That's it. Oh, and daisies.) When they went forward together so that Meelyn could be anointed with the chrism oil, I thought I would just melt into a puddle.
Afterwards, there was a little reception in the (huge) narthex and church hall with all kind of punch and cookies and cheese cubes and little sandwiches. Meelyn and Michelle had their picture taken with both Fr. D and the bishop, who was being mobbed like a rock star. The bishop is a very tall man, and with his red miter and gold crozier, he towered over the two of them. I think the picture, which I had to take on the horizontal in order to get all of them into the frame, may well consist of Meelyn and Michelle's heads and the bishop from his pectoral cross on up. Oh, dear. This is the bishop's last round of presiding over confirmations in the diocese: He is 72 or 75 or whatever age means it's time to slow down and take it easy, and his letter requesting retirement has been accepted by Pope Benedict. That means that next year, Aisling will be confirmed by a new bishop!
Tomorrow, we're having a very small reception for Meelyn here at the house involving, well, punch and cookies and cheese cubes and little sandwiches. WE ALSO HAVE CAKE, so see how with it I am? We found a lovely die-cut banner that reads "Joyful Confirmation" on the cheap at the Party House, as well as some matching napkins. I am delighted that we'll be able to use the banner again next year, although the napkins, I'm afraid, will be unsalvageable.
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