Saturday March 12th
Confirmation Session 1: Using our freedom to choose God
God’s respect for human freedom is absolute.
As far as God is concerned human freedom is non-negotiable.
So let’s be very clear – God will never force himself into our lives.
God waits to be invited in… and if he’s not invited in he’ll stay outside. Granted he’ll call to us in many ways but he will not breach our personal space.*
Now most of us here – Irish Catholics – were baptized as infants so how could we invite God into our lives?
We didn’t, simple as that! A baby is incapable of inviting God into it’s life so our parents and god-parents did it on our behalf.
Now that you’re leaving infancy and childhood behind you are being given the opportunity in Confirmation to make your parents and godparents choice your own.
You are being asked to use your freedom to choose God, to confirm the choice your parents and god-parents made for you on the day of your baptism.
This is our starting point…
Are you ready and willing to choose God, to confirm the choice that your parents and god-parents made for you all those years ago?
In the next session we’ll look at how we choose God.
*Here lies the root of our boredom… apathy… disinterest… with God and with religious matters.
Confirmation Session 2: How we choose God
We must convince God that we’re serious about him, that we’re sincere, 100% genuine, otherwise God will leave us alone.
God will not give us his gifts
He just won’t!
So, how do we convince God that we’re serious, sincere, genuine?
We will convince God that we’re serious, sincere and genuine by:
- Praying , spending time with God. In the case of Confirmation by asking God – begging God – to give us the Holy Spirit.
- By going to Mass… but it needs to be more than just going to Mass, it needs to be a very conscious uniting of ourselves with the priest to raise the very person of Jesus Christ in his one eternal redemptive sacrifice.
- By trying to avoid offending God and when we have offended God by apologizing.
- By actively doing good.
To convince God we will need to do these things over a period of time, we will need to be committed, sincere, and genuine over the long haul.
We will not fool God.
When we’ve proved ourselves to God, when God knows that he can trust us with his gifts , only then will he begin to give them to us… but not a moment before we’ve earned this trust.
When we’ve earned God’s trust (it’s called being faithful) he’ll draw us into intimacy, closeness, into his confidence.
At first, he’ll show us small stuff, little insights, he’ll open the door slightly and let us see inside Heaven, just a little bit… and if we use this small stuff properly he’ll trust us with ever greater and greater things.
In the next session we’ll look at the first of the four essentials in how we choose God: Praying . It’ll be in three parts: Session 3, 3.1, and 3.2
Confirmation Session 3: Prayer – convincing God we’re serious.
Prayer is the use of our freedom to invite God to breach our personal space.
It’s our consent, our permission given to God. Such is God’s respect for human freedom that without this invitation… this consent… this permission… God will not enter our personal space.
So without prayer God remains outside… distant… remote… little more than a thought or a possibility!
Prayer is vital.
Without it… nothing!
Prayer must become an essential part of the rhythm of our lives… as important as our food or our nights rest.
It must become a daily activity, twice daily, three times a day, over years… and more years!
It will require its own uninterrupted time and space.
The only difference between you (or me) and Padre Pio is the amount of time spent in prayer and the quality of that prayer. The only difference between the many who are called and the few who are chosen is the amount of time spent in prayer and the quality of that prayer.
If you’re ready to develop this level of commitment you’re well on the way to being ready for Confirmation, which is really to say; you’re getting ready for God!
Start by asking God to create in your very self a real hunger and thirst for Him.
Without a hunger and a thirst for God you’re not likely to even start this journey.
Sometimes, the hunger and desire for God is created out of real human need… a crisis… the feeling that there’s nowhere else to go…
Often though, we need to create it ourselves by simply asking for it over time.
At the same time ask the Holy Spirit to come and make her home in you. Invite the Holy Spirit to begin breaching your personal space. Begin the process of handing over your sovereignty!
Confirmation Session 3.1: How do I pray? How do I make these requests?
Create the space and the time and use your own words.
In prayer speak to God as you would to another person, as you would to a friend using your own words. What do you speak about when you meet your friends? When you’re on a sleep-over? When you meet a friend for coffee or lunch? That’s the stuff of prayer, talk to God as you would to a friend.
Don’t be afraid to speak audibly (out loud) if it helps.
It may help if you’ve got something to focus on, an image or a statue, or from wherever you are situated, to turn toward the tabernacle in your local church and empty out your heart and mind… over time this will lead to a profound silence in which the soul and God communicate without and beyond words.
When using images remember there’s an order, Jesus first, Mary second; an order that Mary herself respects.
For this reason I recommend turning toward the tabernacle in your local church although this orientation doesn’t exclude the use of a statue of Mary in your prayer space, it just means that if you’re asking Mary for something at least you can look away from her toward her Son because this is the totality of all that she can do in response to you asking her in the first place.
You see anything Mary obtains for us, she obtains by praying to her Son, so as we move our gaze away from her and toward her Son we’re uniting our gaze with that of Mary, a combined look toward her Son.
In prayer it’s vital to grasp that God has shown himself in Jesus… all that God wants us to know is to be found in Jesus.
Therefore we must pay close attention to the teachings of Jesus which are found in the four books of the Gospels.
A convenient way to access the teachings of Jesus is by paying close attention to the Sunday Gospels… a good reason to go to Mass on Sundays!
Read them over and over… sit with them… through them Christ will teach you about the inner workings of Heaven, of God Himself.
Confirmation Session 3.2: Prayer and the Holy Spirit
Warning from here on I may be describing spiritual experience that goes over lots of heads!
Please don’t let that put you off… instead treat it as a route map that’ll help you find your way through as yet unexplored pathways to the wonder of Heaven even in the here and now.
The Spirit has only one purpose – to bring you with her… to bring you back into the Holy Trinity (God is three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit = Trinity)
In fact, the Spirit can’t do anything else but return to the Father and the Son. She’s come to you, started the process of making you hers, but she will want to go back to the Father and to the Son, back home so to speak, it’s where she belongs, and since you now merit her presence she’ll bring you with Her – like being collected by a parent to bring you home!
When this happens it feels like you’re still on earth but with your heart and more besides already in Heaven.
For the spiritually advanced this half on earth half in Heaven heart and mind space, this soul space, is quite painful. It’s a longing that the soul realizes can’t be truly fulfilled in this life.
Overall this is how we become God’s possession.
Bear in mind though that at any point along the way you can drive the Spirit away from you (traditionally known as the effect of mortal sin)
Once we’ve made it possible for the Holy Spirit to breach our personal space she begins to melt us and mould us and a new person is formed – St. Paul’s new man or woman – and this new man or woman will always manifest clearly identifiable qualities, characteristics, traits… which are in fact the Gifts and the Fruits of the Holy Spirit fully developed.
But God won’t leave it there. No, there will be other gifts bestowed which will be given primarily to help the recipient make Jesus known.
To give some idea of the breath of gifts that God might bestow it is necessary to look to the lives of the saints.
So, as an essential part of preparation for Confirmation I recommend reading at least one of the written accounts of the life of Padre Pio.