Prayer to Pen – Confirmation
By Father Frank Ryan
We refer to Confirmation as being a sacrament – a real encounter with the Divine. Sacraments give us strength for those stages in our life that bring identifiable challenges. The Apostles were given the power of the Holy Spirit as they were being sent to live and proclaim the message of the risen Christ. That same Spirit is the gift being given to those who receive Confirmation – and they are for the most part students in our secondary schools.
Our education institutions are meant to develop the individual potential of each student, not only academically, also according to their faith and cultural aspirations. Within our parishes there is a noticeable absence of secondary aged students, individuals who showed commitment and promise as they left our primary schools. Parents lamented, as did the whole worshipping community as these children ceased to develop their faith development. This phenomenon has been continuing for many years, and the common identifying factor seems to be the nature of ‘religious’ education in secondary schools. The effect of this system is to deconstruct, little by little, the faith evidenced by secondary school students. Our education system allows a form of cynicism that thwarts the spiritual development of students in accordance with their cultural identity. Schools are not expected to promote any individual faith system, but should ensure that individuals are supported in their commitments as part of their human development, and not have to defend their position before other children who have endless questions that can only be answered in a theological context.
Our Confirmation programme seeks to enhance each candidate’s relationship with God, and give an appreciation of the strengths that can emanate from their faith development. The gift of the Spirit is a reality, whereby, God commits to walk our walk and to suffer with us at those times when difficult resolutions evade us. The anointing with the Spirit is a gift which challenges us to bring God’s love to a world disfigured by its own brokenness. The challenge four our catechetics is to recognise the dignity and needs of each candidate. This course is a unique opportunity not just to witness to the richness of the church but to be inspired by the spiritual disposition of each candidate. For they too have a perspective of the spiritual which should enhance our ability to respond to their aspirations.
As leaders in these children’s development it is important to be a good listener. You should be aware of the Equality Act of 2010, especially in respect of Religious Discrimination. It would be good to be familiar with the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Statutory Code of Practice on Employment and Statutory Code of Practices on Services, Public Functions and Associations. Within the Act there is a section about harassment which might be relevant if candidates express concern. Care must be exercised so as not to lead an individual to make a statement which has not already been raised with their parents. For more information please see; www.equalityhumanrights.com