Confirmation is about choosing what's best for our children as Christians
We celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation in our parish last weekend. It wasn't the sunniest of days, but certainly the sun shone brightly in the faces of the boys and girls who were celebrating their special day. We had two confirmation ceremonies here, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, due to the large number of pupils in the 3 schools that were involved, and both ceremonies went off brilliantly.
During the week before the confirmation ceremony itself, we had a short liturgy called the Service of Light. It's separate to the confirmation ceremony, but I feel that it equally as important, and it's certainly more intimate and gentle. In the Service of Light, the parents/guardians fulfil a promise that they made at the baptisms of their children.
During the baptism, the parents and godparents were entrusted with the light of Christ, which they promised to carry on behalf of the newly baptised, until the children themselves were old enough to carry their own light. When parents take a light from the paschal candle at their children's Baptism, it is a sign of the faith that they are going to hand on to their children. The Service of Light is the moment when they symbolically do just that.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the value of confirmation, about how much it actually means to the children, and to their families, or if it means anything at all. There are plenty who feel that the person being confirmed should be the one making the decision, and not just doing what their parents decide is best for them.
I've met parents who haven't got their children baptised and have no intention in having them make their First Communion or Confirmation either, until they are old enough to decide for themselves. And then, if it's something that they want to do, they can do it on their own terms. Let the child decide - why baptise them against their will, and why deny them the choice? I believe that there is a flawed logic in this argument however. A parent usually wants what's best for their child - at least all of the parents that I know do anyway.
So, would a parent deny their child involvement in sports until their old enough to decide if they want to be a rugby player or a footballer? Would they deny their child orthodontic treatment until the child decides if they want their teeth corrected or not? Would they feed their child meat, or would they wait until the child is old enough to decide whether or not they want to be a vegetarian? Would they enrol a child in a Gaelscoil or wait until they know that they really want to learn Irish?
Ultimately, we make decisions all the time for our children - because we want what's best for them. As Christians, and as Catholics, we believe that having a faith in God is what's best for our children. And yes, if when they reach 16 or 18 they don't want to be a part of a community of believers, then they can make that decision. But until that time, we will continue to do what's best for them.
That's what the Christian faith is about, and that's what Confirmation itself is about.