Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Before I became a Jesuit I worked in a parish where one of my duties was to coordinate the Confirmation program. I think we did a pretty good job. I tried to emphasize to the students that Confirmation was something they should do if they wanted to, not just because everyone else, or because that's what their parents wanted. That usually didn't make much difference, but at least I said it. Still, I had the consolation of knowing that the students had learned something. I also had a sense that most of them and their families came to church on a fairly regular basis. There weren't so many, though indeed a few, whom after confirmation I never saw again.
This year I had my first experience of concelebrating a Confirmation mass as a priest. We had dinner before hand with the Bishop. Someone asked what percentage of those to be confirmed came to church on a regular basis. The shocking answer was "15, maybe 20 percent"! I wish the question had never been asked, because I couldn't put it out of my mind. I looked out at all the young people--and there were quite a few--out there with there sponsors and families, dressed in their nice robes, and I thought: What are we doing? Is this all just playacting? Why are we going through all the motions if most of the people here really aren't serious about what's going on; If they have no intention of taking their place as adult members of the Church? Can't we do better than this?
Many people would probably tell you that no, we can't. But we have to.
I think we are on the verge of a real vocation crisis, a vocation crisis that has nothing to do with people choosing to be priests or religious. It is much more fundamental than that. It has do with people choosing a vocation to a life of faith, a life in the Church. I'm not a pessimistic person, but it just seems like going through the motions and hoping for the best, just isn't going to cut it. We have to find a way to show young people why they should want to choose a life for Christ. Being a confirmed Catholic out to be something they aspire to, something they get excited about, something that is just the beginning, not the welcome end to tedious CCD classes or parental pressure.
Yeah, we should hope for the best. But how do we help those hopes be realized?