Everyone was silent. As parishioners walked in, they dipped their fingers into Holy Water before making the Sign of the Cross on themselves, or their children. In silence they find their way to a pew, most often kneeling in prayer once they found a seat.
From outside I could hear the drums and chanting of the Matachines as they danced in the courtyard, to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
As I sat at the back of the Church, watching people enter, I noticed the those who were to be confirmed in their faith come in and out. Some would stop to say a prayer before the Crucifix found inside the front door of the Church. Others would petition St. Francis for his help.
All of them would then take the time out to greet family, or friends that were in the pews.
As ten o’clock approached, the crowd began to swell. The Knights of Columbus were ushering people to open spaces and the Catechumens to the courtyard. Father Juan Antonio lit the candle, that I later learned was the Paschal Candle.
I was then told that the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso was outside and was about to greet the Catechumens.
Bishop Mark Seitz, in his comments to a group of anxious and nervous teenagers and adults, were calming, inspiring. Then, after a blessing, the Mass was set to begin.
I am sure many of you have attended many a Mass. The prayers, the Psalm that is read, with the refrain said by the congregation. There is the reading of the Gospel and the Homily.
“Peter shows how the Holy Spirit is at work in his life,” the Bishop said during his Homily.
Confirmation, I came to learn, is about just that, the Holy Spirit.
In the life of the Catholic Church, there are seven sacraments: Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage, and Holy Orders. In the sacrament of Confirmation, one is infused with the Holy Spirit and its gifts.
“If you stay tuned,” said the Bishop, “when you come to Church, you will hear the Spirit mentioned all the time.”
The Bishop then told everyone present that the same Spirit that was working in Peter back then is in the same Spirit that is working in them.
“We heard about two amazing miracles,” said the Bishop, referring to the scripture readings for the day, “that were performed through his [Peter’s] intercession.”
In the readings you have Peter curing an individual that was sick, that had been bedridden for eight years because he was paralyzed. As Peter was brought to Aeneas, he spoke to him. “Aeneas,” said Peter in Acts, chapter 9:31-42, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed.” This is the first healing Bishop Seitz was referring to in his Homily.
The second healing was in Joppa, when he was called upon to help a woman who had “fell sick and died.” Two men were sent to bring Peter to where Tabitha lay. As he entered the room, he sent everyone away.
I can almost imagine the scene. The room is finally empty, still, quiet. The only ones there are Peter and the body of Tabitha. Peter settles, kneels next to the bed, where she is laying. Raising his eyes to heaven, he prays. Then, without a single doubt in his mind, he turned to Tabitha and told her to “rise.” She did.
According to the Bishop’s Homily, these two events are the work of the Holy Spirit working in, and through Peter. The same Spirit, he said, that was working with Christians today.
This past Saturday, members of Our Lady of Guadalupe, teenagers and convert alike, received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And, according to tradition, according to the world of Jesus, they will be able to do the works He has done, and more.
Saturday’s Confirmation was the culmination of two years of preparation, study, prayer, and retreats. I’ve discovered that they do not enter Confirmation lightly. It’s not some mundane event in their lives, like receiving a certificate for completing classes. For the faithful within the Catholic Church, it’s much more.
Delores Cortinas is the person responsible for teaching Catechism.
“During these two years of Confirmation formation, they can reaffirm their faith, and we also prepare them to go forward and speak for Jesus,” says Delores.
This is not something to take lightly!
I also asked about why the Bishop called everyone by the name of a Saint during confirmation. The answer gave me additional insight as to how serious Confirmation is.
“They are asked to choose a Saint at the beginning of their formation,” Delores says, “so that they can follow, or pray to that Saint, and follow the path of the Saint to holiness and Sainthood.”
Delores’ husband, Deacon Carlos Cortinas joined us in our conversation. (I love how the Deacon and Delores are a team on this. And, in the next two weeks they will be celebrating FIFTY years together in marriage!)
I had asked Delores what she would like to say about Confirmation, and she reminded me of the letters the Bishop read during his Homily. These letters were written by those about the be Confirmed. Each letter read expressed a hope that they would be able to serve G-d and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
After the Mass, I asked Bishop Seitz why Confirmation was important.
“It’s important for several reasons,” the Bishop said. “It’s a major step in the initiation of a person into the Catholic faith. So, it’s very important for that reason. It’s extremely important for Parishes because when we confirm a person, we are asking G-d’s spirit to animate them, to make them not only a child of G-d but a person that is using the gifts that He’s given them for the service of G-d and the Church. The service of His people.”
The Bishop also pointed out that the work one does isn’t ours. It’s G-d’s work, the work of His Spirit.
“We confirm that faith that we have, that it is G-d that wants to use us for His work,” said the Bishop. It’s an important moment for these young adults, the Bishop pointed out, that these young people relate to the Church in a way that will resonate with them.
“The Sacrament of Confirmation,” he says, “and its preparation gives us an opportunity to work with these young people and help them to bridge the time between childhood and adulthood.”
As the Bishop said, if you listen to the audio above (and you should listen to it), it may seem that the Church is losing members, but this day’s activities counters that. Over forty young men and the woman took a stand for their faith, expressed faith publicly, and are ready to become examples and faith leaders within their community.
I have to say: I was amazed at what I found at Our Lady of Guadalupe. The spirit of the congregation, the hope they have in receiving the gifts G-d has for them. The desire that they must follow in the footsteps of their Savior.
As a final note, this is not the typical style in which I write my articles. I guess this one would fall into the category of sharing how I felt, how I viewed the Mass, and what I thought of it overall. I hope I’ve not offended anyone, as this was the first Confirmation service I have ever attended.
I am doing a series called A Year of Faith where I am visiting with different churches, ministers and denominations. If you would like to be a part of this series, do give me a call at 915-201- 0198. Or, email me at Steven@StillGoingSomewhere.com