Christus Vivit – Christ is Alive!Young people preparing for Confirmation need to know this now more than ever.Christ is alive and seeks to walk with youth in this moment. Confirmation should be a strengthening and the start of renewed zeal for discipleship. Too often, the sacrament is the end instead of the beginning. The end of catechesis; the end of practice of the faith; the end of family support for faith engagement; and the end of participating in the parish. We can change the way we help youth prepare for and live out their Confirmation as a beautiful gift from God by building our confirmation ministry around the person of Christ. These are five ways to implement the insights from Pope Francis's Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit.
#1: Focus on Encounter
To build our processes around the person of Christ, we begin with providing varied and consistent ways for youth to experience an encounter.This encounter with the love and mercy of Christ happens when we reconnect with the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation. We promote encounters by helping youth to develop patterns of personal prayer, by engaging in service, by appreciating God's presence in nature, through moments of silence, and reflection on scripture and the teachings of the Church.Retreats, spiritual conferences, and mission trips are often a source for encounters. Youth often experience encounters with Christ in relationships with family, trusted friends, and mentors.These experiences grow through deep belonging in the community of faith.An experience of encounter should be nurtured and cared for like a new flame.
…it happens that young people are helped to have a powerful experience of God, an encounter with Jesus that touched their hearts. But the only follow-up to this is a series of "formation" meetings featuring talks about doctrinal and moral issues, the evils of today's world, the Church, her social doctrine, chastity, marriage, birth control and so on.As a result, many young people get bored, they lose the fire of their encounter with Christ and the joy of following him; many give up and others become downcast or negative. Rather than being too concerned with communicating a great deal of doctrine, let us first try to awaken and consolidate the great experiences that sustain the Christian life.
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#2: Empower Parents and Renew Family Faith
Families accompany young people in faith and reveal Christ to the young. The home can be a place where young people experience encounter, formation, and unconditional love. Confirmation ministries are an opportunity to reach out to parents and help this sacramental moment become an opportunity for faith renewal for the whole family.We can build on the strengths of each family and empower parents to have faith conversations with their adolescent.
The Synod insisted that "the family continues to be the principal point of reference for young people. Children appreciate the love and care of their parents, they give importance to family bonds, and they hope to succeed in forming a family when it is their time."
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#3: Engage the Parish in Confirmation Ministry
We want youth to remember their baptism, but we also want the parish community to remember.When someone is baptized, the community makes a commitment to support the new Christian in faith and to support the parents in raising up young faithful.A parish community that accompanies young people and that joins in the mission of witness and care is a community that remembers their promise.Confirmation ministries can provide ways for a parish to pray for young people, build relationships, and find ways to include youth throughout the life and ministries of the community.
The community has an important role in the accompaniment of young people; it should feel collectively responsible for accepting, motivating, encouraging and challenging them.
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… (Young people) will be better integrated into communities that are open, living their faith, eager to radiate Christ, joyful, free, fraternal and committed. These communities can be settings where they feel that it is possible to cultivate precious relationships.
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#4 Accompany Young People as they Prepare for Confirmation
Confirmation ministry is about accompaniment – walking with, listening, providing formation in the context of lived experience.In Christus Vivit, Pope Francis describes this kind of personal accompaniment as essential in the process of faith.
In such places…the person-to-person contact indispensable for passing on the message can happen, something whose place cannot be taken by any pastoral resource or strategy.
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Many parishes are finding ways to build their preparation process around accompaniment by having adult faith companions work together in pairs in conjunction with parents to accompany a small group of youth through preparation.
#5 Witness Faith to Candidates
Youth who are preparing for Confirmation long to experience the witness of intentional disciples who know Christ and strive to follow him daily.
The importance of witness does not mean that we should be silent about the word. Why should we not speak of Jesus, why should we not tell others that he gives us strength in life, that we enjoy talking with him, that we benefit from meditating on his words?
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We empower parents, sponsors, and others who companion youth to be witnesses.The parish community also provides a witness through welcome, and inclusion.The team of people preparing youth have a special opportunity to witness to their faith, to tell the story of God alive in their life.It is a blessing in Confirmation ministries that there are so many good resources and media that can help to share the message of faith.But it is essential to remember that no video or program takes the place of the living witness of a community.
"thank the Lord for the grace of our confirmation that, filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, we may always mirror Christ's presence in our relations with others, our openness to those in need, and our living witness to the Gospel message of joy and peace."
Pope Francis, Vatican City, Wednesday audience, January 29, 2014.
These comments by the Holy Father about Confirmation describe the life of a disciple:someone filled joy who imitates Christ in actions and witness.This is a description of someone who lives their life knowing the Christ is alive and walks with them.We have an opportunity to create new ways to walk with youth who are engaged in Confirmation ministries. We can accompany youth as they prepare for the sacrament and then support young disciples as living witnesses of joy and peace.
Note to Leader:This blog post shares some elements with an essay entitled, "Christ is Alive in Confirmation Ministries", provided within the Catechetical Sunday 2020 Resource, published by the USCCB.
Pope Francis, Christus Vivit - Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, March 25, 2019