The sacraments of initiation – baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist – lay the foundations of every Christian Life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, the faithful thus receive in increasing measure the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity. These sacraments are a “beginning” not an end on your jour-ney of faith.
Baptism is described as the sacrament of “belonging” as we enter church and become children of God. Confir-mation is the “sealing of Baptism” – the sealing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which we receive in Baptism and are through Confirmation sealed as part of our lives and are to be used in our daily journey in faith. The Holy Eucharist is the “food for the journey” – the food that will give us the strength to live our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit fol-lowing in the footsteps of Christ.
We grow in our faith just as we grow in other aspects of our lives. This growth in faith generally occurs in stages. In the first stage we learn from those around us, we learn primarily from our parents and extended family or adult caregivers. We learn to imitate prayer, attendance at Mass, doing good deeds, to love and forgive.
The second stage is affiliating when we want to be involved in church, school, home and community activities. We want to join teams and clubs and want to be part of church activities. At home we like to participate in meal pray-er, rituals, and family religious traditions.
The third stage is searching when it is important to ask questions about faith, the church and about God. Par-ents and other adults need to be present as guides on this search, encouraging healthy questions even those about other religions.
The fourth stage is the time when we recognize that as adults we do not have all the answers and that their will be ups and downs in one’s faith journey. However, we have chosen the Catholic Church as our faith home. The prayers and rituals, especially the sacraments, continue to lead us to holiness as we cooperate with the grace (life in the Spirit) that God offers. We understand that learning our faith is a lifetime commitment.
The children receiving the sacraments of Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist have spent time along with their parents learning more about their faith, participating in liturgy and learning how to live their faith in their every day lives. But the reception of these sacraments is not the end it is the beginning of a life-long journey of learning about and growing in faith.
As a Catholic community we also need to be present for these children to help them grow in faith through our commitment to learning and practicing what we have been given form our parents and community. Our children need to see us all as a community of people who pray and celebrate together; who love and forgive; who share their many gifts both in the parish community and the wider community. Together we help to raise a faith community who recognizes its strengths and weaknesses; who recognizes the gifts of individuals and encourages their development; who are able to lead as well as to step back and encourage others to lead; to continue to learn about and continue to grow as the people call by God to do great things.
Mary Anne Penner