Sunday, January 17, 2016
So You Want to Be a Confirmation Sponsor...
This is the fifth time I've watched as a child of mine prepares to be confirmed. Confirmation is my very favorite sacrament, and the descent of the Holy Spirit, my favorite mystery of all the mysteries. Agreeing to be a sponsor, like agreeing to be a Godparent, is a lifelong job of evangelizing the other person, steeping them in the faith. It isn't a show up on this evening in the Spring dressed nice, sign a paper and we're good. It's a promise to God and to that person and to the church, to pray for this person, walk with them in faith, and advise them when necessary. To be a sponsor is to be a conduit of the Holy Spirit both now, and from now on, in the life of this new adult in the church.
The big question one must ask, is how do you do this? Here are some starting steps:
1) Pray. I mean pray for the candidate and with the candidate. If you can't go to mass with the person preparing for Confirmation, go to mass for them, and call to talk about the readings. Offer a rosary. Spend an hour in adoration a week. But do something to grow your own prayer life and fold that person who selected you as a person to guide them, into those prayers. If you already pray for 30 minutes per day, give the candidate an extra five all to themselves. (And this is forever so it doesn't stop because they're confirmed, confirmation is the beginning of their adult life in the church).
2) Sacraments. Confession and The Eucharist are a must. Being as free from sin as possible requires vigilance in any soul, and being responsible for an other's formation will require extra graces.
3) Educate yourself. For some, the last time they attended a confirmation, it was their own. Brush up on the sacrament, on the seven gifts, spend some time discerning what specific gifts of the Holy Spirit you most gravitate toward and why.
4) Think of examples in your own life of when you've known the Holy Spirit acted through you, and begin telling them to the candidate. Confirmation sponsors are to give testimony to the candidates of the reality of our faith. The Holy Spirit isn't hocus-pocus. It's the third person of the Trinity and very real. You need to be ready to tell your story of your encounters.
5) Ask your candidate why they want to become an adult in the church. Ask why they chose the saint they chose, what they liked about the service project, why they chose you as a sponsor. Ask them what they think an adult in the church is supposed to do. Ask them what they believe and why they believe it. Be ready to listen and answer questions. (That's why boning up on your own knowledge of the sacrament and focusing on your own encounters with the Holy Spirit are necessary prep work on your part).
6) Spend time with your candidate. Not just in prayer, not just at the sacrament, but on going, at lunch, at holidays, after masses over coffee and donuts. You'll deepen your own faith even as you forge a lifelong friendship over what matters most.
7) Lastly, ask your candidate to pray for you on a permanent basis.
Good luck, and thanks for taking on this vital role in cultivating the faith of others.
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