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In another past year, this weekend just gone, would have seen us starting our parish, and our half of the deanery, confirmation programme with our young people. Unfortunately, as we are unable to meet as a group, this has been postponed until such times as it becomes possible again to gather together. It is perhaps no coincidence that the first session is around the time of the feast of Pentecost and is a fitting place to begin the preparation. In the first session we focus on two key points – responsibility for my faith and what we are choosing.
Many of the young people look somewhat surprised when we explain to them that the Confirmation ceremony, way off in normal October, will require them to make for themselves, in a public declaration before all the congregation gathered in the church, an affirmation of their baptismal promises. The programme itself is designed to help them decide if they are willing and wanting to make those promises in their own right.
Anyone who is a parent and has asked to have their child baptised, and anyone who is a god-parent, has made those promises on behalf of someone else. Those promises indicated that we were/are willing to live out our faith, and in doing so setting out a good example to whoever we made those promises for. At Confirmation, we are given the opportunity to continue that good foundation and with the grace of the Holy Spirit to go forward living our lives in Christ as a member of the Church.
However, those promises are not just reserved for Baptisms and Confirmations. The reality is that every time we recite the Creed at Mass we are reinforcing our commitment to those promises. But do I realise that this is what I am doing? Does the Creed remind me of what my faith means to me, or is it as one previous confirmation candidate voiced, “a big bit of text, with some fancy words about God thrown in, that we all just read out loud.” And, sadly she was in many ways perfect in her description.
On many occasions promises are just meaningless and used to please or pacify others. “I promise to phone you”, “I promise to put the bin out!” “I promise to send a letter!” Other promises last a bit longer, but get confused with things like New Year resolutions. Some promises last a life-time, but take working at, such as marriage vows. The ultimate promise however is the one that God gives to us of salvation through the teachings of Christ and His Church.
Christ promises that He is with us at all times, the Creed that we recite affirms that we believe this and seals our commitment, our promise, to try to live as He asks us to. Have you ever considered that the Creed is in itself a prayer? When we are perhaps having doubts or trouble in our relationship with God, the Creed is a beautiful way in which we can reconnect with what we believe. The Creed doesn’t have to be confined to just being recited during Mass. It encapsulates the essence and ethos of our faith, it is the promises that I have made, it should be my guide and direction in my life.
The promises of Baptism and Confirmation are what we live by. They are not just confined to the two occasions that the sacraments are conferred, they are the promises that give us a life in faith, and faith in our life.
Deacon Ian Black