Felicitations to my friend Eric for all the work he has done in preparation for his Confirmation. Hearty congratulations are in order to all of his family – indeed – for suffering him for so long. On the surface one cannot be altogether sure that the final Sacrament of initiation is a grace felicitous to Eric. He was, after all, more impressed with the pudendum connotations of the saint’s name he had chosen rather than its associations with power and martyrdom. Classical history has come and gone, and so too has the traditional image of the schoolboy in short trousers being ritually interrogated by the bishop on the steps of the high altar. Now we stand in the company of schoolgirl choirs cranking out disinterested religious refrains – felicific only to their mothers – and a young Eric who appends an X-Box 360 to the ‘gifts’ of the Holy Spirit. This is not the upper room of hiding in Jerusalem where first the Paraclete emboldened men under burning tongues with praises in foreign languages. No, this is recognition of time well served, or time passed at least. This is the celebration marking the transition from childhood to adulthood – a coming of age.

It is a coming of age insofar as it has nothing to do with coming of age. Entering into a deeper commitment within the life of the Church is not a mere rite of passage marking the beginning, middle or end of adolescence. It is a choice. It is a confirmation of the promises made on our behalf at Baptism. Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises? Do you? Do you believe in One God; Father, Son, and Spirit? Do you? Taking Eric aside I asked him if he wanted to do this. With a rare angelic expression, filled with youth and excitement, he said “Yes!” Of course he wants to. Eric, I asked, what does all of this mean to you? Why are you doing this? “I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Everyone else is doing it.” Culture – like peer pressure – is a powerful force. “Let’s make a deal Eric,” I suggested. “I am touched and honoured that you have asked me to sponsor you, so if I’m to do this let’s make a deal.” Eric doesn’t need a rite of passage to learn that the world can be an unfair place. So I asked him that if he wanted me to sponsor him then I wanted him to promise that he would always look out for people weaker than himself; to stand with the bullied and the victimised. “Yes I will,” he said making me proud. Felix indeed.

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