On the eve of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, when confirmands from St. Edmund of Canterbury and Corpus Christi Parishes could not make their Confirmation because of new COVID-related restrictions, Fr. Raymond Lafontaine, Episcopal Vicar for the English-speaking faithful, with the assistance of parish catechists Joanne Murray (St. Edmund of Canterbury) and Evelyn Campbell (Corpus Christi), arranged a special, virtual get-together via the Zoom platform.
The purpose of the get-together was to celebrate the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each and every one of us, especially these young confirmands, and to make what might have been a disappointing day into a special one. And it was very special indeed.
In preparation for the online gathering, the young people were encouraged to think about which gift of the Holy Spirit is most helping them to get through these unprecedented times, or which one they feel they need the most. They were asked to watch the video Why we're confirmed, from the Catholic media resource, Busted Halo. To make the occasion special, the young people were also invited to wear something red or, if they wanted, what they would have worn for their Confirmation.
Confirmands were joined online by their parents and sponsors. Using the chat feature, the youngsters typed in their names and those of their sponsors.
After the introductions, Fr. Raymond said a short prayer before a short passage of Scripture was read, John 20:19-23, where Jesus gifts the Holy Spirit to the disciples who were quarantined in a locked room. In his thoughtful reflection on the reading, linking the experience of the first disciples with the current pandemic, Father Raymond spoke about Pentecost and the power of the transforming gifts of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to go out into the world. He highlighted the fact that the young people have already been gifted with precious gifts since Baptism and invited parents and sponsors to name them in the chat.
The sponsors were reminded of their important role to live their lives of faith in courage and perseverance in today’s world and to testify to that faith by how they live. He called on the young people to be proud of their God-given gifts, of who they are as children of God and of their gift of faith, reminding them that once confirmed, they are called to bring these gifts out into the world and make a difference.
At that point, the young people were asked to answer a poll, naming the gift they need in a special way at this time. See the results of one of those polls.
Once Fr. Raymond had posted the results, he explained each gift in today’s context and showed how they are interlinked. So, for example, “understanding” enables us to reflect on what is going on in the world today; “wisdom” assists us in understanding people and what is good for them, “courage” supports us to do what is right, even when there is a personal cost and “piety” confirms that God is still in control as we seek to do His will. Our God is an awesome God, always on our side. Even when times are hard, the world is still beautiful. The Holy Spirit is always with us.
Then, Fr. Raymond asked if they were feeling God’s presence in their lives during the pandemic. People could choose to speak or write in the chat. The answers were as varied as the uniqueness of everyone online: patience through all the changes during the pandemic, courage not to be tempted to break the rules, wisdom to make the right decision and do what is right for the protection of everyone, and compassion for those suffering from illness and loss or living in isolation.
After this time of sharing, Fr. Raymond remarked that they were faith-filled communities and the Holy Spirit was already inside of them. At the time of Confirmation, their gifts will be unleashed and they will make them available to others.
After that, Fr. Raymond explained the Liturgy of the Confirmation. He highlighted that the Chrism oil was like a permanent tattoo, sealing the young people with the gift of the Holy Spirit and the special sign of peace would send them out as peace-builders into the world.
In conclusion, Fr. Raymond told the confirmands that he was looking forward to being with them in person as soon as is feasible, encouraged them “Do your best and let God do the rest!” and to enjoy the fire of the Spirit shining in the changing colours of the autumn leaves. As words of thanks appeared in the chat, Fr. Raymond thanked the young people for their love and kind words. He also thanked each of the parish teams, the parents and sponsors for helping prepare the young people for their Confirmation. In their turn, the catechists thanked everyone for their patience and kindness as they await the celebration of their Confirmation in-person.
Father Raymond’s gesture to meet the confirmands online and give them a short catechesis to encourage them and fill them with hope was appreciated as “wonderful”. Instead of being left with a feeling of disappointment that their Confirmation was postponed, the young people still had an "event" to prepare for, and participate in. “All of us (catechists, children, parents and sponsors) are touched that Father Ray gave so generously of his time and genuine presence with the young people,” said Evelyn Campbell.
Corpus Christi Meeting, Saturday afternoon, October 3, 2020.
“May God bless you and keep you, may He make His face to shine on you, […] and grant you His peace.” – Numbers 6:24-26