April 30, 2024 // Bishop

Bishop Rhoades Confirms Dozens of Notre Dame Students

Alive with the beauty of blossoming trees and blooming flowers, the campus of the University of Notre Dame displayed the glory of God’s creation on Sunday, April 28. Fittingly, inside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a special Mass celebrating the glory and abundance of life in Christ was being held, as Bishop Rhoades presided over a Mass during which he confirmed members of the Notre Dame community.

Photos by Paula Lent
Bishop Rhoades offers the Sacrament of Confirmation to members of the University of Notre Dame community during Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Sunday, April 28.

The Mass readings included an excerpt from Acts of the Apostles displaying the first fruit of Paul’s conversion, a passage from the First Letter of John, and Jesus’ metaphor of the vine and the branches, taken from John’s Gospel. 

“What a great Gospel for this Mass in which seven members of the Notre Dame community will be received into full communion in the Catholic Church and, together with 32 other members of the community, will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Through confirmation, they will be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and more firmly united as branches to the vine, more firmly united to Christ and His Church.” 

“The parable of the vine and the branches is a beautiful expression of the mystery of Jesus and the Church. Jesus identified Himself as ‘the true vine,’ and His disciples as ‘the branches,’ Bishop Rhoades said. “We were grafted onto Jesus, the vine, when we were baptized. We were grafted onto Jesus so that we might have life – life in abundance, eternal life.”

Bishop Rhoades continued: “As branches on the vine, we are tasked to bear fruit. What is the fruit we are called to bear? If we turn to the second reading today from St. John’s first letter, we learn that the principal fruit we are to bear is love. St. John wrote: ‘Children, let us love not (just) in word or speech but in deed and truth.’ St. Paul teaches us the same thing in his letters. Recall his teaching in First Corinthians that love is the most excellent gift, the greatest of the virtues of the Christian life. St. Paul also lists love as the first of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit in his Letter to the Galatians. Our mission, therefore, is to bring the love of Christ to the world. What attracted so many pagans in the cruel world of the Roman empire 2,000 years ago to embrace Christianity? They marveled at the way the early Christian lived, saying ‘See how these Christians love one another.’”

In the first reading, taken from Acts of the Apostles, the newly converted Paul joins the Christian community in Jerusalem and becomes an apostle hard-bent on sharing the Good News. Having received the Holy Spirit, he preached boldly before leaving for Tarsus, and at that time, the Church “was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers.” 

Referencing the power of the Holy Spirit in the early Church, Bishop Rhoades underscored the power and the mission the 39 candidates would be receiving as well. “In the Acts of the Apostles, we see clearly the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in the primitive Church after Pentecost,” he said. “It’s the same Holy Spirit these candidates will receive in the Aacrament of Confirmation today, the Spirit who fills us interiorly with His gifts, strengthening us like He strengthened the early Christians to witness to Christ through our words and deeds,” he said. 

“Think again of the image of the vine and the branches. I like to think of the grace of the Holy Spirit as the sap of the vine. When we stay united to Jesus, we let the sap of the vine – the love of God poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul teaches – enter into us and animate our life.” 

“Candidates for confirmation,” Bishop Rhoades implored, “you are being called to live by the Spirit whom you receive today and so bear these wonderful fruits in your lives as disciples of Jesus. Think of the sacred chrism that I will anoint you with. It has a beautiful fragrance because of the balsam that is mixed with the olive oil. This matter of the Sacrament of Confirmation reminds us of this exhortation of St. Paul to the early Christians: ‘You are to be the fragrance of Christ in the world.’ How so? By spreading His goodness and love in a world that so desperately needs it, a world where there is a lot of bad odor. We build up God’s Kingdom in the world when we spread the fragrance of Christ, when we live and spread His Gospel, which the Holy Spirit strengthens us to do.” 

Bishop Rhoades underscored the importance of being active in one’s faith in order to remain connected to Christ, the true vine, as well as the importance of allowing for necessary pruning in order to bear fruit in the Lord.

“There are many things that can tear us from the vine, that can separate us from the Lord,” he said. “There’s selfishness and greed, anger and hate, lust and power, all kinds of temptations that draw us away from the Lord. How do we remain in Jesus? How do we stay connected to the vine? We need perseverance in faith, especially through daily prayer, through listening to God’s word, and through participation in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist,” he said. 

“We rejoice today that our seven brothers and sisters entering into full communion in Christ’s Church will be receiving the holy Eucharist for the first time. Jesus gave us the gift of His body and blood so that we will remain in vital communion with Him. Our union with Jesus the vine and with the other branches on the vine, our brothers and sisters in Christ, is nourished and grows through our participation in the Eucharist, which makes us one body in Christ,” Bishop Rhoades added.

Finally, before conferring the sacraments, Bishop Rhoades fittingly encouraged the Notre Dame candidates to look to Our Lady as an example of life in the Spirit.

“The greatest of all the saints, the Queen of All Saints, was the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patroness of this university. She was the strongest and most beautiful branch united to the vine, her Son,” he said. “The sap from the vine, the Holy Spirit, ran through every fiber of her being. She was indeed full of grace. The branch which was Mary did not need to be pruned since she was without sin, but she holds our hand in the pruning process. May she help us to be open to the pruning that we need so that we may bear good fruit in our lives and thus grow in holiness. And may she who is the Mother of the Church intercede for all those entering into full communion with the Church today and for all who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation! May you discover ever more deeply the joy of being united with Christ in the Church and bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit throughout your lives!”

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.