April 12, 2024 // Bishop

Bishop Urges Newly Confirmed to Be Strong in Faith

The night of Friday, April 5, will be one to remember for the confirmands of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Decatur and St. Joseph Church in Bluffton. Bishop Rhoades confirmed 39 young people from the two parishes during a Mass held at St. Mary in a ceremony fitting for the joyous season of Easter.

The presence of the Lord was tangible in the midst of the church even before the confirmands processed in. As families gradually filled the pews, the excitement built among those in attendance. The flower arrangements and Easter decorations, coupled with sunlight pouring in through the stained-glass windows depicting various saints and angels, prepared those in the congregation for the sacredness of the event they were about to witness. The music from the choir and organist added to the beauty of the evening.

Anna Laisure
Confirmands await photos with Bishop Rhoades after receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Decatur on Friday, April 5.

In reflecting on the readings for the Friday in the Octave of Easter, Bishop Rhoades encouraged the young people during his homily. While discussing the transformative power of the Holy Spirit on St. Peter, he said, “If the first pope and a great martyr had so many flaws, that gives us all hope for ourselves!” He highlighted how, despite denying Jesus before the Crucifixion, it was Peter who enthusiastically jumped into the Sea of Galilee to get to Jesus at the shore in the Gospel reading (cf. Jn 21:1-14), and how, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit within him, he was able to boldly preach the name of Jesus and condemn the Sanhedrin in the first reading of the Mass (Acts 4:1-12).

To continue the comparison with St. Peter, Bishop Rhoades brought up his own confirmation saint, St. John. Because of how close he was to Jesus, John was immediately able to know that Jesus had risen, unlike some of the other disciples who needed more convincing. Bishop Rhoades admitted that some people are more easily able to believe than others, but he encouraged the young people by saying, “The more we love, faith becomes easier.”

Bishop Rhoades also talked about the many letters the confirmands had written to him. He was encouraged to read about the prayer lives of the young people and the many ways they were striving to grow in their relationship with God. He also admired their honesty in sharing their struggles. Bishop Rhoades acknowledged that prayer can sometimes be difficult and encouraged them to keep trying, even when they stumble. He also shared how moved he was hearing about the ways their sponsors were working in the lives of the young people. He mentioned one in particular who is a coach. This sponsor would often give encouraging speeches to the young athletes and tells them that God should always come first, followed by family, school, and, lastly, themselves.

Bishop Rhoades offered much advice to the young people to help them stay strong in their faith lives. He first encouraged them to regularly read Scripture and to not let dust gather on their Bibles. He also told them how important it is to find the right atmosphere and time of day to pray. Some will prefer to pray in the morning in their rooms, while others will prefer to pray in the evening in a chapel or in the beauty of creation. He emphasized most especially to simply talk to Jesus like a friend. While memorized prayers are important, personal and authentic prayer helps our relationships with God grow.

Befitting the confirmation Mass, Bishop Rhoades especially expressed the power of the Holy Spirit. Many times, he reminded the confirmands of the inner strength they will receive to bear witness to Christ and to be faithful disciples through their confirmation. He told them that the early Christians were admired by many pagans because of the way they lived. They took care of the poor, sick, and needy, and they rejected all forms of violence. No one was needy among the Christians. Bishop Rhoades challenged the young people to consider if their lives reflect what they believe. “It’s easy to say, ‘I’m a Christian. I’m a Catholic.’ But that’s not the main thing,” he said. “The main thing is not that you are called Christian, but that you are Christian!” It is difficult to be faithful in our culture today without being criticized, he told them. That is why the Holy Spirit is so necessary for Christians.

Before confirming the young people, Bishop Rhoades jokingly told them to smell each other’s foreheads after they are anointed, because, as St. Paul says, “You are to be the fragrance of Christ.” This is what all Christians are called to do, and the saints show us how to do it. He told them to not be afraid to proclaim the word of God and how each one of them is a very important part of the Body of Christ. Finally, he reminded them of the simple yet life-changing truth that “God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us get to heaven.”

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