In heaven we shall live and not be able to die, for we shall enjoy eternal glory, life that was purchased for us by our Savior's death.  We shall possess it securely, without fear of losing it.  Our Lord came as Savior to save us all from dying.  For his death acquired for us that life in which we shall never die, the life of glory.  --St. Francis de Sales

 

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit for Our Diocesan Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this great feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles in tongues of fire, and filling them with love, burning away their fear, their weakness, and their hesitancy. In a mighty wind, the Apostles received the very power of God and a renewed and confirmed faith in Jesus Christ, raised from the dead and glorified by God (Acts 2).

Driven by the Holy Spirit, and filled with the breath of God, the Apostles fled to the streets proclaiming the Good News of Christ——crucified, dead, and risen. The feast of Pentecost, in many ways the birth of Evangelization, marked a new birth for the Apostles, for the Church, and for the world.

The renewal of the Second Vatican Council has brought great emphasis on the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Our identity as Catholic Christians springs from the waters of Baptism, is sealed in the chrism of Confirmation and is fed weekly at the tables of Word and Sacrament. While these sacraments must be seen collectively, we can and should ask specifically: What is Confirmation? What does it mean? And what does it mean to us?

In the sacrament of Confirmation and through its celebration, our hearts too are set ablaze with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. "The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will instruct you in everything, and will remind you of all that I told you" (Jn 14:26). For without the power of God——the presence of God Himself within us——we cannot even utter the name of Jesus as Christ. Our world yearns to see this divine presence. Our culture thirsts for the gifts the Holy Spirit brings. Our Church hungers for the brilliant splendor of God’s majesty. On our own, we struggle in turmoil, floundering to find a way to authentic happiness and genuine fulfillment. Immersed in a climate that values profits over people, self over society, immediate gratification over self-sacrifice, we drift from a life overflowing with the gifts of the Spirit and, ultimately, away from God.

So what are these gifts that manifest the glory of God? What hallmarks do disciples share? What transforms the human heart? What gifts can unleash our passion, drive us to the streets, and compel us to proclaim Christ raised and glorified?

Wisdom and Understanding
With the gifts of Wisdom and Understanding, the Holy Spirit seizes us, opening our eyes to see as Christ, transforming our hearts to God’s will, and granting us insight to be present to those around us. Through Wisdom and Understanding, God unleashes within us the creative energies that stem from realizing both who we are and whose we are, as well as what we must do to be called disciples.

Right Judgment and Courage
Each of us struggles to know what to do and muster the guts to do right in difficult times. In discerning God’s will for our lives, we are guided by Gospel values and clear moral imperatives. With the gifts of Right Judgment and Courage, the Holy Spirit empowers us to apply Wisdom and Understanding to concrete situations with sound counsel and humble fortitude to act on our faith.


Knowledge and Piety
The Holy Spirit guides the Church and blesses us with a rich tradition that allows us to know the truth for our lives. Searching for and finding divine presence in a world filled with so many deceptions is a marvelous gift of the Holy Spirit. Once found, our response to the amazing mystery of God in our lives is that we fall to our knees overwhelmed at God’s love; we leap to our feet in joyous praise and thanksgiving; and we hurry to the door to announce His Good News in our words and in our deeds.

Wonder and Awe
Relishing the mystery of God inspires a sense of Wonder and Awe in us and in those around us. Our culture tries to seduce us into thinking that we are the masters of the universe. Wonder and Awe in the presence of God is the presence of the Holy Spirit thrilling our hearts to God, our Creator.

This marvelous Spirit, these flashes of divinity, these moments of grace are pure gift, freely given. We can do nothing to merit the gifts of the Spirit. But we desperately need them in our lives and for our world. Ours is but to receive the gifts and offer them back to God by using them in gratitude and love. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you; then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes, even to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

In Confirmation, we too are made apostles——witnesses to Christ. We are reborn into the world to preach Jesus Christ and to glorify God in each of our choices, actions, and attitudes. The Second Vatican Council sums up the richness of this sacrament: "By the sacrament of Confirmation, they are more perfectly bound to the Church and are endowed with the special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence, as true witnesses of Christ, they are more strictly obliged to spread the faith by word and deed" (Lumen Gentium 11).

On account of this reality, we are able to pray with confidence:

God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He had committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.
I have a mission;
I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons;
He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good—I shall do His work
I shall be an angel of peace while not intending it
if I do but keep His commandments;
Therefore, I will trust Him.(Cardinal John Henry Newman)

In our celebration of Confirmation, Pentecost continues in the Church. Through word and sacrament, prayer and holy anointing, "those who have been born anew in Baptism receive the inexpressible gift of the Holy Spirit, by which they are endowed with special strength ... to spread and defend the faith by word and by deed as true witnesses of Christ" (Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on the Sacrament of Confirmation).

Though each part of the Rite is worthy of critical reflection let us focus attention on the following.

Baptismal Connections
Confirmation’s importance as initiation and its intimate connection with Baptism are clear in its celebration. Confirmation either follows immediately after Baptism when the sacraments are celebrated together, or follows a renewal of Baptismal promises when Confirmation is delayed from Baptism. While in Baptism the Holy Spirit showers us with the grace of God, in Confirmation, we are given the strength to "stir into flame the gift of God" we have received at Baptism (2 Tim 1:6).

We also express the vital importance of the baptized community of faith ritually in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Like Baptism, Confirmation occurs in the midst of an assembly of the baptized gathered for word and sacrament, witnessing to the presence of God, seeking rebirth and renewal in receiving and living these powerful gifts and offering self to become fashioned evermore into the image and likeness of God. In this way, Confirmation, like Baptism, anticipates completion in Eucharist and mission.

Laying on of Hands
Steeped in the presence of the community and fresh from the waters of Baptism, profound silence envelopes the Church. Only then, from deep within this silence, the ancient gesture of laying on hands connects us with the Apostles at Pentecost and begins imparting the Holy Spirit. Through the two fold sign of laying on hands and anointing with chrism, the bishop or presbyter imparts the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

"As Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came down upon them and they began to speak in tongues and to utter prophecies" (Acts 19:5).

Laying on hands is a traditional sign of conferring power. In Christianity, it signifies the bestowal of the Holy Spirit——strengthening, healing, and sending on mission. This human touch, this intimate contact, is alive with divine fire, purifying and igniting the human heart.

Imposing hands is also an established way of laying claim. But in this sacrament, the celebrant, through the power of the Spirit, imposes hands to claim us for God’s work. Revived by the breath of God, we gradually cease living for self and advance closer to living solely for Christ and God’s full glory.

Chrism
At Confirmation, the celebrant, bending close, traces the cross on one’s forehead with sacred chrism, saying:

"Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit."

This rich, aromatic oil, consecrated by the Bishop during Holy Week, carries with it the promise and pledge of the Spirit of God. It brings the sweet fragrance of divine life and seals these precious gifts within us, making us "the anointed ones," co-heirs with Christ in the heavenly banquet.

"This anointing highlights the name ‘Christian,’ which means ‘anointed’ and derives from that of Christ himself whom God ‘anointed with the Holy Spirit’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1289).

Preparation
The period of sacramental preparation often is taken up with a catechesis seeking to clarify and expound certain basics of faith. I want to affirm this aspect while underlining three additional facets of preparation.

First, spiritual formation is key in catechetical preparation of candidates for confirmation. They should experience and come to value deeply the importance of prayer and discernment in Catholic life through dynamic liturgical and personal prayer, retreats, and living models of faith. The Spirit is stirred into flame best by a rich spiritual life——for adults, youth, and children.

Second, service must be accented. Charity as well as working for justice and peace should be undertaken in the name of Christ as an effective apprenticeship in the Christian life. The true Christian is one who not only bends a knee in prayer, but also bends a knee serving others.

Third, the whole parish community needs an active part in the sacramental preparation of the candidates. We ritualize the vital role of the community in all our initiation liturgies. What we ritualize in our celebrating can be mirrored in parish life and ministry. Both the role of sponsors and integration into community life are two ways to bring about greater communal involvement.

Sponsorship
The real sponsor in Confirmation is the community itself. The parish community as a whole, and not only through those who exercise pastoral care for the candidates, should be involved in the preparation by:

  • Giving witness to the work of the Spirit
  • Leading or assisting with times of prayer
  • Modeling lives of discipleship, stewardship, and justice
  • Welcoming candidates into homes, sharing our common faith at a common table
  • Actively participating in the celebration of the sacrament
  • Praying over the candidates that they might be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit
  • Providing ongoing support and inclusion
  • Gently challenging the confirmed to live as Christ and manifest these gifts
  • Sponsoring candidates

Integrating the Confirmed into the Life of the Community
The whole parish community welcomes and embraces the confirmed into the full life and ministry of the parish. While special accommodation will need to be made in view of the various ages and abilities of those who have been confirmed, each has a critical role to play in the mission of Christ.

Where youth are involved, youth ministry should not be primarily ministry to youth but also ministry by youth. Our Ninth Diocesan Synod observed, "Youth and young adults do have a central role in the mission of the Church. Energized by a living faith founded on the word of God and the sacraments, they are able to preach the Good News of salvation in the home, in their schools, among their friends, and in the world at large" (Documents of the Ninth Diocesan Synod, 17).

Confirming the Mission, Using the Gifts
The Sacrament of Confirmation marks a new beginning in the life of the Christian just as Pentecost marked a new beginning for the Apostles. They became fiery missionaries, zealots for the Gospel. In the same Spirit, pray these gifts rouse us to the New Evangelization, continue forming us in faith, bind us to our faith community, extend our hands to serve, and lead us to worship at God’s altar. In this way, the prayer of the Rite of Confirmation becomes the most fitting prayer for each day of life:

All powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by water and the Holy Spirit
You freed your sons and daughters from sin
and gave them new life.
Send your Holy Spirit upon them
to be their Helper and Guide.
Give them the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of right judgment and courage,
the Spirit of knowledge and reverence.
Fill them with the Spirit of wonder and awe in Your presence.
And we beg You, Father,
continue to send Your Holy Spirit upon us
and renew the face of the earth.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

The Most Reverend Bernard W. Schmitt, D.D.

Bishop of Wheeling Charleston

 

After partaking of the Living Bread, remember what our Lady must have felt when the Holy Spirit overpowered her, and she who was full of grace became full with the body of Christ.  --Mother Teresa of Calcutta

 

St. Joseph Catholic Church
1304 Sixth Avenue
Huntington, West Virginia  25701
304-525-5202
Rev. Msgr. Lawrence Luciana, Pastor
Rev. Fr. Julian Marneni, Associate Pastor