This year I have the honor of being a confirmation sponsor to a very special candidate. Sponsors were asked to write their candidates letters of encouragement and advice to be read privately on the confirmation retreat last weekend. I’d like to share part (the stuff that’s personal has been removed) of the letter I wrote. Perhaps it will be helpful for someone who needs some inspiration.
Dear [Confirmation Candidate],
You possess traits that are critical to being a real man: intelligence, motivation, integrity, politeness, a sense of justice, curiosity, and a good conversationalist. When these traits are mixed with the transforming power of Christ, the possibilities are endless. A real man uses the gifts of his talents to make the world a better place—something you already do. Let your heart be set ablaze with your faith and love. The term certainly sounds cheesy but it is the key to being a joyful Catholic. Satan’s most powerful tool is a joyless, apathetic Catholic because they are unable to provide powerful witness. They are unable to change the world in the name of Christ. I like the quote by GK Chesterton, “let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair”. Catholicism isn’t meant to be practiced in the clerical confines of theology classrooms or reduced to a redundant weekly errand of going to church before the grocery store. Catholicism cannot flourish in the hands of people afraid to talk about it and cannot change the world if watered down by popular thought. […]
Catholicism was radical 2,000 years ago…and it still is. Following the ‘blueprint’ to life provided by the Roman Catholic Church won’t always be easy. Sometimes it will lead to people rolling their eyes at you. Despite difficulty and ridicule, it will always lead you in the right direction by showing you how to fulfill the purpose of life.
A ‘saint’ is anyone that has made it to Heaven (not to be confused with a “canonized” saint like St Francis). Once you picture Earth as a giant saint-making machine, [the purpose to] life seems different. Earth is merely a stop on our pilgrimage to our eternal destination, Heaven. Here on Earth it is where we enjoy the gift of Creation, the mountains and oceans, love, good beer, good food, humor, art, and so much more. While enjoying creation is just what God intended for us to do, as he told Adam and Eve, it is not the purpose of life. The purpose of life, our quick pit stop here in the physical universe, is to make ourselves worthy of Heaven and to bring as many souls as possible with us. I like to think of it as saving people on a sinking ship; the goal is to save your life (in this example, your bodily life) and as many lives around you. But it’s hard to save the lives of others if you don’t first have your own life jacket on. We don’t want to be like Rose in Titanic who hogged the wood door all to herself and let poor Leo freeze in the ocean—what a crappy girlfriend! Ah, but I digress. Confirmation is one more step to securing your own life jacket. I like when Scott Hahn says that it’s not the letters after your name that matter in life (Dr, Esq, PhD, etc), but the two letters in front of it, St.
I must also express the importance of a balanced approach to life. Some become obsessed following the ‘letter of the law’ while ignoring the ‘spirit of the law’. These would be the joyless Catholics that probably don’t provide very good witness to those around them. On the other hand, people might take the ‘blueprint’ of life (the Catechism, Commandments) handed to us by the Church a bit too lightly and fall into heresy and spiritual laziness even though they might be joyful and fun to be around. […] As strong Catholic men, we must strive for both: orthodoxy and joy.
I look forward to partnering with you in the joyful celebration of life, like only Catholics know how, by enjoying creation and loving those around us by enjoying parties, holidays, food, drink, the theater, helping others, music, humor, conversation, prayer, shooting stuff up north, swimming, boating, Mass, and so much more.
Always feel open to coming to me with your questions as they come up. If you ever have doubts, know that that is normal (read about Mother Theresa’s “Dark Night of the Soul”) and come to me to discuss—everyone needs that sometimes.
Now let me offer some tips like a good confirmation sponsor should do. Never stop learning about your faith and working out your soul like a muscle at the gym. Always have a spiritual book going and always be prayerful. If you ever feel comfortable in your faith, that means you’re slipping backwards–never be complacent. Frequent the sacraments as often as possible, so, the Eucharist and Confession. Go into college with either marriage or the priesthood in the back of your mind. Evangelize through your actions and be ready to defend your faith at a moment’s notice. Find devotion to specific saints and get to know them. Pray to Saint Michael the Archangel. Find time to pray the Rosary alone with no distractions even when it’s hard. Always be open to friendship around you. Be a good friend. Treat women with the dignity only a Christian man can provide. Be proud of your faith. Learn about Protestantism so you can properly understand the difference and effectively articulate your position when disagreements arise. Read what anti-Catholics think so you know what the opposition [has to say]. Embrace orthodoxy and point out heresy. When in doubt, do your best to imitate Christ.
I look forward to what your journey into the faith brings to your life. You are already a strong Catholic man and I look forward to you being able to spread the depth of your faith with everyone you touch in your life.