The church I grew up in did not practice confirmation. The sacraments that we celebrated were two: Communion and Baptism and not everyone called these sacraments. The way we practiced Baptism was that when people were old enough to follow Christ in obedience, they signified this by getting Baptized. We called it ‘Believers’ Baptism.’ Thus when some of my Catholic friends were getting confirmed, I got dunked. As an adult I attend a denomination which does practice infant Baptism and Confirmation (as well as ‘Believers’ Baptism’) but still the rite of confirmation is something I never experienced personally. Yet I appreciate how this rite helps young people deepen their Baptismal vows.
When I sat down to read Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s My Confirmation Book, in a very real way, I read this book as an outsider. O’Boyle is a popular Catholic author and a television host on EWTN. I am a low-church protestant. She wrote this book to help young Catholics to grow in their faith. While I share a love for helping others mature in their faith and deepen their life commitment to God, her experience is different from my own, and her religious idiom is also different.
But then we aren’t that different. I did go through ‘confirmation.’ For ‘believers’ baptists’ and adult converts, confirmation and baptism are all one rite. I have experienced liturgically the moment when I had solidified my commitment to Christ and celebrated the gift of the Spirit in my life. While those who practice infant Baptism experience confirmation as a deepening of our baptismal identity, I confirmed the truth of Christ’s work in my life by entering baptismal waters.
I appreciated the advice that O’Boyle dispenses to young Catholics. In my own religious heritage, we would emphasize growing in Biblical understanding through daily Bible reading. We would also talk about being involved in God’s mission (acts of service and evangelism). In nine pithy chapters, O’Boyle encourages the newly confirmed to enter deeper into what it means to be Catholic. By affirming their baptismal identity through Confirmation, young Catholics understand that they are ‘members of the Church.’ Through the gift of the Spirit they grow in wisdom and understanding, experience God’s counsel, grow in fortitude and piety, have reverence for God and are empowered for mission. The sacrament of confirmation underscores the reality that the Christian life is a Spirit led, Spirit empowered life.
But O’Boyle also lays emphasis on the prayer. Each of the short chapters closes with a small challenge and a prayer to enter deeper into union with God. These are brief and aimed at those who are young in their faith. They are not the prayers of the great mystics of the Church, but they commend an attentiveness to God in all things. The reflections are designed for young people (I would guess 12-15). Depending on the age or maturity of the confirmand, some of these reflections are a little too youthful. But for the most part I think that high-school-age-Catholics will benefit from this book.
I am and remain a protestant Christian, but I appreciate the depth and thoughtfulness of this book and what confirmation wroughts in young Catholic believers. I heartily commend this resource as a gift book if you know a young person who is getting confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. Much of what is said here is applicable to other ecclesial communities but it is written directly for a Catholic context, so will be most appreciated by fellow Catholics.
Thank you to Paraclete Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.