The countdown has begun . . . your teenager is soon to receive the final Sacrament of Christian initiation into the Catholic Church: the Sacrament of Confirmation. This is the next big step of their spiritual journey you began for them at their their baptism. Your teenager will undergo the Rite of Confirmation and renew for themselves their baptismal promises. They will receive in full the mark of the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the chrism oil on their foreheads, just as they first did with Holy Water at their baptism.
What an exciting time, and of course, a very busy one too! Luckily finding the right Confirmation gifts for your teenager isn’t difficult. There are many great Confirmation gifts to choose from, everything from Confirmation jewelry to Confirmation wall crosses. That isn’t the hard part . . . what is hard is trying to figure out how to communicate to your teenager the importance of this Sacrament so they will better appreciate and treasure these Confirmation gifts! How do you spiritually prepare a teenager for this important Rite? Catechesis was undoubtedly much easier when they were younger. They were eager, excited, and there were tons of fun activities available to teach them more about their faith. Now that they’re older, having discovered what being ‘cool’ is, getting them interested in their faith is probably more like pulling teeth.
So what can you do? First of all, understand that you are the most important role model in your child’s life. The best way to encourage your teen to deepen their faith is to deepen your own faith first. Even if it doesn’t seem like they’re paying much attention, know that they are taking their cues from you. The life of the Spirit that radiates from you will (with prayer) rub off on your kids eventually, and maybe in ways you least expect.
Before offering ideas on how to spiritually prepare your teenager for the Sacrament of Confirmation, it would be helpful to read the words of the Rite that the priest or bishop will pray over your child:
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. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Beautiful, right? There is nothing more you want for your child than for them to be guided through life by the Holy Spirit, and for them to be helped by Him to make wise choices. Here are some tips on how to help your child recognize the moving of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and to appreciate the Sacrament of Confirmation they are about to receive.
First: It’s All About Conversation
Resist the urge to go through the motions and shuffle your teen through the Sacrament with the herd of other parents and children doing the same thing. Don’t rely solely on religious educators to impart to your child the importance of receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation; talk to them.
Ask your child about their faith, their relationship with Jesus, and with the Catholic Church.
Ask them why they want to be confirmed and what participating in this Rite means to them.
Talk about the Sacraments and the spiritual nourishment they receive through them.
What does your child think it means to be Catholic? To be a child of God? To be a saint?
Having grown-up spiritual conversations with your teenager will create a new norm in your relationship, and don’t be surprised if you get a little closer in the process! Try not to let feelings of inadequacy or spiritual ineptitude keep you from having these important talks with your child, and don’t be discouraged if their eyes glaze over when you strike up these conversations. The purpose is to awaken your teenager to these kinds of ‘big picture’ faith questions, and to show them that they can feel comfortable talking with you about the struggles with faith they will inevitably experience in life.
Second: Help Your Teen With Spiritual Discernment
Your child has a unique personality with special gifts and talents. Tell your teenager how special they are, and help them to discover what they’re good at and what they love doing. As their parent, you have special insight into this. You’ve watched your child’s personality and talents emerge and you know what makes them unique from other kids. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you talk to your child about their uniqueness. By doing this you will help your teenager to discern their vocation—what it is that God is calling them to do with their life.
If you help your child to discern what they were born for and what special gifts they can give to Christ in the service of others, this will help them to understand who they are—a child of God with a unique mission in this world. Helping your teenager to spiritually discern also includes encouraging them to begin praying about their gifts and the vocation God is calling them to. A great way to do this is through devotions and novenas to Catholic saints, especially any they feel drawn to.
When your teen receives the Sacrament of Confirmation, as the priest or bishop calls down the power of the Holy Spirit on them, you are helping your child to make this Sacrament a truly personal experience. They will understand that God is calling them personally to this moment of fullness of communion with Christ and His Church.
Third: Bring in the Backup
There is so much beauty and depth to the Sacraments that you don’t want to miss covering anything with your teenager as you prepare them. Encourage your teenager to read about the Sacraments for themselves so they (and you!) fully understand the Rite of Confirmation they are about to receive. The YouCat (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) and other Catholic Catechism books are a great resource for this. Have your teenager use a Catholic Catechism to retrace their path through the Sacraments thus far—from Baptism, Reconciliation, First Communion, and now to Confirmation—so they understand the graces received in each. Talk with them about the future Sacraments in the form of vocations that they have the choice to participate in, Holy Matrimony or Holy Orders.
There are many other great Catholic books for teens that explain the Christian life and the Catholic faith. These Catholic books for teenagers are a great help and have a way of phrasing things in just the right way to help things click for young budding minds. Having the right Catholic books in your home as back-up references and resources is definitely important, and your teenager will learn from them for years to come—so pray about which Catholic books to choose that will be just right for them.
With these tips you can begin now to prepare your teenager for this final Sacrament of Christian initiation into the Catholic Church. These last years before your teenager leaves home are very precious and important times, and you know all too well how they will fly by. While they’re still with you every day, create fertile soil in your home and in your relationship with them so that they will deepen their roots in the Catholic faith. If you’ve had a great spiritual conversation with your teenager about the Sacraments, or any other faith topic, please post below so our readers will be encouraged to do the same.
Copyright 2012 Kathleen Wellman