"The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth it is this, and Protestantism has ever felt it so; to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." (-John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).

"Where the bishop is, there let the people gather; just as where ever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church". -St. Ignatius of Antioch (ca 110 AD)a martyr later thrown to the lions, wrote to a church in Asia Minor. Antioch was also where the term "Christian" was first used.

“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

"This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." -CCC 811

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Embracing the Catechism: An Open Letter to My Godson on His Confirmation

Dear Thomas Patrick,

On the occasion of your Confirmation I wish to offer the sage and time-honored advice of a saint.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, teaching on the Sacrament of Confirmation, quotes St. Ambrose, a bishop and theologian from the 4th century. His words are worthy of repeating here. My prayer for you, as your Godmother and Sponsor, is that your reception of this important sacrament would mirror the words of St. Ambrose:

Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence.

Guard what you have received.

God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.

The grace of your Confirmation deepens the grace you received way back on your baptismal day. It will have many effects. (See CCC 1303.)

Your Confirmation roots you more deeply as a son of God, and it strengthens your prayer to “Our Father”: The same Father in Heaven that you can call “Abba” as Jesus did, or as “Daddy”.

Through your Confirmation, you will be more deeply joined to Christ, the Lord Jesus who loved you so much as to give up his life for you. Remember that Jesus was called the Son of God, right? By the gift of grace, in and through your baptism long ago, you were made a child of God too. Now your sonship is being taken to a new level.

In Confirmation, you, the beloved son, will give your own “yes” to God in and through your Profession of Faith (in the Creed.) And moments later receive the next measure of grace that Our Father wants to pour out on you. You will be marked with a sign – the bishop will use holy oil to anoint your head. And as he does, God will anoint your soul with an indelible mark that can never be erased. You belong to Him.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit that Ambrose talks about will not only strengthen your identity as a Catholic, they will give you new power to be a Christian – not in name only – but in word and deed. For the gifts of the Spirit empower you to be a witness for Christ in your family, among your peers, and wherever you go in the world.

My prayer is that you take St. Ambrose at his word and guard what you have received.

Whenever you feel that faith doesn’t matter, or it feels hard to live out, or when you are tempted to doubt or give up, I want you to redouble your efforts and guard what you have received. God has already provided you with the graces and strength of this sacrament to weather storms of doubt, confusion, frustration or heartache. Call on God and rely on Him when these times come. And they will.

Guard what you have received.

Ambrose is a saint for a reason. He gave up a successful and comfortable life as a lawyer and the governor of Milan to take up the role of being a bishop in the Lord’s service. For years Ambrose fought heresy against his fellow Catholics – a very hard predicament! – and on other occasions he defended churches that were literally surrounded by enemy soldiers. Yet he never resorted to violence.

Ambrose fought for truth and against corruption in the culture of his day, standing up for God and ransoming Christians who suffered unjust imprisonment. He used his intellectual gifts and his communication skills. He left us a legacy of faith and reason and a life worthy of the calling he had received … always guarding what he had received from God as something precious and worthy of giving one’s whole life.

Thomas, you will receive much more than will be visible at Confirmation. Trust God and stay close to him. He is very close to you.

With love from your Godmother,

Auntie Pat

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