Teens hover on the brink of adulthood. In the Catholic Church, Confirmation is one way a teen announces his intention to live out the Catholic faith in his adult life. While you can celebrate the sacrament at any age, the teenage years are a typical time to receive the sacrament. Explaining the sacrament is the first step of helping a teen make a fully cognizant decision to confirm his decision to live out the Catholic faith.
Talk to your teen about Sacraments of Initiation. These are the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, these three sacraments lay down the foundation of every Christian life. Most teens won’t remember their own baptisms and might only have vague memories of First Communions. To help your teen, pull out pictures of these special days. Talk about the teen’s godparents. If they are still alive, contact them and ask for their recollections of the day.
Acknowledge your teen’s growing maturity. When you show your teen the pictures of his Baptism, talk about how he couldn’t make any decision about his faith as a baby. Explain that was when his parents and godparents stood before the congregation and promised to teach him about the Catholic faith. Discuss that when he made his First Communion, he had more responsibility, but his teachers, catechists and parents still made decisions for him regarding his religion. Explain that as he is on the brink of adulthood, it is now time to make his own decision about his faith. Explain that during Confirmation, he is standing up and agreeing, or confirming, the promises made on his behalf as an infant.
Explore the Saints of the Catholic Church with your teen. One decision a teen can make when she is confirmed is taking an additional middle name from a canonized Saint. This name should remind her of the qualities she seeks to emulate in her adult life. So she should familiarize herself with the lives of different Saints. In some cases, she may choose to renew her commitment to the name given to her at her baptism. In other cases, she may choose a new path, or a new Saint, which is likely to affect the pattern of her life. With this choice, she takes another step towards living her own personal faith.
Discuss the training program for Confirmation in your parish. Most candidates must attend training classes. Some programs require the candidates to complete a set number of community service hours either alone or as part of the class. In some dioceses, the candidate might have to write a letter to the Bishop. In this letter, the candidate offers reasons why he requests the sacrament, why he has chosen a particular Saint’s name, and enumerates what he has done to prepare.
Take the teen to a Confirmation ceremony. This might be at another parish or at his home parish. Since Confirmation is generally celebrated only once a year, it is a good idea to attend the ceremony the year before the teen enters training. As the ceremony progresses, explain the different parts such as the presentation to the Bishop and the anointing with holy oil, which is called Chrism. This is one of the three holy oils blessed by the Bishop during Holy Week.
Talk about your teen’s expectations of Confirmation. Confirmation isn’t like getting a driver’s license. Your teen won’t necessarily have an outward change in his appearance. However, Confirmation brings the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are wisdom, the gift of knowing right choices, understanding, the gift of comprehension, right judgment, the gift to make Christian choices, courage, the gift to live up to Christian choices, knowledge, the gift to avoid obstacles to faith, reverence, the gift of confidence in God, and awe or wonder, the sense of both love and respect for God. The first four gifts are designed to help a teen in his daily life; the last three nurture his spiritual life.
Don't force this decision of confirmation on your teen just because she reaches a certain age. Give her the chance to make her own decision in her own time.