Have you been asked to write a letter to someone who is preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation?
Many parishes have retreats in which the Confirmation candidates are given letters from their loved ones and friends to encourage and inspire them as they prepare to receive this sacrament. These letters are special because they come from different sources: friends, loved ones, or mentors within the Church. Trying to find words of inspiration from the Bible, the Catechism, or from our own personal experience can be difficult, though.
Are you stuck in a rut trying to write a letter like this? If so, you are not alone. While it seems like it should be a simple thing, sometimes these kinds of letters can be agonizing to write. Usually we try too hard. We believe that we have to be very profound and inspiring in order to write a "good" letter.
As a long-time catechist and most recently as a pre-Confirmation and Confirmation teacher, I know only too well what it feels like to try to write a letter and not really know what to say. In fact, since I usually write a letter for each of my students, I have had to come up with 20 letters (one for each teen in my class). I've experienced panicky evenings with extremely sore fingers, wracking my brain for encouraging things to say.
For this reason, I have compiled quotes and scripture verses to turn to when writing these kinds of letters. Some of these quotes are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church; some are from Scripture. If you know the confirmandee's confirmation name, then including a prayer to that saint is another great addition to a personal letter. And I always say a prayer to the Holy Spirit before I begin.
ENCOURAGING WORDS ABOUT CONFIRMATION FROM THE CATECHISM
- In the Roman Rite the bishop extends his hands over the whole group of the confirmands. Since the time of the apostles this gesture has signified the gift of the Spirit. The bishop invokes the outpouring of the Spirit in these words:
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.
- From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
—it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!"
—it unites us more firmly to Christ
—it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us
—it renders our bond with the Church more perfect
—it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross
- It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost
When you being your letter, you may want to start by saying that in the Catechism, the Catholic Church explains why Confirmation is such a powerful sacrament. Then use the above quotes to express what the Catechism teaches.
ENCOURAGING WORDS FROM SCRIPTURE
- "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." Proverbs 18:10
- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6
- "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
- "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
- "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil and not for harm, to give you a future with hope." Jeremiah 29:11
- "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and power to the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31
- "The Lord is my light and my salvation: of whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
- "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
These verses express the strength we find in God. As the students prepare for Confirmation—which is when they will profess their belief in what the Church teaches—they should be encouraged by the strength of our Lord. As soldiers in Christ, the newly confirmed can rely on the hope which God promises to those who follow Him.
As you sit down and write your letter, keep these tips in mind:
1. First things first: say a quiet prayer to the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to help you say what He wants you to say.
2. Simple, genuine encouragement is best. Even brevity is not a bad thing! Don't pressure yourself to write "deep" or "profound" thoughts. The best that you can give is to share what the mercy and love of Christ has done for you, and to share this in love.
3. Don't preach! The good news is that this burden is not on you. Just encourage, build up, affirm, and express confidence in the plans God has for this young man or woman.
4. Share a quote or prayer. You can use something from the lists I shared above, or perhaps there are other verses and quotes that you might prefer.
5. Assure the recipient of your prayers.
That's about it! It's a joy and a privilege to be able to write such a letter, and hopefully these little tips are helpful and practical. God bless your letter-writing!
Do you have any advice from your own experience in writing a letter like this?
Did such a letter have a lasting impact on you?
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