Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Work of the Holy Spirit

This morning, our parish celebrated the Confirmation of 88 young people, along with the First Communion of another 20 children. All but 3 of the confirmandi were Hispanic, as were all but one of the first communicants.  As our pastor mentioned in his homily at Mass tonight, our parish (founded as St. John's German Catholic Church) is changing. The Mass was bilingual, as are all our major liturgies.

It was a gloriously messy morning --mildly controlled chaos-- when I came in, 45 minutes before, to set up and plug in my guitar and prepare to be cantor with the bilingual choir, the place was noisily full of families, some taking photos, others checking on various things. Professional photographers and a videographer were set up. First the first communicants lined up for a group photo, then the confirmandi. Finally, at about the time the Mass was scheduled, they were finished enough to go outside and line up for the procession. The procession started about 5 minutes after the hour, and was, understandably, quite long.

There was pretty good participation in the sung parts of the Mass, and the celebration, much of it alternated in English or Spanish as usual at my parish, was a nice balance of dignity and joy. For two hours, we sustained an atmosphere that indicated clearly how seriously everyone took this, at the same time, we conveyed a sense of liveliness and celebration, at the same time, there was the constant undercurrent of noise - the tumbling water of the font, the hum of the air conditioner, and the murmuring of the babes in arms and toddlers.

The kids came forward to be confirmed as today's kids today can - some girls were in sparkly satin and sequins, some in discreet white lace. Some dresses were short and trendy, off the shoulder, and many of the girls sported clear plastic bra straps.  Others were more modest. Hair was done with care, some with masses of curls, some twisted into elaborate patterns. Boys wore suits, or nice shirt and pants, although one guy made his fashion statement in an obviously freshly ironed plaid shirt and very clean "pants on the ground". All were dressed to show that this day was important, each in their own way, sporting a homemade red felt stole with their saint's name. All were simply being themselves in one way or another, according to their individual preferences.  They came forward with their sponsors to meet the Bishop and to receive the sacrament.

The interaction between Bishop and each one to be confirmed was wonderful to watch - he greeted each young person, and asked them something, engaging with them momentarily before the anointing, blessing and handshake. This was hearty and genuine for each person.  This is what made the morning. It was clear that Bishop was at his pastoral best, showing each youth welcome, kindness and a sense that he cared about them. Their smiles as they turned to walk back to their seat told all.  Clearly the Holy Spirit was in the room... and this day will leave a mark of some kind on all these young people who reaffirmed the promise of their baptism.

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