Confirmation as a Near-Baptist Experience

As promised, up at the Register: Is Your Parish Bogged Down in a Pay-to-Pray Evangelism?

Feedback on this topic has been about 90% AMEN from people who have lived the experience of getting priced out of parish life, 5% Doesn’t Happen Here from people who live in awesome parishes and dioceses where making the sacraments accessible to all is the central goal (looking at you, Wichita), and 5% But How Would We Pay Our Staff???

If you’re in that last group, consider aiming for some doable, baby-step Non-Scale Victories in the serving-the-poor department.  Change is hard.  Keep pointing yourself in the right direction whenever you can, even if you can’t transform your parish overnight.

And on that note, here’s a thought that came up in a private discussion of the pay-to-pray problem:  What the heck is Confirmation???

For most of us Latin-rite folk, our experience of Confirmation happens sometime between 3rd and 12th grade, and involves taking classes and doing service projects and attending retreats in order to “prepare” ourselves for the sacrament.  A friend and I both observed that the whole scheme was much more pared down back in the day (1990’s).  My best guess is that with each new crop of fallen-away college students, bishop-panic escalates and graduation-requirements become more stringent.

(Recap: Confirmation is not “graduation.”  It is a free gift of God that can only be obtained by paying tuition, attending classes, completing assignments, and undergoing an evaluation once you have accomplished all your check-off requirements.  If you don’t do the things, you can’t be confirmed, and there’s a form for you to sign stating you understand you have to do the things.  But it is definitely a free gift. That you earn the right to receive by doing the things.)

For non-Latin-rite folk, though, the experience of Confirmation is typically quite different: You’re born, your parents haul you to church, and you bob around wiggling and fussing while your infant self receives all three sacraments of initiation in one fell swoop.

Interestingly the Latin-non-Latin divide extends into the wider Christian community.  If you are Orthodox, you probably received confirmation (chrismation) as an infant.  If you are part of the Protestant communiy, and hence your congregation traces its lineage back to Latin-rite western Europe, you probably experienced confirmation, or a non-sacramental equivalent, as an age-of-reason, formally and publicly pronounced, personal decision to follow Jesus Christ.

Catholics across the Rites maintain the course on infant baptism, pointing out that there’s nothing like it for underscoring the “free gift” aspect of salvation.  Catholics and Orthodox agree with Protestants that once someone reaches the age reason, he or she must make the on-going decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

What is troubling in the Confirmation Prep arms race is that by out-Baptisting-the-Baptists Catholics are increasingly turning, lex vivendi, a sacrament of initiation into a sacrament of service.

Marriage and Ordination are sacraments of service.  They are sacraments that commission a vocation.  While we would hope that growing up in a Christian home, being properly educated by one’s parents, and carrying out the appropriate course of discernment would go far in preparing someone for either vocation, it is reasonable that we take certain steps to ensure those embarking on their lifelong vocation are as equipped as possible to begin the task.

What seems to be happening with Confirmation in the Latin rite is that because we have (for now) the practice of delaying the sacrament until after the age of reason, we are losing hold on the free gift of the Holy Spirit reality of what this sacrament of initiation is.  We are instead treating it like a sacrament of service.  We are demanding proof of our young people not that they wish to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but that they are already able to use them.

This is not what the sacrament is.  Confirmation confers the gifts that we need to live our Christian vocation.  Furthermore, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are limitless and divine.  We don’t have to fear, like handing a child an enormous check on his eighteenth birthday, that he’ll run out and spend the money foolishly for lack of adequate budgeting skills.  You aren’t going to blow all your gift of piety in one wild afternoon of Adoration and be left broke and wondering what you’ll pray tomorrow.

Confirmation Prep as typically prescribed, though, isn’t usually about cultivating a spiritual state of desire for intimate union with Holy Spirit.  Rather, our bishops look at the results of Confirmation — the fruits — of the Spirit, and prescribe a set of lessons and practice exercises to prove the child already possesses what the sacrament is supposed to confer and unleash.

Frankly, this verges on spiritual fornication.  You say you want to be a fully-initiated disciple? Well act like one by doing these requirements that put you through the paces of disciple-activities!  Show yourself able and worthy!  To freely receive something you can never deserve, and which is about God’s action in you, not you working of your own power, we’d like to see ten hours of it accomplished and documented!

This is not the way God’s glory is made manifest.  Repentance, the calling of sinners, the invitation to sit at the table of the Lord . . . these are preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The sacraments of service are vocations to love our neighbor as Christ loves us.  They come after the sacraments of initiation because the ability to love our neighbor flows from Christ.  First we receive from God, then we give to others what we have received.  Confirmation is a sacrament of receiving.

Rather than a checklist of activities proving we are worthy and able to give what we do not yet possess, the question for those us of tasked with preparing young people for Confirmation is: How can I help you open your heart to receive this gift for which you were created, and which, so hard to believe in our meritocratic society, you can never earn?

File:Brooklyn Museum - God the Father with Four Angels and the Dove of the Holy Spirit - Giovanni Francesco da Rimini.jpg

Artwork courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain.

Need Your Help: Stories of Equal Access

I need your help with getting a door unlocked.

I’m a parishioner (and at last check parish council member) at a large and historically-significant parish.   Thanks to renovations over the years, there are three wheelchair-accessible entrances feeding the parish church.  Unfortunately, since November of 2017 all three of those doors have been locked.  The only way to get into the building during Sunday Mass or Saturday Confession is to either walk up a short flight of stairs (seven if I counted correctly) or wait around on the sidewalk hoping to flag someone down who will go unlock an accessible door for you.

Unfortunately, the pastor of the parish doesn’t seem to understand that it isn’t okay for someone with a disability to have to make advanced arrangements in order to be able to get inside the building for Mass or Confessions.  He’s otherwise a fairly stand-up guy, but he seems genuinely shocked that I would be angry about this issue.

I’m not above launching a massive public shame-storm, but that’s a weapon of last resort.  What I’d like your help with is attempting to show Father (and I tell you again: he is otherwise a pretty sane guy) that equal access matters.

Here is a form where you can share your story.  Can you share with him an example (or multiple if you’ve got them — fill out as many entries as you’d like) of how equal access, or lack of it, has affected your life?

My plan is to pass on to him your stories so he can see, person by person, just how painful it is to be the one stuck out on the sidewalk wondering how you’ll get in.  I’ll also put in a Mass intention for the collective intentions of those who share their stories (so Father L. gets to pray for you, cause that’s his job), and of course I’ll pray for you individually and I think he will too.

I’m not looking for angry.  He’s gotten plenty of angry from me, and believe me, I’m not as nice in regular life as I am on the internet.  I’m looking for your personal story of how being able to participate in parish or community life made a positive difference for you or someone you love, or how being excluded by needless barriers did the opposite.

The reality is that barriers keep people out.  After a year and a half of locked doors (in a previously accessible parish), the only regulars with disabilities are the few who are okay with the new status quo as second-class citizens.  Everyone else has disappeared.  If you showed up as a tourist (the parish receives many out-of-town visitors at weekend Masses), you’d follow the signs to a locked door and maybe succeed in waving someone down, or maybe just give up and move on.  As a result, Father L. no longer sees the people who are most affected by his decision: You’re all gone.

I need you to make yourself visible to him again.

Thank you so much.

I’ll post updates as I get them.  Also: If you choose to let me share your story (and only in that case — opt in or your story remains completely private), I’ll pick a few to post here and elsewhere, so that your voice gets heard far and wide.  Thank you!

File:No Accessibility - Alternative Handicapped Symbol.svg

Image: No Accessibility Icon, courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain

Ableism Entrenched

Up at the Register: Are People with Disabilities Welcome at Your Parish?

Ableism is the counterpart to “racism” or “ageism,” the often-insidious discrimination against people with disabilities.  Ableism is happening when a parish that has three wheelchair-accessible entrances decides to lock all doors except the one with the stairs.  No malice, just complete indifference.

When you park in the handicap spot even though you don’t need it, that’s ableism.  It’s also ableism when you assume the person with the tag must be faking just because you can’t identify an obvious disability.

Here’s an example of how pervasive ableism is:

We’re at the “atrium” of the children’s hospital today, a big sunny play space where kids can do fun stuff.

Children's Atrium, MUSC Children's Hospital

L. is in the teen corner doing arts and crafts, and it gets to be a few minutes before closing.  The other family there is a patient with her dad and a sister.  The dad calls clean-up time, and I get up and go help with putting away all the craft supplies.  I’m not really paying attention to who is doing what, other than that I start with putting away the things we personally got out (because I know where they came from) and also I tell L. to go sit in her wheelchair and hold all our junk for the trip up.

Here’s the entrenched-ableism mindset: In my brain I compose an explanation for why my kid is not helping clean up.

My child has a broken sternum from open-heart surgery less than 3-days earlier, and I am feeling the need to be ready to explain why she can’t walk around putting things away.  In a children’s hospital.  Where everyone else is there with a kid (or is the kid) who also can’t do all the things.

Mind you, not a person batted an eye.  But you know you are used to living in an abelist world when you just automatically prepare to fend off stupid accusations against a kid with an invisible (and thankfully temporary) disability.

Which is why we have parishes that lock people out of Mass if they can’t climb stairs.  And that’s a problem.

Top 10 Papist Travesties Your Congregation Should Trash This Instant

Now many of my non-Catholic readers aren’t so much protesters as “Mere Christians” and can happily get along with some Jesus-art, whether plain plaster or glow-in-the-dark like the Good Lord intended. But there are always a few who are true Protestant’s Protestants, and need to clean house of any popery that might have sneaked into the pews* by accident.

As a history buff and confirmed papist, I’m here to help you root out all traces of Romishness quicker than you can say “whore of Babylon.”  Here are the ten biggest offenders:

The Trinity.  Does the Bible even use the word Trinity?  No it does not.  Obviously invented by bishops.

Illustrated Bibles. Your KJV comic book Bible is really just the Book of Kells in sheep’s clothing.  Seriously you weren’t thinking of buying that I hope?  Honestly the whole thing has to go.

Hospitals.  Monks and nuns and bishops and all that stuff. If you opened a hospital, people would basically think you were Catholic.

Universities.  Talk about pure popery from the get-go.  Avoid.

Latin.  There’s nothing more Romish than the language of Rome.  Sure, the language was invented by pagans, but then what is Catholicism but paganism warmed over?  When looking up plant species or medical terms, it’s safest to translate the Latin into German first.

Guitars.  No one really knows where they come from, except of course it was Spain. Now you can find them in virtually every Catholic church in the world.  Bonfire. Tonight.

Martin Luther.  Father of the Reformation Schmather of the Schmeformation.  Not only is there an eerie parallel between the Martin Luther Insult Generator and the Pope Francis Insult Generator, but the man was a closet papist the whole time.  It was the proto-typical Jesuit Plot, long before anyone even admitted there were Jesuits.  No good Protestant will get within 10 miles of a building with the word “Luther” in the title.

Methodists.  The better English-language Catholic hymnals basically consist of the Wesley brothers, Fr. Faber, and a couple bits of  Thomas Aquinas, translated.  We suspect the Illuminati are behind the rumors that John and Charles Wesley didn’t like Catholics.

Mendelian Genetics.  You thought nothing of sitting around the dinner table trying to figure out where little Josiah got his blue eyes from. Let’s just say that “Augustinian Friar” is not the chicken at your late-summer potluck.

The Big Bang.  As a Christian who believes God created the universe ex nihilo (Google Protestranslate suggests: aus dem nichts), you no doubt are in the habit of recognizing God’s hand in the science of creation.  Aren’t we all.  But the whole idea that God spoke and bang! the world was made?  Forget it.   Well known, openly acknowledged Jesuit plot.

 

 

*Pews themselves have a suitably Protestant pedigree.  They can safely stay.

Best Deals on Raw Water! – UPDATED

UPDATE: H/T to Erin Arlinghaus who observed that in some states there are legal restrictions on collecting rainwater.  You can read a relatively recent summary of the state of the raw-water union here.

Now friends, you who don’t live in a “Raw Water State” might be glancing enviously towards those of us who do.  You might be thinking, “Perhaps I should move to some ‘better’ state where people are allowed to just set out their water cooler under the eaves and gather all the hurricane water they need for flushing that toilet even if the floods break the mains.  You, the earnest raw-water enthusiast, envision the other states as some kind of survivalist paradise.  If only you lived in a Raw Water State, everything would be so much better, you say!

No, no, no.

Do not be fooled.

States where residents are allowed to collect their own water are terrible places. 

Put that thought out of your mind right now!  Surely if you traveled to such a state, you would be immediately molested by the lawless beasts who inhabit such wild lands.

No, my dear Raw Water Aficionado.  We must not allow that to happen to you.  Stay right where you are.

After all, can you put a price on human rights?  When we think about how precious “raw water” is, surely $15/gallon, or even double that, is not too high a price to pay!

Stay right where you are.  Do not, repeat: do not, even think of moving to a state where the rain falls from the sky for free.  Many dangers that way lie, and you must do the right thing and stay someplace civilized where all your viral, bacterial, and amoebic needs can be met in the safety of the whole-foods grocery store.

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Original Post:

I hadn’t been planning on blogging today, but then my friends showed me this article from the Washington Post on the hot new trend of drinking “raw water.”

Well trendsetters, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: It is not necessary to pay $15/gallon for untreated drinking water.   It literally — get this — falls from the sky.

Right now, if you live on the East Coast it’s probably falling from the sky into your yard, in an easily collectible crystalline structure that automatically converts into a liquid when stored at room temperature.  In warmer weather, you’ll need to put out an open-topped, “watertight” vessel when it “rains.”  You may have heard of rain.  That’s God’s way of sending you free raw water.

Now not everyone owns a vessel for collecting water from the sky (though you should), or perhaps you forgot to put yours out when the free water was falling from the sky in your area.  In that case, you can collect raw water from naturally-forming raw water collection points called ponds, lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers.  These fascinating geologic formations can be found across the entire United States and most foreign countries.

(Tip: If there are humans living in a particular country, that country has a supply of “water.”  That’s a way for you to know whether it’s a country where you can acquire your water or not.  In some countries, of course, it’s very tricky, because the natives might dig deep holes into the earth called “wells” for harvesting their raw water.  Foreign travel can be so adventurous!)

Once you’ve collected your raw water absolutely free, here are some great tips from the EPA on how to make that water potable.  Do it right! Don’t let the protozoa win!

And for doing science experiments with your water, you’ll want A Drop of Water by Walter Wick, available at any self-respecting public library.

A Drop of Water by Walter Wick

Cover art courtesy of Amazon.com.