Mothers must feel something very special when they see their sons walking down the aisle to marry the women they love. I am not a mother or have marrying-age children but I sort of felt something like that as I watched our first two Confirmation boys walk towards the altar to receive their sacrament. It was a first for all of us.
Luis Alfredo and Christian were the first two adolescents to actually make it to the Confirmation Ceremony from this particular community in our parish, one of the most remote of the fifteen chapels. It was a first for Dan and me because we had never used the 21-Theme program that was given to us as guide.
When we started in June, the group of Confirmation candidates was bigger. However, work and study responsibilities were the reasons some quit the program. Luis Alfredo and Christian stayed on, showing up every week, participating the best they could and little by little convincing themselves that they wanted to be Confirmed as a personal choice and not because their parents wanted them to. Not to sound dramatic or heroic, but Dan and I walked forty-five minutes by the Inca wall and through fields of sugar beets, avoiding several angry dogs, to meet with these two boys every Friday.
We witnessed their transformation as they stopped giving us the book answers and started to share their opinions. They liked to be treated as young adults and even though some themes were tough to talk about, they would eventually stop looking at the ceiling out of embarrassment and try to have a conversation with us. As a catechist, this program is one of the most challenging things I have had to do…but the most rewarding too.
The last night before the ceremony they were given a blank sheet of paper with an envelope. They could write anything they wanted about the Sacrament of Confirmation that they were about to receive. All the unaddressed envelopes, never to be read, were going to be presented as a gift during the Mass.
Luis Alfredo and Christian seemed troubled. Dan asked me to give them an example or help them organize their thoughts. After all, we talked about so many different things during the last six months that I empathized with them. I knew well that after this day they would be on their own. They had learned what it means to have a conscience and how to use it to make better decisions in their lives. But Dan was right… I needed to help them one more time. They were nervous and a church full of confirmands from other chapels, parents and sponsors, was not a familiar sight for them.
-So I said: “21 themes…who did we learn about the most?”
-They both said: “God”
-“The Holy Spirit”
-“Well, do you want Them to stand by you from this point on and for the rest of your lives?”
-“Well, use these blank pieces of paper to ask Them to do exactly that: To stand by you always.”
They smiled at each other and started writing. I gave them some space by walking away…but on the blank piece of paper of my heart, I made my own request: “My God: Give me the chance and the strength to bring more boys and girls into your welcoming circle of love. Please stand by me…always.”
Meri and Dan Diamonds are Columban lay missionaries living in Peru.