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Confirmation and prayers for our spirited child
I’m not much for knocking on wood, but I make an exception whenever I tell somebody that our six kids have combined for zero — zip, zilch, nada — broken bones. No falling out of a tree and landing wrong on their ankle. No sledding down the stairs in a pillowcase and busting a collarbone. No wrestling their way into a broken arm.
Of course, there is an asterisk whenever this comes up in conversation: The nose is cartilage, not bone. Our oldest son is the cause of this technicality. Over the span of a handful of months when he was probably 4, Grant broke his nose not once, not twice, but three times. The first came when he was running in the house and smacked his face into the wall. Once the swelling went down, it was clear that there had been a bit of a break — nothing serious — but before we could get him looked at, he broke it again. More running in the house. That time — the second time — his cute little face was rearranged pretty good. A few months after having surgery to straighten it out, he broke it again.
My guess is that there’s a kid like Grant in most families — one who needs a few more prayers than the others. One whose guardian angel is always on high alert. One book we read referred to kids like Grant as a “spirited child.” When he was little and we would pray as a family, Grant would always respond with a very emphatic “Amen!” because that signified that the prayer was over and he could go back to running over and into things.
I hadn’t thought about Grant’s broken and broken and fixed and broken nose in years, but it’s funny how memories march their way to the front of the brain. This one came rolling forward right after he bounded down the stairs, hopping over the baby gate like he always does, dressed for his confirmation — shirt buttoned and tucked in, tie straightened, ratty gym shoes replaced with stylish low-cut boots. He looked, maybe for the first time in my eyes, like a man. And almost immediately I remembered him as a little boy, crooked nose, always grinning, always running.
At the confirmation Mass, our bishop — Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana — spoke to the confirmands about how youth is not an excuse to avoid striving for holiness. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that were bestowed upon them at baptism would be sealed within them — strengthened within them — during the Sacrament of Confirmation. If they opened themselves up to them, these gifts — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord — would help drive them to a virtuous, holy life. From his lips to God’s ears.
During his homily, Bishop Rhoades then asked each student, by a show of hands, who was born in 2006. Half of the class, give or take, affirmed the bishop’s suspicion, and he then told them that was the same year that an incredible model of the Faith — a teenager like them — passed away. Carlo Acutis was 15 when he died of leukemia, but throughout his short life, he showed an ardent devotion to Christ. The bishop told the students that Carlo once said, “To always be close to Jesus, that is my life plan.”
But such a life can only come if we are intentional about fostering our relationship with Christ, and that comes about through prayer and through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the bishop said. Carlo Acutis, who is scheduled to be beatified in Assisi, Italy, this October, once said that the Eucharist was his “highway to heaven.” It is for us all, the bishop said, if we let it.
As I listened to the bishop, I looked over at Grant in the pew and prayed for his heart to be open. For the gifts of the Holy Spirit to take root and help him lead a life of faith. For us as his parents to be models of virtue.
After the homily, Grant stood in front of the bishop — looking more like a man than the rambunctious little boy he used to be, with his tie straight, and his nose straight — and as our spirited child was anointed with the chrism oil, he heard the bishop say, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And he responded, “Amen.”
Scott Warden is managing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.