Thrive! Journal - Edition #9 Confirmation Series 1
Confirmation: Drip Torch Series
"I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” With these words our savior, Jesus Christ, makes clear his mission here on earth: to start a fire within the hearts of his disciples, a consuming love of God and a strident desire to proclaim the grand news of salvation across the globe. Two-thousand years later and that fire burns ever more brightly within the hearts of his followers. Nowhere can that flame be more keenly felt than in the Sacrament of Confirmation, in which youth and adult alike seal their membership within Christ’s Church and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to further Christ’s command to “go forth and make disciples of all nations.” And yet, there is a shadow cast across this beautiful moment so many reading this article are striving to rectify. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, Catholics remain the largest religious group within the United States with about 1 in 5 U.S. adults identifying as Catholic. However, the next largest group would be those considered ‘lapsed Catholics,’ that is, men and women that have left the Faith for any number of reasons and have either transitioned to another denomination or religion, or have abandoned their faith life altogether. This is a trend that is not tenable from a practical statistical analysis, as church attendance across the nation drops, but beyond that the loss of those souls is a tragedy beyond reckoning. It is with an eye on this grave matter that we should pause for a moment of introspection and reflection. The job of the youth minister and director of religious education can often feel like a thankless task. From irate parents, disinterested youth, demanding clergy; the critical task of transmitting the Faith can often get lost amongst the minutia. The following series is going to focus on the broad stroke concepts of effectively transmitting the Faith because every situation is different and presents its own challenges and opportunities. The point that we will explore is simple in its articulation-complexity is not an evil to avoid. The youth of today are more connected than we have ever been at any point in history. They have access to the sum of human knowledge at their fingertips and use it to their advantage. Our goal here should not be to reduce the faith to a 10 second ‘bite’ but rather to expand and elaborate on the beauty we are guardians of because the youth deserve more than a mere reduction of the faith and intellectual life that gave us some of the greatest works of literature, music, and architecture the world has ever known. The story of the Holy Spirit’s descent during Pentecost might be my favorite part of Sacred Scripture. “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.” The apostles were sealed in that moment as members of the Body of Christ and went forth from there proclaiming the great message. They spread across the globe slowly but surely, with ever growing strength, until the message of salvation through Jesus Christ touched places across the world few have ever tread. In the imagery of fire I found inspiration for our series title. Having spent a season in New Mexico at a large Boy Scout ranch, I saw first hand the usage of fire for the common good. We would go out into overgrown areas that needed to cleared to make way for new forest growth with a tool called a drip torch. It was a small tin can filled with combustible fluids and a small torch on the spout that would be used to let the brush alight. Under careful direction we would use this tool sparingly but strategically to set the landscape ablaze. There was no need for a large flame or extra fluid, just enough to set the small fire. And from those small fires, we could clear acres within an hour. And that is what we do, as ministers of the Church that specialize in youth and young adult ministries. Through meetings, and classes, and retreats we slowly but surely spread small flames to the hearts of our Church’s youth. Grandiose shows aren’t necessary, but the simple truth of Jesus Christ is, it is the small flame that, when treated properly, will spread across the land in a roaring blaze. It is our imperative to go forth and make zealous followers of Christ from amongst the youth of our state. In the following issues we will dive in greater depth into what that looks like, but for now, be assured of my prayers for you and this great undertaking.