'I am free': Bishop encourages confirmation candidates to embrace the freedom of faith

Confirmation is the third of three sacraments of initiation for Catholic teens who have been baptized and received their first holy Communion as children.

At each confirmation Mass, candidates complete the initiation that began at baptism. They are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and are welcomed as full members of the Church community.

That idea of community was displayed at the last confirmation celebration of the school year in Elizabeth City. Fifty teens representing eight different Catholic communities gathered at Holy Family Church June 15 to worship, pray and celebrate as one.

Joining those from Holy Family were candidates from Holy Trinity (Williamston), St. Charles Borromeo (Ahoskie), St. Anne Mission (Scotland Neck), St. Joan of Arc (Plymouth), St. Katharine Drexel Mission (Maple), St. Anne (Edenton) and Holy Redeemer by the Sea (Kitty Hawk).

Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama was principal celebrant for the Mass, which included readings, petitions and remarks in both English and Spanish.

During his homily, Bishop Luis Rafael addressed the candidates directly. He first asked them if they thought it was easier to be four years old or to be a teenager. Upon general acquiescence that it was easier to be younger, Bishop explained, “When we were 4 or 5, we were free. Now, it’s different. What my friend will think about me, how you try to be cool with them.”

With age, the bishop said, people become aware of the perceptions of others. That makes it easy to be, as he said, “afraid to become who you are.”

Bishop Luis Rafael encouraged the candidates to accept the gift of the Holy Spirit that they receive at confirmation and, with it, exclaim, “I am free!” He told the candidates that they are each a gift as they are and should not try to be anyone else.

He also encouraged them to pray in a way that they could understand.

The bishop encouraged candidates to take moments to talk with God each day. He explained that their prayer didn’t need to be “long” or “fancy.” It just needed to be “like a text.”

After the homily, in a new tradition instituted by Bishop Luis Rafael, groups of candidates stood facing the congregation as Bishop walked to each confirmand, or candidate, and anointed their forehead with chrism oil. The change was made to ensure that the focus was on those who were receiving the sacrament.

From September through the June 15 Mass at Holy Family, 44 parish communities celebrated confirmation throughout the Diocese of Raleigh and more than 3,000 teens studied, prayed and accepted the gift of the Holy Spirit.