Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How I Lost My Confirmation Party

In Catholicism, confirmation is one of the seven holy sacraments (along with baptism, reconciliation, communion, marriage, holy orders and last rites). It's the ceremony by which a communicant of the church becomes a full adult member of the congregation. I made my confirmation, but it was a fairly miserable experience for everybody. Perhaps if I'd known there was supposed to be a party at the end - one that traditionally involved gifts of money and perhaps a new watch - I'd have been more compliant about the whole thing.

But I was undergoing a crisis of faith at the time. The more I'd learned about Catholicism, the more I'd come to question its sordid history. It was supposed to be based on the perfection of Jesus Christ and his representative on Earth, the Pope. But the church, and its popes, had been far from perfect.I'd started to lose my belief in the teachings of the church, and if you don't believe, it gets to be really hard to sit through confirmation classes every week reading passages from the bible and discussing the beliefs of the church and its followers. My head, much less my heart, just wasn't in it.

Not long before the confirmation ceremony was to take place, I was in the car with my parents and must have made some mention about how much I hated the classes or didn't want to go to the ceremony or something. I'm sure it was far from the first time I'd complained like that, but apparently it was the last straw for my dad. He let me know then that there was usually a party to celebrate a confirmation, but not for me. No party, no watch, no money - if I was going to be a pain in the ass about the whole thing, then I could just forget it. No second chances, no negotiation, it was done. Parties were for good, faithful Catholics. My parents had a duty to see me confirmed, but after that I was free to go my own way if I wanted to.

And so I did. I think I continued going to church for a while after I made my confirmation, but I didn't feel it. I went through the motions, but it had no meaning for me. But dad was right - it wouldn't have had any more meaning for me if I'd been wearing a new wristwatch or carrying a few hundred extra bucks in my pocket. Better for my relatives to have kept their money than to bestow it on somebody in celebration of a ceremony that meant more to them than it did to me.

In the twenty years since, I've learned a great deal about faith, religion in general and Catholicism in particular. I studied the history of the church for a semester at college. I've read sizable chunks of the Bible, but I've never read anything to make me feel that my lack of faith was misplaced. Belief in the church's teachings gives comfort and peace to millions of people around the world, and that alone makes it worthwhile. Far be it from me to proselytize against the church. But it doesn't work for me, and my dad figured that out before I'd really figured it out for myself. I lost my party, but the ceremony was valid - it really did mark the beginning of my passage into adulthood.

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