The Holy Spirit Provides Strength in Answering Life’s Questions

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Father David BonnarI have been thinking a lot lately about the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is because this is the week our bishop was to have come to our newly-established parish to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation. Due to the pandemic, the bishop has delegated the conferring of this sacrament to the pastors in the diocese. Each pastor for this year has been given the faculty to confirm their respective confirmation class.

In my parish, I will, over the next few weeks, celebrate eight different Masses to confirm our candidates. While it is my privilege every day at holy Mass to call forth the Holy Spirit at the epiclesis, conferring the Sacrament of Confirmation is typically reserved for bishops. Perhaps it is understandable why I have been thinking much about the Holy Spirit in recent days.

Anytime I think of the Holy Spirit, I am reminded of a survey that was done in a popular Catholic magazine many years ago. Among the questions asked was this one: When you pray, to whom do you pray? There were three possible responses — Father, Son or Holy Spirit.

Interestingly enough, the survey revealed that very few people prayed to the Holy Spirit. And yet, the Scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit is an advocate who is always there to be of help.

The Sacrament of Confirmation completes initiation into the Church and seals the gifts of the Holy Spirit received in baptism, strengthening those gifts. Confirmation is not an end but a whole new beginning of the Christian life. Confirmation is not, then, graduation but a commencement which means “beginning.”

One of the more specific reasons I have been thinking about the Holy Spirit is because I need to deliver a homily to these candidates. This is a critical homily to give, which is why so often it is given by a bishop. What does the Holy Spirit want me to say?

I have already heard from my youth minister and director of faith formation that the candidates are nervous about what questions I might ask them. As you know, as part of the homily the bishop usually calls on the candidates to answer questions. Our bishop looks at the program and usually memorizes four names and then calls out the names during his homily and engages in conversation. Imagine hearing your name being called out of the blue. Nevertheless, our bishop is such a gentle soul with the candidates and helps them along the way.

The exercise of asking questions at this time is a foreshadowing for these candidates about what is to come in life. As they mature, there will be an array of questions to be addressed that will make them even more nervous than they are that evening.

When I graduated from high school, I remember receiving a gold brass paperweight in the form of a question mark. That gift was, in many ways, a prophecy of what was to come with adulthood — many questions. Some of these questions are hard and painful, but they need to be addressed.

Perhaps the most important questions I will be asking at these Masses will be centered on the renunciation of sin and the renewal of baptismal promises. The answer to these questions is all a matter of faith in Jesus Christ and his Church.

While the candidates, no doubt, might have some anxiety with the questions asked that evening, as well as those later in life, I hope they will find solace in knowing that the answers to so many of our questions come from a life of faith lived in communion with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the Church. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that these candidates will receive will provide even more strength in answering life’s questions.

As we all face a myriad of questions, let us pray to the Holy Spirit who is always present to assist us. Come, Holy Spirit!

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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