My Dear Confirmation Candidates,
A few months ago, you all began your journey towards Confirmation. Your catechists mapped out the route for that journey, which was set to reach its zenith today, Pentecost Sunday.
I'd like to thank all of you, your devoted catechists and your parents and guardians for their cooperation throughout. Not only that, but the catechists, led by Deacon Ged, have continued throughout lockdown to deliver training via email.
I can tell you that Bishop Pat, who planned to come along at Noon today in order to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation is, of course, like all of us priests who are unable to fully exercise their ministry among their flock, very sad that he cannot do so. Indeed, his programme of visits to many other parishes has also been curtailed. The guidance surrounding our response to the Covid-19 pandemic meant, as you know, that all churches were forced to close. Indeed, Bishop Pat was required to enter into self-isolation. He wishes to assure you of his prayers for you all, and encourages you to pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen you and comfort you whilst you wait for the day when you will be able to be Confirmed.
Following His Resurrection, the Lord had appeared on a number of occasions to his disciples.
He had then set about preparing them for his Ascension into Heaven, which Solemnity we celebrated just ten days ago. He had warned his disciples of, and indeed prepared them for the fact that He would be soon be leaving them to return to the Father, and it was very clear that they did not want Him to go.
Prior to his passion and death and subsequent Resurrection, they had questioned Him as to when He was going to restore the Kingdom to Israel, having failed to fully grasp the fact that His Kingdom was not of this world. After He had risen from the dead, everything had changed. In any event, Jesus was not going to abandon the Apostles, despite the approaching loss to them of His physical presence.
Whilst among them, he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit", which are the very words uttered by the Bishop to each Candidate as he anoints them with the Holy Oil of Chrism. He told them that he would send them this special helper who would provide them with spiritual strength, that they could boldly and fearlessly proclaim the Gospel, with the Spirit helping them to find the right words to do so. Then they could confidently obey His commandment to "Go, teach all nations!"
Now, having assured them very clearly, with the words, "I am with you always, yes, to the end of time", Jesus was taken up into heaven, and disappeared from their sight.
The apostles went into hiding, along with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. And there they waited, in fear of the people, for the day of Pentecost itself when, in the upper room, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, as promised by Jesus, would descend on all present in the form of tongues of fire, giving them all the voice to "Go tell everyone" and be understood, on that day, by people from many countries, all speakers of different languages.
My dear Confirmandi, I'd like you to imagine yourselves being in that upper room with those frightened Apostles, waiting, waiting, waiting and praying for the Gift of the Holy Spirit. You have all been confined to your homes for many weeks, accepting the guidance which the government has set out to enable us all to deal with the Coronavirus, waiting for the day when the restrictions are lifted. It has not been easy by any means. And the situation will continue as we gradually work towards the unlocking of the current restrictions.
Perhaps you could explore the link between these two situations. The waiting and praying for an end to the Coronavirus, and the waiting and praying for the Holy Spirit to descend upon you and enrich your spiritual lives through the Sacrament of Confirmation. I urge each one of you, in particular, to continue to pay attention to your Prayer life, to pray with your family, in addition to your private prayer. Don't give up hope. Trust God to send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Helper, into your life as and when He sees fit. Keep up your preparation, and make the most of the extra time you have been given to do so.