GLENDALE — A shiny gift bow lined nearly every pew up and down the center aisle. Their symbolism marked the two-way gift exchange coming during Mass.
The newly confirmed Catholics would receive a strengthening of gifts from the Holy Spirit and the Church would receive a new crop of members fully initiated into the Body of Christ. More importantly, their willing participation in the sacramental life of the Church meant they now had the strength of the Holy Spirit and a foundation of Church knowledge necessary to be saints in the modern world.
“You are going to receive great gifts today,” Fr. David Sanfilippo, vicar for priests, said in his homily during both a Spanish and English confirmation Mass April 25 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The sacrament of Confirmation — visibly marked with oil on the forehead in a sign of the cross — strengthens the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Those gifts are: wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, and wonder and awe in God’s presence.
“The reality is, these gifts are not meant just for you, but for the whole world,” Fr. Sanfilippo said.
He went on to remind the religious education students — including several sibling duos and trios — of their call to become saints. Fr. Sanfilippo pointed out the saint names the confimandi wore in a nametag around their neck. Some confirmandi crossed gender lines in selecting their names because they looked at their human qualities.
“They had the same difficulties and joys, sometimes even worries,” Fr. Sanfilippo said, “No matter what the cross is that was handed to them in life, they clung to Jesus more than anything else.”
They also clung to the sacramental life, especially the Eucharist, he said. They received their first Communion in the same liturgy too.
Especially when life presents struggles, it’s important to remember that Catholics don’t carry their cross alone, he said. Fr. Sanfilippo credited the work of catechists, parents, sponsors and clergy for bringing their confirmandi to that day.
The Confirmation Mass was one that played out at parishes across the Diocese of Phoenix this spring as its priests and bishops confirmed hundreds of third-graders and other candidates.
Some confirmation classes were so large that the celebration was split into two or three Masses in multiple languages. Our Lady of Perpetual Help had 230 over two Masses. St. Thomas Aquinas in Avondale confirmed 308 children in three liturgies.
The children, teenagers and some adults proudly stepped forward to receive two new sacraments.
Alex Carrizoza, the eldest of his five siblings who were all baptized a week earlier, called being part of a Catholic community “a special feeling.” He enjoys the opportunity to attend daily Mass.
Each newly confirmed Catholic got a visual reminder during Mass that their reception of the sacrament was not a graduation, but a continuation along their faith journey. Immediately after being confirmed, the next face and hand they saw was that of their parish priests offering heartfelt congratulations and a further welcoming into full parish life.
Being confirmed and consuming Jesus’ Body and Blood capped a long two-year wait for Anneyalli Baldez Perez. She couldn’t exactly put her reasoning into words, but her mom, Teresa Perez, hinted that it had something to do with the witness of her older siblings. Anneyalli is her youngest child.
“Every time she came to church, she wanted to receive the sacraments,” Perez said.
Her daughter said the highlight of mass was receiving Jesus into her life Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Fr. Sanfilippo reassured the newly confirmed Catholics not to worry that they’re always going to know what to say.
“Just say ‘yes’ to practicing the faith and to doing what He calls you to,” Fr. Sanfilippo said.
He reminded sponsors of their lifelong call to help their candidate achieve holiness. He challenged everyone to consider more carefully their daily actions so that at the review of their life at heaven’s gates, God reveals a multitude of people who came to know Jesus because of sponsors’ efforts.