Bishop Ray on Confirmations, First Communions and Family Life

Due to the continued closure of the schools and the major restrictions on people gathering together in one place, all Confirmation and First Communion ceremonies are postponed. When the government announces details of these situations being reversed there will be consultations between the school community, the parents and each parish with a view to setting new dates for these ceremonies. Every Easter blessing on all the children and their families. _________________________________________________

Over the past 5 weeks the focus has been on our hospitals and health services, on so many other public and essential services, and the situation of the over70’s being shielded in their homes. What of the family homes where there are children and teenagers? Tensions arise from being confined to home for so long; not being able to meet friends; not having their usual activities and hobbies, sporting, musical and cultural, available; to finding solutions to accommodate parents going to work or working from home.

Besides contact with children of my nieces and nephews, my glimpse of family life is through the Sacrament of Confirmation. When the schools closed, one third of the Confirmations ceremonies had already taken place. At each Confirmation I see so many beautiful moments: twins or cousins being confirmed; the warmth and closeness between a candidate and a baby sister, or an older brother already in third level; a granny so proud of her grandchild. Such beautiful family relationships! What wonderful moments are happening in homes these weeks as children and parents spend so much time together? What fun, what growing as individuals, and at times what rows! It may not be easy, it still is very special. So much that will be recalled fondly in years to come.

The pandemic impacts on all homes hugely and I am going to highlight three particular situations. It is no exaggeration to say that the Leaving Cert is the most intense exam you ever do. Think of the pressure and stress from before Easter right through to the last exam in mid-June. All the more pressure and stress this year when, because of the Covid-19 virus the exam is put off until an indefinite date in July / August.

All our hearts go out to the Leaving Cert class of 2020. God bless you all. God help you keep calm. It is vital is that you take care of each other, keep in touch with each other (without actually meeting), journey together and be there for each other. At different times each will have their bad day or week, or their moment of panic. Together you can cope with the journey ahead. The students know that their teachers will guide them through the three months ahead. The day will come in October or November when the vast majority will happily start a third level course, just as the class of 2019 did last Autumn.

The other two groups are the Confirmation and First Communion classes. For those in sixth class, Confirmation is part of final term in Primary School, and in a way a marking of the end of childhood. The candidates are so full of life and so positive about the future. Confirmation proclaims the unique God-given goodness of each of them and the unique path in life ahead of each. They all would have so enjoyed every day of the final term just beginning.

First Communion is different. The children are full of innocence and fun, fond of their teacher and delighting in their families. They are full of wonder at creation. They are full of love of family, school and everybody, and of God who is Creator and Lord of all. The image of the white First Communion dress captures it perfectly. First Communion tells them that God is love, that love is the secret of happiness, and that love is what really matters.

Communion and Confirmation are highpoints for children, their families and extended families, and for their schools and communities. Dates were set back in September. New dates will be set, plans will be made, and in due course all will enjoy these wonderful occasions.

Meanwhile may children enjoy the wonder of extended home life. Being unable to meet their friends, may they appreciate how friends really matter to us all. And remember what Pope Francis said is the secret to a happy home:  “The ability to say please, thank you and  . . .  I am sorry ”.

St Joseph, Protector of the Holy Family, watch over all families everywhere.

Our Lady, help of the sick, pray for us.

+ Ray Browne    Diocese of Kerry   21st April 2020.