It’s not because I’ve had any spare time during this Coronavirus event that I’m indulging for a moment in nostalgia. This morning, for the third time since I’ve done up the 2,500 mile trip less than a week ago in something like 56 hours, I will be putting on another 200-250 miles, starting today about 6:00 AM. Besides the travel, I’ve been grocery shopping for some of our elderly parishioners who are health compromised, it not being a good idea that they go out in public. No matter where you are, there are elderly people who are alone and health compromised who shouldn’t be out do up some shopping. Can you do it for them? Meanwhile, I’ve been providing the sacraments for those who ask. I’m going to drop from exhaustion, but there are so many things to do. I have to get back in the office for a few minutes. Maybe when I get back later today. However, it may well be that my 200-250 miles today will turn into more than 550 miles round trip.
Anyway, back to nostalgia. I received this, my so-called “Confirmation stole” the other day, from my Confirmation sponsor, who’s putting on some years. It’s made of felt. I made it – sigh – and felt foolish in wearing it as commanded and yet proud of what I had put together. We each had to make our own.
Those were different times. It was in the early 1970s that I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. I was in one of most liberal parishes in the world at the time. How’s that, you ask? The “liturgical movement” was not only developed in my parish by Virgil Michael, OSB, and his side-kick Paul Marx, OSB (of later HLI fame) – there being lots of German connections there (my parish through the Rhine flows into the Tiber and all that) – but also we were one of the four parishes allowed by the Holy See to “experiment” with the Liturgy for many previous decades.
In my Confirmation classes we were instructed that we had to come up with a patron saint. As we kids sat on the floor in a circle – on thick shag carpet – in one of the seminary offices, each youngster reciting in turn the saint’s name they would like to propose, I was, of course, thinking outside the box. I was next. “I’d like to do something different,” I proclaimed, sizing up our hippie-like teacher, gauging how I might get what I want… “I want to have the name John but for two saints, Saint John the Baptist, which is our parish patron saint, and Saint John the Evangelist, because I’m making artistic representations of the scenes of the Apocalypse. I really feel close to both, like they’ve adopted me.” I mean, I was just a little kid, right? That teacher accepted my proposal. Hah!
I know, I know: it’s not right that the priesthood of Christ’s faithful is to be represented by wearing a stole that is to be worn only by priests with sacramental ordination to Jesus’ own priesthood. I apologize. I thought it was weird. Not right. That we kids were being used for some sort of perverted ecclesiology. But what did I know, thought I, and so I went along with it. We were told we had to each make our own “Confirmation stole”, say, out of felt. I procrastinated until just before the Confirmation.
It represents that which I consider (from my perspective, of course) to be a rather deep insight by a little kid, namely, two nostalgic remembrances of the two creations, the two generations of the heavens and the earth in the creation of man and then in the redemption and sanctification of man first noted in Genesis. The Holy Spirit was hovering over the face of the waters, sending rain, creating man, making things grow, and the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to sanctify man, providing His seven-fold gifts, making us part of the Communion of Saints by way of grace that will later turn to glory in heaven (as we hope!) by way of the saving Cross of Christ Jesus.
Pope Benedict XVI speaks of these remembrances by way of conscience, so that to even begin to appreciate the beauty of the pristine first creation before the fall, and this from the distance of suffering the effects of original sin, we must first remember the second creation, as Christ Jesus commanded: When you do this, do this in remembrance of me. It is from the second that we go back to the first, but then much beyond the first. We are made to be one with God in a way that we never could have been in the pristine first creation. And more than this, when we are in heaven, where the second creation entirely flourishes, this is where the effects of original suffer that we suffer in this world will fall away. And all will be in All, as the Apostle Paul says.
I’ll see if I can update this later with some comments about Confirmation as a Sacrament, but right now, I have to jump in the car…