|This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
This past weekend’s readings included the beautiful recounting of the Apostles choosing “helpers” in their mission of charity and justice, and so I have the joy of going to the altar this Friday and ordaining, to the Transitional Diaconate, David Johannes, who is simply a terrific candidate and who will be an outstanding deacon and priest.
In the fall, God willing, Mark Miller likewise will be ordained a deacon at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and Mark and David will together be ordained priests a year from now. Please pray for both of these great young men as they come upon their diaconate ordinations and final year of preparation for the priesthood.
Indeed the readings at this time of the liturgical year are chock-full of the works accomplished by the Apostles through the power of the Holy Spirit. This coming Sunday, our first reading gives us a glance at one of the foundational moments in the institution of the Sacrament of Confirmation. We hear of Peter and John with the crowds gathered in the region of Samaria. The people there, we are told, had “accepted the word of God,” and had been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit had not fallen on them. And so the Apostles went to that region and, “they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”
Relying on the Holy Spirit
I cannot help but think of the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation, here and now. I have been so very blessed in recent weeks and months to be in various regions of the diocese praying with so many of our young women and men as they receive the very same indwelling of the Holy Spirit as was given to the people of the region of Samaria 2,000 years ago.
These are terrific young people who have heard and accepted the Word of God, have been baptized and instructed by their parents and teachers, and who now come forward to receive fully the Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t pretend that this is all as idyllic as it seems. I know well that many of these young men and women are faced with tremendous challenges and even doubts. For some of them, the “acceptance of the Word of God” is surely limited by various factors. I pray every blessed day, and especially when I have the opportunity to be with them, that the Word of God will make its way more powerfully into their hearts, that they might truly meet the risen Christ face to face and be transformed by Him.
But, nonetheless, their teachers have prepared them as best they can, and we rely strongly upon the Holy Spirit to come with His power and grace to transform their lives. I’d like to thank all of the wonderful — often un-thanked — women and men throughout the diocese who help our pastors to teach the faith. I thank our directors and coordinators of religious education, all of our teachers, and of course all of the good parents, godparents, sponsors, and so many others who form the next generation in the faith. The gift you give, in offering a proper instruction in the faith, is one of the most important and invaluable that can be given.
Young people receiving God’s gifts
In the past few years we as a diocese have been working to improve upon our Confirmation ceremonies, by coming together regionally. The process continues to be refined and there are some areas for growth along the way (for instance, we need to insure that attendance is not seriously limited, by using adequately sized churches in the region or, if needs be, by adding celebrations where necessary). But, from my own experience, and from the words of the young people themselves, our priests, parents, and sponsors, the regional Confirmation ceremonies have been simply magnificent.
The powerful action which takes place with the Sacraments that are being celebrated is only enhanced by the presence of so many peers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, receiving the Holy Spirit and all the Spirit’s gifts. I’ve been told by so many of the young people that they’ve never had such an experience of their faith. I thank God for that, and pray that this experience will carry them through an entire lifetime of faith.
May the Lord continue to bless our diocese, especially our young women and men, who face such challenges from “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” May we accept, more and more each day, the Word of God into our lives. And may the Holy Spirit come with power and glory, to raise our minds and hearts to God and to caring for one another.
May God bless each one of you! Thank you for taking the time to read this. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!