Alex Norman, 17, an 11th grader at Northside High School in Fort Smith, experienced how the support of his parish, friends and other faith mentors nurtured his Catholicism as he prepared to receive confirmation at Christ the King Church in Fort Smith last April.
Norman, who attended confirmation classes through Christ the King's TARE (Teenage Religious Education) program, was team-taught by Sean McCaffrey, Susan Norman, (his mother) Linda Lensing and Suzy Bushkuhl.
"Well, really, I doubted the first time I felt the Holy Spirit in me," Norman said. "But being an athlete, I had a strong relationship with him."
When Norman reached high school, his parents, Susan and Paul Norman, challenged him to continue to go to church on his own because he wanted to.
"I took it upon myself as a challenge to attend church regularly," he said. "At TARE, I found close friends at neighboring schools who helped me become closer in my relationship to Jesus Christ. On Wednesday nights our group discussions brought me closer. My friends made sure I was in church. At confirmation, when I turned around and saw them it felt so good. I felt like I was walking on air."
Norman's spiritual discernment process grew even stronger as he participated in a mission trip at Catholic Heart Work Camp in New Orleans, with his parish in July.
"I started getting questions in my head about being a priest and going to the seminary," he said.
He said he will also look to spiritual mentors in the Diocese of Little Rock, including his pastor, to help him continue to discern where the Holy Spirit is leading him.
Msgr. James Mancini, diocesan liaison for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, said confirmation, like baptism, imprints a permanent mark when the sacrament is received.
"The sacrament of confirmation confers the Holy Spirit in such a way as to leave an imprint on our soul," he said.
Msgr. Mancini is also pastor of St. Joseph Church in Tontitown.
"In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul listed the powers of the Holy Spirit as the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, extraordinary faith, healing, working miracles, prophecy, discernment and tongues and interpretation," he said. "I believe more Catholics need to be prayed for that they may know their spiritual gifts and how to use them."
Confirmation allows a person to "share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which he is filled." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1289)
In the Eastern Church, confirmation is administered immediately after baptism, which is followed by reception of the Eucharist to highlight the unity of the sacraments of initiation. In the Latin Church, Catholics are confirmed after they have reached the age of reason. (no. 1318) In the Diocese of Little Rock, youth are confirmed beginning at age 14.
During the rite, a baptized person is anointed with sacred chrism (specially blessed oil) by a bishop, who, while laying on hands, seals the person with the Holy Spirit. (no. 1320)
Confirmation, the catechism explains, is necessary for the "completion of baptismal grace."
Those who are confirmed, "'are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.'"(no. 1285)
See also: Catechism of the Catholic Church 1285-1321; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Acts 8:14-19; 13:3; 19:1-6; Ephesians 1:13
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