So, in doing my dishes yet again today, I found myself in one of those "theological dissertations" that you can really only have when you're up to your elbows in dishsoap.
This time I was thinking about my siblings. We're all grown now and out of our parents' homes. We are doing well for ourselves, at least decently earning a living, etc. My brother (has cerebral palsy, but that's another story for another blog post) is single, lives on his own, and works for the town. My sister is divorced, lives with some roommates in a farm house, and works for the local Catholic hospital. I'm the youngest of the three of us, and am the only one who still practices the Catholic Faith.
I began to wonder how this happens in families, that only a select one or two out of a family of children uphold the Teachings of the Faith. I mean, in my situation, we were all given the same opportunities to learn and love the Faith growing up. My sister and I attended the same all-girls' Catholic High School, we were taught from the same Sisters, learned the Catechism at the same time. My brother went to Mass with our family and learned the same lessons as we all did growing up. We actually weren't "cradle Catholics" in that my sister, my brother, and I all entered the Faith in our teens. So if anything we were even more "on fire" with our Faith than many of our Catholic peers. By and large we were given the same chances to grow in, and to live, our Faith. Then I wonder why I'm the only one who still strives to live the Teachings of the Church.
I know I'm not alone in this conundrum, as my husband's family has the same situation (although slightly different, as his family members still attend Sunday Mass, but they all contracept, love Dan Brown, and believe pretty much in relative morality.) I started to try to justify our lifestyle choices in that many are called but few are chosen, and my husband and I were given singular graces to have the nuclear family and Faith that we do. And there is truth to that, but I would ardently reject that notion that these same graces weren't offered to my siblings (or siblings-in-law).
Faith in family life (meaning you, your spouse, and children) comes down to an act of the will. It must be a conscientous choice of "yes Lord, I'm going to follow you and abide by the tenets you have established in your Immaculate Bride, the Church". It cannot be that it just "happens", that some children "get the Faith" and some just "don't". And I think its good to look on these things, and "ponder them in the heart", to learn that valuable lesson before my own children are grown with children of their own, deliberating the Faith and whether or not to follow it.
This moment, this fiat, this choice to "come and follow" our Lord has to come at a point. And I think the graces necessary for that moment, for that choice, must come to us in the Sacrament of Confirmation. I think Confirmation is the opportunity for God to send the call, and for us to respond. Because, at least in North America under standard theological norms, young adults receive the sacrament of Confirmation as their "graduation" from CCD. At least that is the way it is perceived and in most cases, presented. And while no one feels love lost for not spending Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the Church basement with a bunch of their CCD classmates, coloring pictures of St. Therese and playing with Tickle Me Jesus, there is a sense of relief when those "Faith Formation" classes come to a close. But is that really all Confirmation is? Recently I had the random and wonderful opportunity to meet Raymond DeSouza, a Catholic apologist, and a worker at Human Life International. He had the most clear and defining portrayal of what the Sacrament of Confirmation really is. I quote him here, "At Baptism, we become citizens of God's Kingdom. At Confirmation, we become soldiers of God's Kingdom." I found that to be very profound, and could correlate it by looking closer at this kingdom. Children in a nation act and respond to their government differently than their parents do. At Confirmation we're given a moment in which to take on our citizenship in an adult way, as our parents do. No more hand-holding, no more forced "Faith Formation" classes, no more "you're going to be grounded if you don't get to Mass on Sunday" moments. We must take up the Cross as adults and follow after our Lord, or sadden him when "many turn away". At Confirmation its our chance too, to honestly and humbly say, I am still a child in my Faith, help me grow. At this point we can honestly assess that we are not ready (and not base it on some arbitrary age requirement that given enough time will change anyway) and continue to live as children in his kingdom until we are prepared for a life in the Faith. Or we can pray for the guidance and wisdom to answer His call depending entirely on His grace to help us along the way. Or we can just go through the motions and get it done, and then become derelicts in the Faith. Sadly, I know of many of my Confirmation classmates that have chosen the latter, and now don't even practice the Faith.
So when we look at siblings, friends, and other family members, its important to note that they are still being called. Constantly called back to the Faith, to the Father. We must witness to them in Charity and Truth, even when our lives fall on deaf ears. But I don't believe that the gift of Faith is the same as the gift of music or the gift of writing in each child. Christ would not give up any one of these "least of our brothers" (no meaning implied in that), even if has to offer this gift again and again and again. I believe that when it comes to the Faith, that "all are called, all are chosen".