Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on September 8, 2016 and has been revised.
Growing up, my five older sisters and I were all indoctrinated into the Roman Catholic religion. We all attended Catholic parochial school and high school. I was baptized as an infant and participated in my first confession and first communion in the first grade and was confirmed as a Roman Catholic in fifth grade. Of all the Catholic sacraments, confirmation is probably the least prominent. The Roman church defines confirmation as follows:
“Confirmation is a true sacrament instituted by Christ and different from baptism. It is administered by laying-on of hands and anointing with chrism (holy oil – Tom) accompanied by prayer. The chrism is blessed by the bishop and the bishop administers the sacrament. All baptized persons can and should be confirmed. The effect of the sacrament of confirmation is to give strength in faith and for the confession of faith and to impress an indelible character.”
It’s alleged that the Holy Spirit “seals” the confirmation supplicant. With confirmation, the young Catholic is supposedly declaring, “I was baptized as an infant without my consent, but I continue forward as a Catholic by choice.” However, confirmation wasn’t really a choice for any of us. It was something my parochial school classmates and I were required to do as part of our religious indoctrination. We were only ten or eleven-years-old and none of us had ever heard the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone up to that point or throughout all of our years in Catholicism.
The nuns and priests told us it was required that we go to confession prior to being confirmed. Going to confession was definitely not one of my favorite things to do and I hadn’t gone in quite a long time. Catholics are taught they must confess their “mortal” sins to a priest and they must go to confession at least once a year or incur another mortal sin. Yet, Catholic research shows only 24 percent of Catholics go to confession at least yearly. The notion of recalling a year’s worth of sins is absolutely preposterous to a believer.
I figured I’d better obey the nuns, so I went to confession on the Saturday prior to Confirmation. I entered the dark, tri-part confessional and waited for the priest, John Lynch, to finish up with the penitent on the other side. Boy, I was nervous and my hands were sweating profusely. Priest Lynch finally slid open the small panel to my booth and I began my rote confession.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been a month since my last confession.” I lied. It had actually been a couple of years since my last confession, but I was embarrassed and afraid to admit that. I then proceeded with my obligatory list of sins. It went something like, “I lied to my mother five times. I yelled at my sisters ten times. I disobeyed my father three times. I cheated on a test in school.” I had no idea how many times I had actually committed these sins so I tried to come up with a believable number.
I continued, “I was mean to a younger kid in the neighborhood….”
“Stop!” Lynch, cut me off mid-sentence. My eyes turned as BIG as Kennedy half-dollars. Sounding more than a little exasperated, he angrily blurted out, “You’re wasting my time and yours!” What? I was one shocked and confused ten-year-old boy. Tears welled up in my eyes. I was only doing what I had been ordered to do and this is what happens? Lynch gave me some perfunctory “Hail Marys” and “Our Fathers” to pray as penance for my annoying venial sins and quickly dismissed me. I couldn’t get out of that booth fast enough and I firmly resolved at that moment to never enter a confessional booth ever again as long as I lived.
We all went through the confirmation ceremony the following week. Auxiliary bishop Casey prayed over each of us and applied some blessed holy oil to our foreheads. None of us children knew Jesus Christ as our Savior. It was all empty ritual. Afterwards, my family and my first cousin, Rick, my chosen confirmation sponsor, went out to dinner to celebrate the “big event.” I received several gifts from my family, but neither myself or anyone else knew Jesus Christ.
Seventeen years later, through God’s Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I repented of my rebellion against God and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. Praise God! Religious ceremonies and rituals do not save. All of my five sisters, who went through confirmation just as I did, are now self-proclaimed agnostics or atheists. They never knew Christ. As a child of God through Jesus Christ, I can now come boldly to the throne of grace to confess my sins. A sinful man cannot be a mediator between God and myself. Jesus Christ is the only Mediator. Thank you Lord that I can come directly to You any hour of the day or night. I know You’ll never turn me away.
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 2:5
Likewise, it’s the Holy Spirit Who seals all genuine believers. It’s not a ritualistic sacrament imparted by a sinful man.
“And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” – 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Thank you, Lord, for leading me out of religious legalism and saving me!