Prayer After Confirmation: So Much More
March 19, 2009 § 5 Comments
Last year, I spoke at a Confirmation retreat during Lent. My topic was prayer, and how it changes/needs to change after our Confirmation. Today I was working on a lesson I will give in RCIA next week on formal and informal prayer, and came across my notes from last year. I thought I would post them here, for anyone who wishes to read them.
Prayer After Confirmation: So Much More
Most of us practice some kind of prayer in those limbo-like years between our Baptism and our Confirmation. Prayer at this point in life is a spiritual training-ground, usually with more form and less substance. We pray around the bed with our families (as I did), attend Mass on Sundays, say the Morning Offering in Catholic school, and maybe say a decade of the rosary once and a while. For me at that age, saying a whole decade of the rosary was a last resort only turned to in dire circumstances, and prayer seemed more of a time-consuming chore than a joy.
This is fine before Confirmation: it is training for intense spiritual battles later in life as a Soldier of Christ. The graces and gifts received at Confirmation – Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord – as ethereal and abstract as they may seem, give us the power to do so much more with our prayers. But, thanks to the contemporary interest in superhero films such as “Batman” and “Spiderman”, we know that “with great power comes great responsibility”. Now that we have this great spiritual power in God, we also are tasked with the responsibility to use it for good.
A grave choice is placed before us with our Confirmation: either we can take up these powers in the fight against an evil that is very real, or we can choose to throw our powers aside and not use them at all. If we take the latter road, we will have to deal with the consequences later in life and, more importantly, in the afterlife.
However, if we choose to bravely “run the race” and be spiritual superheroes (and heroines) we need to exercise our powers and grow in them. How do we do this? I have a few suggestions – only suggestions, mind you – to help you exercise your power of prayer intensified in Confirmation.
I like to divide prayer into two general types: formal and informal. Formal prayer would include the kind of prayer I mentioned above that we use most during “training”: the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, bedtime prayers, mealtime prayers, etc. Informal prayer, on the other hand, is much easier to incorporate into your busy schedules in high school, college, and beyond.
I can suggest a few kinds of informal prayer that I find most fulfilling. First, there is making your entire day an offering to God. This is akin to the Morning Offering and can be “symbolized” by this formal prayer, but it has a more subtle meaning. Living your day as a prayer means that every single thing you do is done with the active intention of giving it to God rather than simply saying a prayer in the morning and moving on. The late Fulton Sheen had it right when he said that there are basically two kinds of people in this world: those who wake up and say “Good morning, God” and those who wake up and say “Good God! Morning.” I think we would all like to strive to live in the first mindset.
Another form of informal prayer is sacrifice. If you don’t include sacrifice in your day, I recommend you incorporate it immediately. Offer up every suffering in your day as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God. And don’t just make a resolution to offer up sacrifices: plan your sacrifices. For Lent I have encouraged my sisters to plan sacrifices into their day, particularly one I call the “angel-bite”. At every meal, leave just one bite – a bite for your guardian angel – on your plate. It sounds incredibly simple, but it is harder than you may think to leave that one bite of your food. It is one way to unite our sufferings with Christ and remember in a small way the Crucifixion.
Sometimes it is helpful to focus our sacrifices. I, for instance, keep a little box under my bed (it used to have stationary in it) with pieces of paper crinkled up inside. On each piece of paper is someone’s name. The names of the principal of the parish school, our pastor, friends, and family are in there to mention a few. Every morning I pull one crinkled piece of paper out at random and offer all my sacrifices that day for that person. That way I can have them in mind as I go about my routine.
A third way to practice informal prayer is through the music we listen to. Nearly every teenager today owns and is constantly plugged into some kind of music player, whether it be an iPod or more generic mp3 player (I, for one, LOVE my iPod). A friend of mine who is in seminary asked me about a year ago when I bought mine: “What kind of music is on your iPod?” It is a seemingly innocent question, but the answer tells volumes about the person who owns the player. Do you listen to heavy metal? Rap? Rock? Black metal? I saw an article in the paper yesterday about so-called black metal music. Honestly, I don’t even want to know what it is about. The teenage years are an emotional roller-coaster of breakups, relationships, stress in school and in the family, and growth. Music is an escape where young people go to “emote”.
Where am I heading with this digression into contemporary music? An excellent form of prayer I have been blessed to discover in the past few years is Christian music. And no, this doesn’t have to be Gregorian or medieval chant (though it can be if you like). There are so many talented Christian artists today to choose from that there is no reason to constantly be listening to secular artists. Music has the power to either help you lift up your soul to God or to drag it down into the muck and entangle you in your own selfish emotions so that you cannot be open to the needs of others. Your choice.
A final form of informal prayer I will mention is simply that of talking to God as a friend. Take some time each day, even five minutes, to talk to Him. Tell Him about your suffering, your joys, and everything in between. And one of the greatest gifts of the Catholic Church is that, if you feel awkward talking directly to God, you have thousands of messangers to choose from. Personally, I always felt kind of silly talking to God as I could not imagine what He looked like. I couldn’t speak to the Holy Spirit because it felt funny talking to a dove. I even had trouble talking to Mary for a long time. But we can speak to God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Mary, our Guardian Angels, or the Saints. Talk to your Confirmation saint – there is a reason you chose him or her, a lesson that only that saint can teach you for your life. I have always had connections with Blessed Miguel Pro and Saint John Bosco, and my spiritual relationships with these two have been some of the most fruitful of my life.
Before another day passes, make a prayer schedule incorporating formal and informal prayer. Say a Morning Offering in the morning, a decade of the rosary on the bus, offer up your angel-bites for someone throughout the day, spend time with your heavenly friends in the afternoon, and say your bedtime prayers at night. Structure your prayer life, and do it now. It is your responsibility.