“What does ‘evangelize’ mean? To give witness with joy and simplicity to what we are and what we believe in.”
On Tuesday, my oldest, Annie, was fully initiated as “an adult in the faith.” With so many other exciting things not happening due to the pandemic, Annie has been talking about Confirmation since last spring. Really she’s been talking about who her sponsor should be since last spring. As soon as the initial letter from the parish arrived, announcing the tentative date for Confirmation months ago, Annie turned to us and said, “I want my sponsor to be Lily.” For those who have been reading these messages for a while, you might remember two posts about a young lady named Lily Walker (here’s a link). Last March, at age 15, Lily was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She and her entire family have embraced this incredible cross with a faith that is remarkable. While we pray for Lily every night and closely track her journey through Facebook, Annie had only interacted with Lily once in person in the last two years. When Annie first mentioned her choice, we did what any loving parent did who doesn’t want to disappoint their child, we deferred. “Confirmation might not even happen because of the pandemic,” I said. “It’s a long way away,” said my wife. As we approached the fall and it looked like Confirmation would in fact happen, we moved to our next strategy – alternative choices. “What about one of your older cousins who live in the area?” When that didn’t work, we went to cold, hard truth. We explained that Lily might not be able to be Annie’s sponsor because of Lily’s health being compromised, or Lily’s parents might not be comfortable with her being in a crowd, that it was a long drive, and that it’s just a weird time. With a gentle determination in her eyes, Annie calmly pleaded, “Can’t I just ask her?” As we got ready for a scheduled FaceTime between the girls, I think I felt more nervous than my daughter. I couldn’t imagine anything potentially more awkward than two teenage girls, who don’t know each other that well, talking about a sacrament. It was anything but awkward. “Lily, I get to make my Confirmation in December and I’d like you to be my sponsor,” Annie started. “You’re the holiest person I know and you inspire me.” Lily shouted yes, she would love to. Annie’s never had a bigger smile, and I was a puddle of tears in the corner.
As my wife and I sat in the pew behind these two young women of faith on Tuesday, I was overwhelmed at how confirming this Confirmation was. I couldn’t help but wonder, will my witness ever inspire someone like Lily does for Annie? Will my desire to be close to holiness push me to persevere like Annie? The example of these young ladies made it clear to me that it’s not time, nor age, nor how many speeches you give that compels others to want to know God. It is the authenticity of our yes to the Lord, especially in our darkest winters. It is one’s humility to point to God when others point to you. How is the witness of our life serving as a “voice crying out in the desert?” How are we, like Annie and Lily, pointing to “One mightier than us?” How will our years, regardless of if we have lived 16 or 65, attract people to want to share in holiness? As we drove home from the Confirmation, Annie said, “You know how sometimes you want to meet a hero of yours and it’s disappointing when you do? Tonight wasn’t one of those times.” As we continue in our Advent journey, let us be heroes in Christ for each other.