We had spent a couple of days in retreat at a Trappist Monastery.  It was about 8:00 pm.  My friends and I had just finished dinner.  I was getting ready to retire.  As I was walking upstairs to my room I felt an intense experience of God’s love.  I stopped.  In that instant I felt the love of God as a taste of heaven.  An inner voice called.  It said: “Be with me”.  In that instant my interests shifted.  I was no longer interested in what a normal teenage young man is interested in.  Now I could not think but to spend my life for God.

As the days passed, the idea of the priesthood came up in my mind.  However, in the beginning it was all about me.  I wanted to be with Him.  It was not about bringing God to others.  It was about me and God.  Only gradually would I learn and be thoroughly committed to spreading and defending the faith by word and deed.  I must note that I had not received the sacrament of Confirmation when I first received my call.

According to our faith, the sacrament of Baptism confers a spiritual power (character) to do those things which pertain to our salvation.  However, it is the sacrament of Confirmation the one to confer spiritual power to profess the faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi Ex officio). (Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 1305).  This is what I would gradually come to understand.  As a confirmed Catholic it was my responsibility to bring Christ to others.  This would become part of my identity.  I could not see my life apart from this mission.

This is why traditionally the sacrament of Confirmation has been referred as the sacrament that enrolls us as Christian soldiers.  “Though he who is baptized is made a member of the Church, nevertheless he is not yet enrolled as a Christian soldier.  And therefore he is brought to the bishop, as to the commander of the army, by one who is already enrolled as a Christian soldier”  (S.Th III, 72, 10 ad 1). 

Of course, this fight has to do with the confession of Christ’s name: evangelization.  “This is evident from the example of the apostles, who, before they received the fullness of the Holy Ghost, were in the ‘upper room… persevering… in prayer (Acts 1:13-14); whereas afterwards they went out and feared not to confess their faith in public, even in the face of the enemies of the Christian Faith.” (S.Th III, 72, 6).

All have to wage the spiritual combat with our invisible enemies.  But to fight against visible foes, viz. against the persecutors of the Faith, by confessing Christ’s name, belongs to the confirmed, who have already come spiritually to the age of virility, according to 1 John 2:14: ‘I write unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.’  And therefore the character of Confirmation is a distinctive sign, not between unbelievers and believers, but between those who are grown up spiritually and those of whom it is written: ‘As new-born babes’ (1 Peter 2:2).  (S.Th. III, 72, 6, ad 1).

Sadly, though, the vast majority of confirmed Catholics barely, if ever, engage in sharing the Good News with others and making disciples of them.  I think that this is why Pope Francis has been criticizing a Church that has become a ‘self-referential’ reality.  Perhaps we have become very comfortable dealing with those who share our own values and we do not take the extra steps to reach out to those who may differ a bit from us.  This is a spiritual discipline which requires practice.  One which we can practice at any moment, at any time.

We will continue distilling the value of the sacraments in view of our spiritual growth.

Questions for pondering:

1. Do I tend to mix in with those people I enjoy?  Do I intentionally seek other people in social occasions?  Am I on a mission?

2. How do I react to the term ‘soldier of Christ’?  If I react against it, what is it about the analogy that I find difficult?

3. Do I realize that there is a battle of ideologies in the world today?  Have I found myself in a position of defending my faith at any moment?

Fr Lino Otero, LC:  Originally from Nicaragua, my family moved to Miami, Florida when I was a teenager. Soon afterwards I experienced the call to serve God without reservations. Since then, I have had experience in hospital ministry, working as a middle school teacher, leading a parish school, organizing soccer tournaments for kids, starting a radio station, training priests in leadership formation, organizing a parish community from maintenance to mission, and much more. I love spiritual direction and preaching. Years of philosophy, psychology and theological training have enriched my personal life and have shaped my message of hope. For more go to linootero.me