One of our confirmandi keeps this in a place that she looks at it every day to help her remember to live a God centered life. What does your top 5 look like?
#confirmationquotes - "God doesn’t want these people to suffer; he trusts us to offer help and ease their pain and need."
While performing my service, I really thought of it as an opportunity to further my relationship with God and my understanding of my faith. Each one of my service hours felt right, like the only thing I should’ve been doing at that time was helping others and the community. I particularly noticed this when helping at the Alpha Retreat for the freshmen at Saint Margaret Mary. It was awesome seeing how their ideas about faith changed in only one weekend, and I can only imagine how they’ll feel a year from now, when they’re where I am now, preparing for one of the most important days in their lives. Knowing I aided in their faith journey and discovery of God really brought me closer to Him. I was reminded that I can always work harder to incorporate my faith into every aspect of my life. Also, I worked at a food shelter at St. Vincent De Paul Church in Chicago multiple times. I was in awe of how kind and happy these people were, even though they seemed to have nothing. They never failed to say “God bless you, have a nice day” even though they were soon going back onto the streets. This was so powerful to me, and reminded me that even when it feels like you have nothing, you always have God.
These two experiences impacted me the most out of all of my service hours, because they taught me how to apply the teachings of Christ in my everyday life. In regards to my service through St. Vincent De Paul, I relate most to the Catholic Social Teaching of Rights and Responsibilities. Every person has a responsibility to help those less fortunate. Each of these people has a right to live, and we have a duty to help. If we do not take care of our responsibilities, we cannot prove our faith. James 2:14-18 says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” I know that it is not enough to pray or go to church more often, but I need to act on my faith, because only then will it really be true. I need to fully commit to being Catholic, and all that comes with it. God doesn’t want these people to suffer; he trusts us to offer help and ease their pain and need.
The other act of service that really encouraged my faith journey was participating in the Alpha Retreat. I have consistently learned about the importance of spreading the word of Christ, and helping other people find their faith. There’s a common Catholic teaching that instructs us to spread the word of God, and help others grow in faith. Peter 4:10 states, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace.” When I read this verse, I think of the gift of faith, and sharing that faith with others, helping them find God and embark on their own religious journey. I gave my time to nudge these freshmen in the right direction: towards God and their confirmation. Although I didn’t directly participate in discussions, hearing what they learned during the large group reflections made me realize that I played a role in their learning and understanding of their faith. God wants all of us to be steered towards his eternal love, but we cannot always do so on our own. Sometimes it takes a great deal of time or effort from other people to guide them. After receiving the gift of faith, we need to be God’s hands in giving this gift to others, because they may need him more than they know.
The idea of completely and officially becoming a member of the Catholic Church really excites me. This way, I will live in God’s love if I keep working towards improving my faith, and acting on it. To maintain a strong relationship with God, I will participate in as much service as possible, and engage in Peer while continuing to volunteer during all retreats and other events. I can’t wait to be completely immersed in my faith and be able to share it with others. Although acting on my faith is a large part of living it, I know I will need to improve my mindset to be closer to God. I will pray at least twice a day, and make sure to thank God at least once a day for everything he has given me, because I take it for granted sometimes. I’ll remind myself that I am truly blessed to be living, especially such a great life surrounded by loving friends and family. Praying more will also help me to consider God’s word when making any decision. We all choose things that will not necessarily further our relationship with God, but we’re only human. Keeping God’s teachings in the back of my head will provide a more concrete way of determining right from wrong, and then choosing the right thing to do. I’m excited to make a promise to myself and to God that I will pursue and act on my faith for the rest of my life.
Faith is important in every Catholic’s life. Yet faith without service leaves us wanting or lacking. We learn from the bible the following:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17
Thus, faith with service is important in every Catholic’s life, especially for those about to make their confirmation; service strengthens our faith. It helps to strengthen our relationships with the church and God. Even though I was required to do service for confirmation, I am happy I did. I enjoyed seeing many smiling faces after the jobs were done. I hope to help them out even more in the future. And while I am happy that I helped others, the whole world does not need to know about the good deeds that I have done. Jesus said service should be done, but you should not brag about it.
“Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”
The Catholic social teachings state that we are called to family, community, and participation. Catholics believe that we are called to participate in society and to seek together the well being and good of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. We were not created to live by ourselves but to live with others.
Giving back to others after all that God has given to me makes me feel good inside. The organizations to which I donated my time aren’t necessarily poor, but they need extra help. Doing different and little jobs such as painting or even cleaning helped these organizations more than a little. While working with children learning to speak Spanish, I found a love for seeing people improve. I also was able to improve my language and social skills. The organizations I worked with were very grateful, and I could see the change in their mood knowing they had extra help. I like to know I am considered a reliable person.
I know the Church is proud of all us young people helping in the community. Many of us have extremely busy schedules but somehow find time for God and to give back. I hope that God recognizes this contribution. For me, I am thankful for my ability to dance, but in pursuing dance, it is also difficult to find time to do other things. Over the past couple of years, I have had to make the decision of going to ballet rehearsal or confirmation group meeting. Both are important, but I know I can always find God in everything I do, including dance.
In the past two years, I have learned about many different aspects of the Catholic Church. I have learned through my confirmation group and my religious education at my Catholic school. In my confirmation group, I have made many friends and have listened to many different opinions on topics that were new to me. At first, I was weary at taking the confirmation course and attending all of the meetings. It was hard for me to be in a new environment and to meet new people. Not only did I have to meet new people, but also I had to discuss my views and relationships with God and the Church. But now, I am glad I did. I learned so much more and have made some great friendships. I am happy about the steps I have made in my faith journey so far, and I hope to continue for many years to come.
At confirmation, I will show that it is my decision to be fully initiated into the Church. As a baby at Baptism, I did not have the ability to say no, and I am glad I didn’t. Confirmation allows me to continue the promise my parents made to the Church. I will continue to follow the Catholic teachings and virtues, and some day, I hope to raise my children in the same way. Being confirmed in the Church means accepting responsibility for my faith and that I must do what is right on my own – not because I am told what to do or not do, not for recognition but because it is the right thing to do.
It was a cold day, the type of cold where when the wind blew it hit sharp and bitter. The puddles on the ground indicated it had rained heavily the night before. As I stood with my hands wrapped tightly around the dusty fence I watched. Curious about the new things I’d be learning that day, I went on a hunt to find out. Everyone was smiling and laughing. All I could think was why in the world are all these people so happy while it’s so cold outside? But, the people were like leeches, once they attached they didn’t let go. It didn’t take much to get a name tag stuck to my sweater, and then everyone seemed to be smiling with me.
There are two options in this society, to help you or to help others. It’s a choice we usually don’t think about because it’s an inner consequence. Something that you face on your own, no one else can choose if you hold the door open for a crippled woman or if you rush inside to make your meeting on time. But these choices are why life is such an adventure. Because we could go our whole life rushing inside to make that meeting and not stopping to smell the roses but when we finally do...we feel Him. We begin to see things with new eyes. Feel with a new heart. Touch with a new understanding. There is a whole world out there of people who need you. I feel like our society shouldn’t be two options it should be one option, the option to help others and help you. I’ve made this a goal in my life since I began to sense God’s appreciation for my drive to help others.
I spent most of my time cleaning. “Would you mind cleaning out the brushes?” “Can you sweep the decks?” “Can you dust the bridles and organize the tack?” I couldn’t say no to these people. The warmness in their hearts was addicting and that was worthy of my hard work. But, cleaning wasn’t why I came to Friends for Therapeutic Equine Activities. FTEA is a program that used horses as therapy for people of all ages with any type of disability to achieve a therapeutic equine experience. When my name was finally called my head shot up and my heart beat faster. I was being assigned a position to lead a boy on a horse. All I could think about was myself and how his life was in my hands.
I didn’t think that helping different types of people ride around on horses would benefit me so much. I learned so much that day and after I left I still wanted to be there helping. Luke 6:38: Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. David was a teenage boy with a mild case of autism, he doesn’t speak but he listens. He’s incredible on a horse. He’s got such great balance that we didn’t even need to hold onto him. David knew a few sayings that would help him control the horse. Such as David right pocket, David left pocket, David sit, David stand, David whoa, and David squeeze. As I led David around the area for about an hour I had an eye opening moment. A moment that shapes me in my religion every day.
God has given every single human being the strength to help. He gives strength to the families and friends to support one another, FTEA staff for waking up every morning to help others in need, volunteers for wanting to help out as much as they can. Sometimes life isn’t about yourself and what you get out of it. It’s about how you can help others and become stronger from that experience. I have to believe that God didn’t put me on this earth just to sit around my bedroom and write a paper about helping others. He put me on this earth so that I would use the strength he gives me to help improve others lives. I don’t see any reason why I can’t help people. David had no clue who I was and really didn’t seem to care. As soon as we were all lined up I gripped the stirrup tightly for support as David swung his leg over the saddle. This was it, my arm supporting his weight and my knowledge his life. As David rode on I learned all sorts of new things about him, as well as myself. We played games with stuffed animals, threw hoops over cones, and did circles around barrels.
It’s surprising how people who can hardly communicate over voice can communicate to a horse. David and his horse, Crypt, would talk to each other through body language and both always understood. It was a truly beautiful friendship that I knew God had a part of. I’ve seen over a hundred different people ride horses. Each person has their own way to show their love through riding. I love riding because I get my courage from God and my experience at FTEA makes me wonder if any of the other riders find their courage there too. I told myself I’d spend an hour at FTEA and I spent a whole day learning that everyone is different. My whole life I’ve been a rider, and I thought we all rode the same but I was wrong. We ride because of who we are, and who we want to be. We do it because God represents those horses that heal us. We love it because of all the power we achieve, it’s a sport where we communicate without words, and love without effort. We all talk our own language and I believe that because of David’s inability to talk makes his connection with Crypt and maybe even our Lord stronger, being able to use his body to control things other than himself. In his own way this might be his way to connect with God too. Galatians 6:2: Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. Being disabled will never hold David back, it will only make him stronger. I realize now that riding isn’t about the rush it gives it’s also about the strength and encouragement that God gives to push yourself to be a better person. Some people make riding an Olympic dream; others do it for the relaxation. I never realized it could be more than a competitive sport. But after FTEA I saw that helping others brought the Lord joy and that I need to help others build connections with him. I’ve built connections with horses, but never like the FTEA riders do. I’m envious, and everyone should fulfill whatever their dreams are. Having the courage to do something we love is where it all begins. I learned that being a horse back rider is a really special privilege, and I shouldn’t take advantage of it.
In summary, God holds each and every one of our hands through the good and bad. He gives the less fortunate amazing opportunities and people who support them. He gives me the strength to help them and guide them to the Lord. I truly believe that I was put here on this earth to help others. That’s all I’ve wanted to do since I was little. To help my family, to help my friends, to help the needy. I want everyone to be happy and it breaks my heart when people aren’t. If spending a few hours at FTEA can bring a smile to someone’s face is all it takes then I’d do it again in an instant. I love that trait about myself, that’s the reason God put me here. To make people smile, even when sometimes I can’t. To improve the world I want to do more community service. This will bring me closer to God and also closer to myself. Phil 4:13: I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
As part of the Catholic Church, certain traditions are passed on from generations, taught to all ages. Stated by Tony Brandolino in Christ is Our Hope, "The willingness to give, to share, to contribute: That's what sets the miraculous power of Christian stewardship in motion...Stewardship involves giving, and giving involves faith." This supports the traditions and guidelines of the act of service within Catholicism. I have been taught the ability to recognize the blessings given to me through the acts of God, and can translate it to being able to give to others without such wonderful blessings. By giving my service, I feel as though I am, in a sense, thanking God for what he has given me and showing Him my gratitude.
As I have advanced through life, I have come to the conclusion that God loves everyone, as we are His children. Even though sometimes it may seem as though He is unfair, or seems to have forgotten about us, He never has. God is with each and everyon person, through all the obstacles of life. We may receive gifts from Him in the strangest of places, but the only way we can learn in life is by being able to find these blessings. There is always going to be someone, somewhere who is suffering, but as Catholics it is our job to provide assistance. It is God's hope that we can trust and rely on one another to maneuver through paths of darkness to better and more hopeful places.
This is an except from the service learning reflection of one of our confirmandi.
We will be inviting teens, parents, catechists, volunteers, and other people in our community to share their faith with you. If you are interested in guest blogging, please email us.