Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, a mother of five and a catechist for 25 years, has recently published My Confirmation Book (Paraclete Press, 2013). She lives in Connecticut with her husband, David, and blogs about faith and motherhood matters. She currently has a television show in development with EWTN.
What inspired you to write about confirmation?
I am passionate about teaching the faith. I don’t want kids whisked through the sacrament. The gift of the Holy Spirit becomes more meaningful at confirmation. I challenge them to be a light to the world, and I felt a need to emphasize it. It’s a sacrament of initiation. The gift of the Holy Spirit becomes more pronounced. Our bond to the Church deepens, and we become soldiers for the Church.
Who is the audience for your book?
I was encouraged by the publisher to write for a younger audience [middle elementary grades]. In our parish, we confirm older teens. I hope the stories are appropriate for older youth.
How did you come up with the format?
I use simple prayers and stories. I show choices they can make. I use simple examples, such as praying as a family. I show them how their example affects others. I tell them what the (seven) gifts (of the Holy Spirit) are. It’s about thinking, praying and giving them something a little challenging. I end each chapter with a simple prayer. Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated; prayer should come from the heart.
How do you explain confirmation?
It’s a beautiful, amazing sacrament. The Holy Spirit that came to Mary and the apostles at Pentecost comes to you. You walk in faith as a soldier of Christ. It gives strength to move forward (in faith).
How do you explain the Holy Spirit?
We used to call this the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit is the mysterious third Person of the Trinity. We can remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit leads the Church. Through prayer, we can know the Holy Spirit intimately (as) we can read the Catechism and solid Church teaching [to enlighten us]. We can delve deeper into prayer and take time to pray.
What is the role of prayerful devotion and the Mass in confirmation preparation?
I encourage confirmandi to pray the Rosary and wear the Miraculous Medal or a cross as holy reminders of faith. Mass is a necessary devotion, yet, after confirmation, many kids stop going to Mass. It’s sad, because confirmation is about becoming a more vibrant part of the Church. I encourage them to pray the Morning Offering. I tell them to make prayer part of their life and to make their lives a prayer. I challenge them to form a relationship with the Blessed Mother.
What is the role of the confirmation sponsor besides praying for the young person?
The confirmation sponsor is supposed to be a living example of the faith, a representative of the Church. The sponsor should be a wonderful example and a witness to the sacrament. It’s been Church tradition for godparents to be sponsors.
In particular, what is the mother’s role in confirmation?
I believe that the mother’s role in confirmation is to raise her children in the faith from the very beginning of their lives and to guide them forward to this important sacrament of initiation that leaves an indelible mark on the soul. As a parent, she (with her husband) is first and foremost the educator of her children and shouldn’t merely rely on a catechist to teach her child the faith. The Catholic mother works at moving her child toward a more intimate union with Christ all throughout life. She impresses upon her children that because they are baptized they are a part of the universal Church as well as their parish community. A mother’s heroic role in imparting the faith is integral in the daily give and take of life in the family. She’s the steady anchor, the peacemaker — the one who sets the prayerful tone in the home. When she’s not teaching through her words and lessons, her example and love speak volumes.
What is the father’s role in confirmation?
A father should assist in forming his children in the faith and prepare them for the sacraments. Ideally, it takes both parents to do so. There are many divided families in which one parent might not be on board with the faith formation because he or she is of a different faith or doesn’t practice one. Divorced families face some difficulties in training their children as well, but (they) can hopefully remain united in this essential area of being sure their children get a good foundation in the Catholic faith.
How do you teach students the difference between conscience and opinion?
Our conscience is a gift from God that helps us discern what is right from wrong. Our opinion is our personal take on matters. I convey the differences of these to my students by explaining that our personal opinion or someone else’s opinion might not be in line with God’s holy will, his teachings.
In order to form our opinions correctly, we must learn authentic Church teaching, pray regularly, frequent the sacraments (especially the holy Eucharist and confession) and follow the commandments of the Church.
We cannot blindly act on matters based on an opinion. I let kids know there are plenty of opinions out there in the world — zillions of them.
We must be sure our opinions are in tune with God’s laws and not take the easy route and merely go along with popular opinion.
Sometimes it’s not easy being a Catholic, but we should consider that the reward is eternal life in heaven one day.
Anna Abbott writes from