Being of that age group with related conditions that need to stay “in place,” I thought that I would take some time these days to return to my routine of regular writing, which I enjoy a lot. Even with the current situation of the coronavirus, this can be a time of reflection and above all Faith for us. So much of this time of the year calls us to reflect on our Sacramental moments, both great and small, and anticipate what is to come for us sometime this year! The celebration of the Paschal Sacraments certainly lead us to reflect on the Sacrament of Confirmation, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the living out of those gifts. The Tongues of Fire coming down over the apostles and the Blessed Mother certainly bring to mind the images and holy cards that we have seen in our religious art over the years.
A vital part of the Confirmation preparation and what follows certainly of necessity involves taking seriously the role of the sponsor as an authentic witness of Faith, and as I have taught in various Baptismal and Confirmation classes to be a witness of Faith to the one Confirmed for all of his/her life.
I had that in my own life with my own Confirmation sponsor, who just passed away: James Whitaker. As you can see from this photo, I was confirmed on May 20, 1962, at St. Agnes Church in Springfield, Illinois by Bishop William A. O’Connor. The card reads, as you can see: “In joyful remembrance of my receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.” Indeed it was, and still is. Jim Whitaker (or “Whit,” we called him), was always a joyful witness to those seven gifts of the Holy Spirit all through my life, including this past Christmas season when I was with his family once again. His wife Rita is my Godmother. So, they were always part of my family! His joy, humor, and commitment to the living of his faith have always been a foundation in my life. At about the time that I was confirmed, their family was in the process of moving to Scottsdale, Ariz., which was a monumental change in that time from a family that had always lived in central Illinois. I began to visit them on a regular basis, and found them very much involved in the life of the Diocese of Phoenix (everything from what we called “confraternity” at the time, to music, prayer groups and outreach to the folks in the “Valley of the Sun.”) Their life in Arizona soon became a great extension of my own family. They were able to be here for the Christ Cathedral dedication this past summer also! One of the great blessings of being here in Orange County is that they were only 45 minutes away by plane. Jim, as my Confirmation sponsor, continued to be an influence in my life and ministry to this day, years after May 20, 1962!
My Confirmation card, as you see here, says “O Holy Spirit, sweet Guest of my soul, abide in me and grant that I may ever abide in Thee.” That certainly describes “Whit” for me and what and who every Confirmation sponsor should be!