It was the first “real” conversation I’d been in for a while. I had about half an hour to get to a meeting concerning a grant application that would garner about $25,000.00 to support employment for those with intellectual disabilities. I was looking over four pages of language that I reviewed earlier and was already pretty knowledgeable on and I was sitting across a desk from a co-worker who asked what I was doing. When I told her, she explained that was the type of work she let others worry about in her other place of employment and she would do the same at Misericordia.
I asked her about what she did outside of “Mis” and she mentioned she was in campus ministry and led retreats. I nonchalantly added “so you play the guitar and sing kumbaya.” She said it was not like this and I had to tell her I was only joking adding that campus ministry must involve those who had pretty complex questions. I then asked why Misericordia. She said she had wanted to be involved in the campus ministry here, but the only placement to be had was in our developmental training program.
I could only think that ministry with our residents would be far different than one on a college campus. In the ensuing conversation, she volunteered that her Master’s thesis centered on the role of those with disabilities in the life of the community adding that such a life was grounded in sacrament. The appropriateness of this was discussed and both holy orders and marriage addressed in quick fashion with the later being a little more involved.
Then there was the discussion of confirmation. This was tricky for I had always thought of this in an intellectual way. It also makes little difference to me if one is confirmed. One is held in God’s goodness with or without it. Anyway I was mildly and I mean very mildly chastised on how this was the wrong way of thinking. I was told that when one becomes involved in the life of the Church, they are involved completely and entitled to as full of a sacramental life as possible.
It was then the conversation became about why confirm those with disabilities. For me certainly God’s grace was enough. I had no disagreement on this point, but I was reminded that the community of believers was that place where one may support the other and anyone that could do this was vested enough in the life of the Church to be confirmed.
It was a valid point. I have been supported. I have been supported by those who challenged me and engaged in the weight of intellectual endeavor. That was in fact happening at the moment, but I have also been supported for very many years in a place where most could offer no such weighty discussion or explanation. Most of the staff does not care to and the residents find it outside of their ability. Still it did not mean the thing was not present.
I thought of our residents. I thought of their struggles and unfortunately how dismissive the world can be of their lives. I was not dismissive though. In the course of nineteen years, they had given me too much. It is the one good thing I had going for me. Never mind I could not dance and I’m not very good at directions (two things I’ve obsessed on recently.) I had listened and been a friend to those that others would dismiss. That I thought was to my credit. Only, even that, was no credit. I received more than I gave from them and to be honest I have given much.
Their reassuring words, their quickness to forgive, their acceptance of my weakness (they don’t care if my dancing is foolish and I am easily lost), and their ability to see in me in the image of God have been the greatest gifts. While others in the life of faith saw in me a way to engage cause, they neglected this and only saw another person who mirrors the divine. They have made me believe in the good things and their care is never to be second guessed. They had been for me the immanence of God and even the transcendent. Why not then the fullness of the sacrament of confirmation? After all they have made a habit of confirming already what should be most real in the life of faith. The least they could have was the recognition of the Church.
I left that conversation decided on the matter. It mirrored my decision to come down on the side of life, which was only appropriate for so many would have denied life to those that had given me life. Many in society and society in general have not been willing to confirm the lives of those who had confirmed mine and just as the Church confirms life on the level of what it means to exist, I could only find it appropriate that it also confirm the faith of those who give faith and life to others.
Image: Church of Norway Confirmation, Wikipedia