The Yeses That Come Later in Life

I was 14 when I was confirmed. I knew it was an important decision in my life, but was too young to understand it completely.

The other day I went for a swim. When I finished my laps, I decided to treat myself to a relaxing five minutes in the hot tub. As I stepped down into the whirlpool, I cringed as an old knee problem flared up. The woman seated in front of me asked me if my knee was bothering me. When I responded in the affirmative, she said, "You are going to think this is weird, but do you think that we could pray for your knee?" I was a little shocked, but I told myself to be open-minded.

She moved closer and put her hands on my knee. At this point it got kind of embarrassing because other people started entering the hot tub, just in time for the exorcism. "Tendonitis, you are not welcome here. Leave this knee at once," she said, her voice growing louder with each sentence. When the prayer was over, she asked me if I would consider asking Jesus Christ into my heart. "Do you know how to do that?" she asked me. I paused for a while, still fighting with myself to remain open-minded, and nodded affirmatively. I grabbed my swim cap and goggles, thanked the woman, and stepped out of the whirlpool.

For the next hour all I could think about was her last question. I asked myself over and over, "Do I know how to do that?" I thought about the difference in language between Catholics and evangelical Christians, between Catholics and many types of Christian denominations. I have sometimes envied the precision with which my born-again evangelical friends remember their conversions: the exact date and time they accepted Jesus into their hearts. But I have grown to appreciate the seven sacraments Catholics celebrate, in which, at different times in our lives, we accept Jesus into our hearts.

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When I hear a fellow Christian's tale of dramatic, datable rebirth, I often think of Confirmation, the sacrament which most celebrates the "yes" to Jesus that many other Christians describe in their conversions. I was fourteen years old when I celebrated my Confirmation--old enough to know that this was an important decision in my life, yet young enough not to fully understand it. I liked the fact that I was in charge of picking my own "sponsor"--a witness to the sacrament and, in the best scenario, a spiritual guide--unlike in Baptism, when my parents assigned two people with whom I had no real connection. The sacrament of Confirmation uses two primary symbols or gestures--anointing with chrism and laying on of hands--to represent the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles fifty days after Easter. We read about this holy event in the Book of Acts:

When the day of Pentecost had come, [the disciples] were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4)
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