Tonight, I received full initiation into the Roman Catholic Church–the church of my infant baptism, my blissful first communion and confession, and the institution that I abandoned in high school. I began to reconsider Confirmation, and the Church for that matter, when I began studying religion in college. I remember telling a Jesuit friend of mine about this at the end of my freshman year, explaining that his theology course had helped me understand the complexity of our worldwide Church and tradition–a complexity that does not necessarily require uniformity for a sense of genuine belonging. With this, I had begun to feel that, even as a strange disgruntled young woman, I might be able to fit into this immense community.
In the end I told him I would not be Confirmed, though. I feared the accompanying questions that my peers would present: “Why are you being Confirmed now? Why not in high school, like everyone else?” I feared their inquires would shake my precarious faith even more, leaving me with an even greater sense of loneliness in my awkward Catholic skin.
Through the experiences, mentors, and friendships of the past three years, however, I learned, time and time again, that I was not alone in my messy faith. No–even my friends who had been at the top of their Confirmation class in high school unveiled struggles, doubts, and confusion that seemed not so different from my own.
Slowly I had began to realize that–still–I could not be Confirmed into the Church I had imagined in high school–a tidy Catholicism of strict orthodoxy and little room for the ambiguities of critical inquiry and real God wrestling. But, I could be Confirmed into the church of my community, the Church of questioners, confusion, and radical, inspiring faith. I could not Confirm that fantasy of a religion, but I could Confirm the real Catholicism that I took in every Sunday at Mass, or in the long, pensive walks and meals I shared with mentors and friends.
When I stood before the Bishop tonight, imagining the holy oil oozing into my body like it did Brandon’s, I felt the peaceful gaze of the community around me: A professor whose generous wisdom had comforted me after difficult conversations with friends. My housemates–my family at school–who have made my house a home for the first time during my college years. One of my best friends from high school who knew me at the depths of my Catholic disillusionment. That kind, fatherly Jesuit whose theology class first comforted the wounds I had endured from our tradition. The prayers of my parents and family, still up in Seattle. Classmates and friends–one of my best friends and sponsor, Maggi–the people that have made “church” real to me.
When I sat down in my chair again, having received the anointing of oil and a wish of peace, I began to cry, amazed and filled with gratitude. I never dreamed a I could be Confirmed in peace–with a sense of integrity. I could have never imagined the beautiful mess of a community that my college years would bless me with. I never believed that Catholicism could really be home for a mess like me.