Triskaideka IV: Spiritus Sancti
Written by Luna
NOTE: The opening words are Bob Dylan. Props to Steve for
helping me research confirmation.
*Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then -
I'm younger than that now....*
They'd rehearsed it half a dozen times, but somehow, Frank realized,
it was different. It was different because it was the Bishop speaking
and not Father Llewellyn, the parish priest. It was different because
of the white Easter lilies decorating the church, and because of the
gilded Easter candle burning in its prominent place. Most of all, it
was different because it was real.
The homily ended, and the candidates for confirmation stood up --
twenty eighth-graders in brand new suits and dresses under white
robes. *It's enough to make anyone feel holy,* Frank mused as he got
to his feet.
The bishop spoke. "Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all
his empty promises?"
*What a no-brainer,* Frank thought. It wasn't as if anyone needed to
consider the question. Nobody evil enough to accept Satan would be
hanging around in a Catholic church.
"I do," twenty voices answered at once.
"Do you believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and
Somewhere in the background, a woman could be heard sniffling and then
bursting into tears. Frank groaned inwardly, sure it was Theresa
Tate's mother, who'd been crying through all the St. Ignatius school
functions since they'd finished kindergarten.
"Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, who was
His mind wandered -- of *course* they all believed in the crucifixion
and resurrection. He glanced down the row at his classmates. One boy
was crossing his eyes and making a face when the priests weren't
looking, and the kids standing close to him were stifling giggles.
Frank was disgusted. *When are they going to stop thinking that's
funny? Don't they realize he's just acting stupid? This is
"....And is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
"I do," they all replied, and at least one answering voice was
fighting off laughter. Frank clenched his jaw, irritated. He was
tired of being patronized and looked down on by adults -- he'd never
liked it. People assumed he didn't know anything and couldn't
possibly have an important opinion, just because he was young. Most
of the time he would bet he was smarter than they were. But then
there were those other kids, acting like babies and making everyone
*What an idiot. No wonder they think people my age are immature.*
He caught back up with what the bishop had been saying: "Do you
believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the giver of life, who came upon
the apostles at Pentecost and today is given to you sacramentally in
Again the group's answer resounded. "I do."
"Do you believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life
*....I do, don't I?* Frank thought. It wasn't that he didn't believe
in the Church, or saints, or Heaven and Hell. But... the forgiveness
It wasn't the ordinary sins that threw him. It made sense to forgive
people for little human errors, for little white lies and swearing and
the occasional stray lustful thought; the type of things Frank was
sure everyone admitted to in the confessional.
*But what about people who don't reject Satan? I read in the paper
every day about people who steal and cheat and make people suffer --
and even kill. There's no shortage of evil people in this world. How
can they be forgiven for everything they do?*
He remembered an old woman down the street who'd been murdered by a
burglar last year. He hadn't known her, but he couldn't think of a
reason why she deserved to die. Frank wasn't sure that the man who
killed her deserved to be forgiven for it, even if he confessed. But
there was the priest asking if he believed....
He joined the response, a few seconds late. "I do."
"This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church," the bishop
said, and for a moment he looked directly at Frank, who felt suddenly
that his doubts must be plainly visible. "We are proud to profess it
in Christ Jesus, our Lord."
"Amen," Frank replied, more sincerely this time.
The candidates for confirmation knelt, and the bishop extended his
hands over them. The elderly priest implored God to grant his sons
and daughters wisdom and reverence. Frank barely listened. He
already knew that too many people didn't display much of either
quality -- the mocking smirks and muffled laughter coming from the
boys nearby was proof enough. Frank hoped he was smart and lucky
enough to have what the prayer called "the spirit of right judgement,"
but he didn't see many signs of it in some of the others.
The bishop finished the prayer, and the assembly said Amen. Then the
deacon brought forth the chrism oil, and the first two children in the
line approached the bishop, their sponsors in tow. Frank heard the
woman sobbing again somewhere behind him, and felt sorry for Theresa
Tate, who must be melting down with chagrin.
They were lined up in alphabetical order, so Frank was a little more
than halfway through the procession. It moved quickly, but it still
seemed like a long time before he and Aunt Vivian arrived at the top
of the center aisle.
The bishop looked at him seriously for one long moment as he dipped
his finger in the sacred oil. He drew the Sign of the Cross on
Frank's forehead, and spoke in Latin. "Francis Xavier Pembleton,
accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti."
He had learned the translation in Religion class: "Be sealed with the
gift of the Holy Ghost." It was the core of the ritual; the moment
that made him a full-fledged Catholic, with all the responsibiities,
the rules and privileges, and all the doubts.
"Amen," he said.
"Peace be with you," the bishop intoned, solemnly. It sounded more
like a command, or a warning, than a wish.
"And also with you."
Frank made his way back to his seat as the ritual continued. The rest
of the Mass was commonplace. As soon as the anointment was done with,
the mysteriously special air of sanctity seemed to vanish, and the
general prayers and the Eucharist continued as they did at every Mass.
He was seated in the front pews with his classmates, and so it was not
until the close of the service, just after the final blessing, that he
turned around to see his parents. They were sitting a few rows back,
both watching him. His father was smiling. He was surprised to catch
his mother trying to wipe away tears. He realized she must have been
the one he heard crying through the ceremony, and experienced a
conflicted pang of embarrassment, and guilt, and a strange pride.
*She's crying because I'm growing up. She's crying because
everything's going to change. Things are going to be different from
The knowledge was at the same time sad and joyful. He felt blessed,
refreshed, and terrified -- and free.