‘Tis the season. No, not THAT season, look at the thermometer! The OTHER season: the one filled with religious and secular rites of passage. Young men and women all over central New Jersey and the nation are donning robes and sashes, walking down aisles, and talking their first confident steps into adulthood in life and the Church. Over the next few weeks, I will be privileged to witness a number of Confirmation liturgies and high school graduation ceremonies, both in my birth family and my parish families, and will rejoice at these milestones in the lives of the young people I love.
Recently, at our parish’s Confirmation celebration, Father Joe told us that many of the teens already had stepped forward to assist the parish as lectors, acolytes, and office interns, and our parish family is the stronger for it. “We are under new management,” he proudly proclaimed to the congregation.
I must respectfully differ with the pastor’s term. Under new management?! I’m not ready to drift out to sea on the ice floe yet! I’ve got a lot of life, love, and lore (and, apparently, alliteration) to share before I totally cede the reins. Rather, I think we’ll make room for the newcomers; the new status will be more an apprenticeship than a take-over. The two generations can run in tandem for a while, and the younger crop of future church and world leaders can benefit from our mistakes and insights.
I guess it’s like when I learned to ride my big blue Schwinn bicycle. Each night, my father would steady me on the seat, remind me to keep pedaling, and watch as I wobbled away, only to fall a half-block down the road. Each night he encouraged me and soothed away my skinned knees or bumped noggin. (There were no bicycle helmets back then, which might explain why I am how I am today…) Four-plus decades later, I still remember the exhilaration of pedaling to the end of the block without falling and seeing his smile. I know that same smile was echoed on my face a generation later as I watched my son learn to pedal on his own.
So to Ryan, Catherine, and all you high school graduates: pedal strongly and steadily, but don’t hesitate to rely upon our loving hand. To Brandon, Emilie, and the rest of the new Confirmandi: mount that ambo to read Scripture or step up to the altar as a Eucharistic minister and know we in the pews welcome your spirituality and vigor. And to all of the young men and women spreading their wings and taking off their training wheels: those of us who are a few steps further down the road to adulthood salute you. We’ll be there, figuratively running alongside, ready to guide your footsteps and remind you from whence you came, filled with pride as you pedal away triumphantly.