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Confirmation as Mission: Gifts I Didn’t Ask For


Continuing our series Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples, full-time volunteer Michael Carlson writes today about his faith’s relationship to Confirmation, the Holy Spirit, and Franciscan mission.


“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
-Acts 2:2-4

My Spanish is really bad even though I spent six weeks as a Jesuit novice studying at the Maryknoll Language Institute in Cochabamba, coincidentally at the same time as current missioners Jeff and Annemarie (in a positive testament to their language abilities, let’s just say we were in different class-levels). I remember phrases from past conversations like, “El vampiro arquetipo es una figura de la anarquía” but not the phrase to say “They appreciated your kind remarks“.

A tongue of fire has yet to rest on my head. I’m still mono-lingual.

Confirmation’s roots in Pentecost highlight the symbolism of fire. Brother Fire, in Franciscan terms, is both consoling warmth and devouring flame. In Hady’s blog “The Holy Spirit at Work”, she writes: “the spirit moved me to give God a bigger response than I ever had before.” Now that sounds like Confirmation.

Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples is a call to passion. But the passion in my spiritual life doesn’t always look like the cover of a Harlequin romance novel. A Friar recently reminded me that the truly spectacular or showy experiences just don’t happen all that often. The bigger challenge is grasping how God works in the ordinary.

This image perfectly illustrates what my spiritual life is not.

God is at work in my life right now as I experience Franciscanism. In many ways, it’s a tongue of fire in my life, a new language and way to love; most importantly, it is a free gift in my life that I certainly never expected to receive four months ago.

When I was a Lasallian Volunteer, St. John Baptist De La Salle’s spirituality gave me the gift to see the beauty in a faith that is childlike, but not childish. When I was a Jesuit novice, St. Ignatius Loyola gave me the gift, among others, of hearing God’s voice in Ignatian contemplations and colloquies. Now, St. Francis appears like a tongue of fire to give me another gift: simplicity.

Fr. John Swope, President of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, MD, will be featured in an upcoming blog post. In it, the Jesuit desire for the “greater good” comes across strongly. However, all “Franciscan vs. Jesuit” jokes aside, I think St. Francis would delight in Fr. Swope describing his relationship with the Eucharist as a “dialogue”. It is meaningful to me right now because I am meeting St. Francis most authentically not in my reading, but through my simple conversations with women and men inspired by him.

It happens in person and sometimes through emails with returned missioners or editing blog posts of current missioners. But I am slowly learning. It’s not unlike my Spanish when I overthink/overtranslate every expression.

Like when I responded to a Bolivian Jesuit’s question, “Did you read the Twilight books?” by saying, “Sí, los leí porque el vampiro es un arquetipo de anarquía que es un concepto fascinante para mí.” I doubt he was impressed. Or fooled.

I’m being called to Confirmation through mission by being asked to receive the gift of the present, right now, to be both consoled by the flame of God’s love as well as devoured by it in ongoing conversion of my heart. It’s not easy. But it’s really simple.

Michael Carlson serves Franciscan Mission Service as a Domestic Lay Volunteer Communications Associate.

Michael Carlson hails from Illinois. A graduate of Loyola University Chicago, he has been a Lasallian Volunteer, high school English teacher, and a Jesuit novice. He served as a Communications Associate at FMS from 2013 to 2014 and is currently a master’s candidate in religion and literature at Yale Divinity School.