Bishop Salvatore R Matano anoints the forehead during the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation on May 16, 2019 in Ithaca. (Courier file photo) Bishop Salvatore R Matano anoints the forehead during the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation on May 16, 2019 in Ithaca. (Courier file photo)

Bishop addresses young candidates awaiting sacraments

As his column this month, Bishop Matano shares his recent letters to first Communicants, Confirmation candidates and their families.

May 1, 2020

Eastertide

Dear First Communicants and our Families of First Communicants:

During these days as the world deals with the Coronavirus pandemic, my mind and heart have been focused on so many who suffer in so many different ways. I think of those who are sick and those who care for them; for those who suffer from uncertainty about the future; for those who have lost employment and suffer economically, and so many others. Among the many people who share in the cross of Jesus, I think of those in our parishes who cannot come to Mass each week, and for our priests who find it so difficult to minister to their parishioners. And of course, I think of you who wait to receive Jesus for the first time in your First Holy Communion.

This holy, important and beautiful event is usually celebrated in our parishes during the Spring, but like so many events and occasions, it is not possible at this moment. We must wait and pray for that day, please God, soon, when you will be able to make your First Holy Communion and will become one with Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist.

I know you have prepared so well for this great moment in your life. You have learned that Jesus is really, truly present in the Consecrated Host; you have asked the Lord for help and forgiveness when you received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Confession; and you have waited with excitement like so many young people have over the years. The amount of preparation, waiting and longing that normally accompanies one’s First Communion makes the reception special. But due to these circumstances, you have been asked to wait just a little longer and I hope when the day comes, it will be even more special. In your prayers each day, tell Jesus that you long to receive Him in Holy Communion, not just for the first time, but each week after that when we go to Mass, because receiving Communion should always be as special.

In closing, I would like to share with you the words of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) which she wrote in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, about her own First Holy Communion:

“At last, the most wonderful day of my life arrived and I can remember every tiny detail of those heavenly hours: my joyous waking up at dawn… and above all, our entry into chapel …. How lovely it was … I knew that I was loved and said, ‘I love You, and I give myself to You forever.’”

Please know of my prayers for you as together we await the joyful day when you can receive your First Holy Communion. May your anticipation of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist increase your faith and your love for Him. And I hope you will share the same joyful memories as did Saint Thérèse!

Assuring you of my prayers and asking a remembrance in your good prayers, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend

Salvatore R. Matano

Bishop of Rochester

May 1, 2020

Eastertide

Dear Candidates and Families of Candidates for Confirmation:

During these days as the world deals with the Coronavirus pandemic, my mind and heart have been focused on so many who suffer in so many different ways. I think of those who are sick and those who care for them; for those who suffer from uncertainty about the future; for those who have lost employment and suffer economically. Among the many people who share in the cross of Jesus, I think of those in our parishes who cannot come to Mass each week, and for our priests who find it so difficult to minister to their parishioners. And of course, I think of you who wait to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation. This holy, important and beautiful event is celebrated by many parishes of our diocese during the Spring months, but like so many events and occasions, it is not possible at this moment. We must wait and pray for that day, please God, soon, when you will be able to be Confirmed.

I know you have prepared so well for this great moment in your life when you will complete the Sacraments of Initiation and become fully incorporated members of Christ’s body, the Church. Through the formation program you have learned more about your faith, you have further developed a prayer life, and grown closer to Jesus through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Confession, and especially at Holy Mass when you can receive Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. I know you have learned that the Sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the very same gifts as given to the Apostles on Pentecost (50 days after Easter): Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord. These gifts perfect the virtues of those who receive them and sustain our lives as Christians.

In closing, I would like to share with you an event that occurred in Azerbaijan, part of the former Soviet Republic, where the Catholic faith had largely been swept away by Stalin’s persecutions. In 2005, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the Apostolic Nuncio of the Pope to Azerbaijan, visited part of the country to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to a group of elderly Catholics who had waited more than 70 years to be Confirmed. Of the privilege that was his, Archbishop Gugerotti wrote:

“It was an indescribable emotion, to see the elderly ladies, with the traditional veil on their heads and the elderly men full of wrinkles come forward and again pronounce their baptismal name – Teresa, Anselm, Francis, – after decades of using other names of Azerbaijani roots (for fear of persecution), and then ask for Confirmation. I was amazed to see that most of the people confirmed were elderly because in the 1930s, Stalin had the only priest killed and the church demolished. Since then, Catholics have been in living clandestinely. But now they are Confirmed!”

Please know of my prayers for you as together we await the day you can receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, when the same privilege of Archbishop Gugerotti will be mine to confirm you and the same sacramental grace will be yours as that given to the Azerbaijani Catholics. May your anticipation of receiving this Sacrament increase your faith and your love for Jesus!

Assuring you of my prayers and asking a remembrance in your good prayers, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ

The Most Reverend

Salvatore R. Matano

Bishop of Rochester

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