The Unconscious Revolutionary

It was Confirmation day at our church last Sunday. Twenty-two 8th graders sat in the front pews, stood up and answered some questions about their faith and promised to be faithful members of the congregation and of the church wherever they go in the future, and knelt as the minister and Elders laid hands on their shoulders and asked God to bless and keep them in all the days ahead. I love Confirmation Sunday. It reminds me of my own years ago, reminds me that the church with all its particular and peculiar rites and rituals has been around for a very long time, reminds me – at a time when everyone is worried to death about the future of the church – that young people continue, against the prevailing cultural winds of rampant individualism, selfish consumerism and cynicism, to want to be part of it, part of a generous community based on love, forgiveness, kindness, compassion and justice.

I love seeing them, all dressed up for the occasion, in the midst of adolescent awkwardness and self consciousness, some of them tall and gangly – one young fellow must have been 6’5″, others tiny and childlike. They have been attending Confirmation Class together for most of the last year and although they come from all over the metropolitan area, they seem to know and like one another. Maybe it’s only sentimentalism, but they give me hope.

I loved this Confirmation Class particularly because one of them was my granddaughter, Kate. Kate is something of an anomaly, an ecclesiastical outlier. She was confirmed in her Roman Catholic parish church, St. Mathias, a while ago and as of Sunday she was confirmed in and a member in good standing of a Presbyterian Church. I’m pretty sure that neither tradition allows for such a thing but Kate doesn’t mind at all, blissfully innocent as she is of all the centuries of suspicion, hostility, controversy and sometimes outright warfare between Roman Catholics and Protestants. She, and her parents, see no inconsistency, no conflict at all.

As I sat in my pew Sunday I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experience, how vastly different from Kate’s. Back in the day it was unthinkable for a Catholic boy or girl even to be inside a Protestant church. It was said, perhaps apocryphally, that Catholic kids were taught to cross the street rather than walk in front of a Protestant church as if proximity might result in theological and ecclesiastical infection. On our side of it we were taught that there was no tragedy worse than a “mixed marriage” and to avoid any possibility of it happening by never, ever dating a Catholic. My sweet, devout, Presbyterian grandmother was convinced that the Catholics planned to take over the country. Grandma told me that they stored guns in the basement of the cathedral for the day they took over.

Kate, I think, is a harbinger of the Christian faith and Christian church that is emerging, far less concerned about what separates us, far more convinced that we are called, not to loyalty to a particular ecclesiastical structure and tradition, as to a Lord who transcended the traditions and structures of his own day to reach out in love and to include all in his welcome embrace.

There is much more to do, of course. A starting place might be to recognize Confirmation across our separateness, to acknowledge that a member of a particular Christian Church is a member of every church, and to welcome everyone who strives to follow Jesus to his table, anywhere and everywhere.

But in the meantime, there is my granddaughter, Kate, ecclesiastical anomaly, unconscious revolutionary, perfectly comfortable being both Catholic and Protestant – or both – or neither, young Christian, follower of Jesus.


  1. Amen and amen.

  2. I love it!!! I hope you don’t mind, but I’m forwarding to our confirmation class. Brought back memories of Maundy Thursday and a cream colored knit suit (I can’t imagine what my parents gave up to buy that suit!)

  3. Sue Pelfree says:

    good for Kate to do what she feels in her heart is right for her. She sounds like an outstanding young lady that will create her own path wherever she goes. You and Sue must be very proud.

  4. Jan Lohs says:

    I love all of your posts, John. And this one is special, as I’m married to a Catholic — who is now the Chief Shopper (and occasional server) at the PADS program at our neighborhood Presbyterian church!

  5. jack macmullan says:

    thank you

  6. Annette Bacon says:

    Sent from my I Phone


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