Cathedral services host nearly 2,000 confirmands, 20,000 people
From staff reports
Bishop Richard F. Stika began a month-long series of Mass celebrations on April 6 to offer the sacrament of confirmation to nearly 2,000 youth throughout the Diocese of Knoxville.
Bishop Stika and Cardinal Justin Rigali have been celebrating up to four Masses a weekend during the confirmation season. Bishop Stika estimated total cathedral attendance at the confirmation Masses to be about 20,000 people.
To mark the dedication of the new Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the 30th anniversary of the Diocese of Knoxville’s founding, confirmation Masses for all parishes are being held in the new cathedral.
In one exception, Bishop Stika celebrated a confirmation Mass on Sunday, April 22, at St. Patrick Church in Morristown.
Cardinal Rigali celebrated a confirmation Mass for adults on May 20 at the cathedral, where 52 people from more than a dozen parishes received the sacrament of confirmation. Bishop Stika concelebrated the Mass.
Confirmation Masses usually are held in the parish churches, but Bishop Stika this year wanted to gather all the confirmands and their family and friends at Sacred Heart to celebrate the new cathedral.
At the first confirmation Mass on April 6, Bishop Stika pointed out that the entire focus of the cathedral is on the Lord our God and that parts of the cathedral serve as a reminder of what we can aspire to.
“There are visual reminders of what you can become,” the bishop told those gathered, pointing to the various statues, such as Sts. Peter, Paul, Teresa, Faustina, John Paul II, and the disciples painted on the dome wall. “Saint after saint reminds us that we all have the possibility and potential of holiness.”
Bishop Stika recalled a saying that the definition of a saint is someone who knows he or she is a sinner.
He reminded the confirmands that when they selected a saint, that showed they had a special relationship to that saint.
“I pray that you emulate that saint. My confirmation saint is St. Joseph, the man chosen by God to teach Jesus to be a man and love the Blessed Mother. I probably should have chosen St. Anthony, because I talk to him on a daily basis: ‘Where are my keys, St. Anthony. Help find this or that. We are on a first-name basis,” Bishop Stika said.
He asked what it means to be confirmed, harkening back to when the confirmands were baptized and first touched by God. He then reminded them of their first Communion, when they made a statement of faith by accepting the body and blood of Christ and saying, “I believe.”
He then explained the beautiful steps of the rite of confirmation, elevating to the laying on of hands by him or Cardinal Rigali, when the bishop and cardinal pray over each confirmand, anoint them, and say, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” and “Peace be with you.”
They will then proceed with their lives confident in knowing their relationship with God has been sealed with an act of faith.
Bishop Stika encouraged the youth to open their hearts to God and grow in their relationship with Him, and understand that God does not want them to fail. They were created in the image of God.
“One of my constant mantras has been to be the voice, the hands, the face, the feet, and especially the sacred heart of Jesus to everyone.
The bishop encouraged the confirmandi to place their trust in Jesus, particularly in this current time of divided, fragmented, and even broken society. “One question I have for you. Are you willing to accept Jesus into your life, with all that it entails? … Are you willing to accept Jesus into your life so that the goodness that is already a part of you may blossom and grow? … I hope that is a question that you ask yourself all of the time. Am I willing to be Jesus to other people? It is not impossible. Just look at the people in the dome,” Bishop Stika said.
At the confirmation Mass for adults on the feast of Pentecost, Cardinal Rigali recounted the resurrection of Jesus and how His solemn promises were fulfilled.
“Our celebration on this day of this event is not just the beautiful memory we have of what happened. It’s much more than that. Our celebration is actually an acceptance on our part of the action of the Holy Spirit who came to the apostles 50 days after His resurrection to fill their hearts with His love,” he said.