Essay of the Week: A Confirmation Dilemma: Judas or Not?

By Jack Hogan

Knees locked, I stood before the altar, jolted by the words of my Confirmation teacher:

“If you do not share the beliefs of the Catholic Church or have mixed thoughts about completing your Confirmation, please talk to me or one of the Fathers here immediately.”

Her high-pitched, polite, yet stern decree sent me into a moment of panic. Or was it cold feet?  At 12, I knew that, despite the crucifix around my neck, I was an agnostic. So was I also dishonest like Judas, the ex-disciple, for participating in this confirmation?

As a Hogan, I was fighting an internal battle between my sense of family and myself. I was soon ready to approach the teacher after practice when, as if on cue, my parents arrived with proud grins. I could not do it.

Not only would my parents be crestfallen, but I would disappoint my grandparents and other extended family who were travelling to New York for the ceremony that was a specific rite of passage in my family. After all, I was a Hogan– the first of my generation to face confirmation.

I grew up in religion classes -twice a week after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I never complained. Noah’s Ark and Christ’s resurrection were more than just stories, they were once reality, the utmost truth I believed. However, as I grew intellectually in history and science, I discovered more fiction than truth in those stories; Jesus resurrecting Lazarus after he’d been dead; Jesus walking on water, or Jonah surviving inside the stomach of a fish.

However beyond that fiction lives lessons that are relevant to my life today and staples of my morality. Ultimately, my decision to be confirmed reflects the importance of family in my life and the influence of the church on my sense of right and wrong.  Whether there be truth to many of the tales in the bible, such as walking on water, raising the dead, or turning blood to wine: the lessons underlying these tales give me the courage to take the high road in a moral dilemma.

Since my First Communion, I found that major milestones of life, like confirmations, did not challenge my sense of right and wrong as much as simple, everyday experiences. My first summer job presented moments that carried me back to the lessons from the church with a test of courage that would follow me through both my years working at a private tennis court.

During my first week, a man briskly walked over to the desk, asking “Could I hop onto one of your empty courts?”  Because he was a non-member and hadn’t called the office in advance to book a court, rules required me to turn him away from the facility. Yet every court was available. Not only was he disappointed, but the company operating the courts also loses money when the courts are empty.

My coworkers, for the most part, avoided contesting this rule with my boss.  However, I’ve been lobbying against it for two years now, even though my boss’ position on the topic hasn’t changed in the slightest. I can’t divorce my persistence about this from my courage and sense of right and wrong cultivated by my religious background.

I continue to lobby, not for Christ, but because of my own sense of morality nurtured by Catholicism. The Church’s statement at the conclusion of the confirmation ceremony still ring in my soul: “…the Spirit of wisdom and understanding and courage, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence…”

Those words inspired me to wear the cross given to me a decade ago at my first communion.  I have recently turned that cross in. My mother gave me her father’s lifelong talisman; his cross. I wear it not for Christ; I wear it to represent the moral compass I’ve taken from my grandfather and my family.

Jack Hogan, a graduate of the Collegiate School, was accepted Early Decision to Bucknell.

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