What follows is a letter from the author to his 16-year-old niece Darby Beckwith. She recently asked him to be her Confirmation sponsor. In his book, Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic, he tells the story of when 8-year-old Darby called him in 2005 and asked why he and his wife, Frankie, were not Catholic. Two years later Darby’s aunt and uncle were received into the Catholic Church
Here’s how it begins:
It was nearly eight years ago, on a late spring evening in May, when you called me at my home in Woodway, Texas and asked why your Aunt Frankie and I were not Catholic. I remember that evening as if it were just yesterday. This little 8-year-old girl, as articulate as she was precocious, began interrogating me about what undoubtedly appeared to her to be my inadequate theological beliefs. Looking back, it is clear to me now that that little girl—with her very innocent, yet probing query—played an important role in helping guide her uncle back into the Church in which he had been baptized and from which he had wandered. So, when you asked me to be your Confirmation sponsor, whether you knew or not, you were offering me an opportunity to return the favor you had imparted to me eight years ago.
Confirmation, as you know, is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. It is, more specifically, one of the three sacraments of initiation. (The others are Baptism and Holy Communion). Because, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, they “lay the foundations of every Christian life” (CCC, 1212), both Eastern Rite Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox administer the three sacraments to infants. It is also why we Latin Rite Catholics ask Confirmation candidates to renew the baptismal promises that their godparents had recited on their behalf when the candidates were babies.