On a cold wet evening on 9 March, a group of 13 Confirmation candidates of ran back and forward to a polythene “river” filling their “buckets” with water for washing, cooking and crops. Amidst the laughter and the competition, a sobering truth emerged: no matter how hard the teams worked, they found it almost impossible to get enough water for even subsistence living. The game, organised by two CAFOD volunteers, reflects the situation of many people who have to walk miles to collect water. Judging by the prayers that emerged later, this consciousness-raising activity had a big impact.
This was the beginning of our Confirmation pray-in and sleepover, designed to focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. During the evening, in a circle of rugs and cushions in the hall, we explored kinds of prayer (petition, intercession, praise and thanksgiving) and experimented with ways to pray (formal prayer, spontaneous, silent, and using music and art as prayer aids). Then we created interactive prayer stations for the next morning’s prayer walk.
Late in the evening, to the strains of the Nunc Dimittis, we lit candles, placing them in decorated jars, and processed into Holy Ghost church, pausing in the wintry drizzle to look up at our wonderful stained glass window of the Holy Spirit. We placed the candles before the altar, and each found a separate pew for silent contemplation of the Blessed Sacrament.
A short trip back to the hall for night-time necessities, – water only, no bedtime hot chocolate – the candidates slipped back into church, and silently crept into their sleeping bags – this was a very quiet, reverential sleepover.
At breakfast next morning, we counted the sweets on the ‘temptation table’ – not one had gone! – then did the ten prayer stations. The confirmation group served a parish breakfast of coffee and croissants, collected donations for our Lenten Charity, Mary’s Meals, and led parishioners through the prayer stations – which included celebratory thanksgiving paper chains, a net of prayers wall, and thinking about God’s greatness.
To quote one candidate
“It wasn’t very comfortable sleeping in the church, and it was hard to get to sleep, but when I woke up next morning, the light of the Holy Spirit window was shining down on me. It was so wonderful”.
What more could you ask for your confirmation group?
— Siobhan Canham and Paul Clarke, Catechists