A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter Gemma-Rose began preparations for her confirmation. She attended classes with the local school children on Saturday afternoons. She chose a patron saint and a sponsor. All that was left to do was find a suitable dress for her to wear to the ceremony.

When Sophie was confirmed we were told the expected dress code would be white dresses for girls and formal wear for boys. So our second youngest daughter wore a beautiful white dress very much like a First Holy Communion dress.

But for Gemma-Rose's confirmation, I knew none of the parish girls planned to wear elaborate white dresses, and so I didn’t insist she wore one either. We thought a new Sunday best dress would be the appropriate choice.

I knew I wouldn’t find anything remotely suitable in our local shops, so I headed online. Surely they’d be lots of dresses to choose from? But after googling many combinations of words such as ‘dress’, ‘girl’s’, 'tweens', ‘formal’, ‘special’, ‘modest’, ‘winter’ and even ‘party’, I began to doubt there was such thing as a special winter dress, available in Gemma-Rose’s size. Eventually, I found a couple of options which weren't perfect but might be acceptable.

After consulting Gemma-Rose, I ordered a black pinafore dress, thinking she could wear a long sleeved white shirt underneath it. I added a white cardigan with sparkly buttons to my order. We thought black tights and ballet flat shoes would complete the outfit.

Even though I knew Gemma-Rose would look very smart in her new clothes, there was a niggling thought at the back of my mind. Was black suitable for a confirmation? Would people criticise our choice?

“Mum, black and white look formal. We wear those colours when we sing with the church choir,” my daughter Imogen reassured me. "And it's not as if we have much choice." Unless, of course, we chose to ignore the custom of our parish and dress Gemma-Rose in an elaborate white gown. Blend in or make a statement? Sometimes children want to feel they belong.

Gemma-Rose, dressed in her new black dress, appeared radiant as the bishop said, “Maximilian Kolbe, be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” Charlotte, who had her hand on Gemma-Rose’s right shoulder, looked as full of joy as her younger sister.

I will never again have to deliberate over a child’s confirmation clothes. All eight of our children have now been confirmed. Even our son Thomas received this Gift.

Early on the second day of Thomas’ life, a nurse woke me saying, “It doesn’t look like your baby will live much longer.” With a pounding heart, I slipped out of my hospital bed, thrust my feet into my slippers and hurried to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where Thomas was hooked up to a life-support system.

I expected to see my husband Andy by Thomas’ side, but he wasn’t there. No one had seen him for some time. Fear gripped me. What if I were alone when Thomas died? Thoughts raced through my mind, but, somehow, one very important one thrust aside all the frightened ones: I wanted Thomas to be confirmed.

The hospital chaplain arrived. A Catholic nurse held my hand as the priest sealed Thomas with the Gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Thomas wasn’t dressed in white for his confirmation. He was wearing only a nappy when his soul was clothed with the Holy Spirit. 

By the time Andy arrived back at the hospital, (he'd left for a short break), Thomas' condition had improved. "I've seen miracles after confirmation," someone told us. Once again, I dared to hope. Maybe our son wouldn't die after all. 

We asked a friend to bring our other children from home to the hospital to meet their brother. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, hope had once again disappeared. Hellos were quickly followed by goodbyes. There was no miracle. But confirmation had given us the gift of time. 

Thomas died in our arms, with his soul radiant with grace. 

White dress, black dress, nappy? Sometimes all that matters is one’s heart and the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

Imogen made Gemma-Rose's confirmation cake. She decorated it with 12 fruits representing the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

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  1. Gemma-Rose looked radiant! Aglow with the Holy Spirit. Congratulations! And how beautiful that Thomas went into the Presence of God filled with the Presence of God.

    1. Nancy,

      "...into the Presence of God filled with the Presence of God." Yes! The hospital chaplain said that not all parents who have dying babies ask for the sacrament of Confirmation. Maybe they don't know that it's possible for their children to be confirmed. I'm glad we knew before we faced this situation.

      Thank you for your congratulations!

  2. Just beautiful as always Sue. My eyes watered when I read about Thomas :-(. Aquinas bear is next to my bed and I think of you first thing in the morning and last thing at night xx

    1. San,

      I'm so glad we are connected together by Thomas' bear and I'm very touched you think of me every day. Every morning we mention you and your family in our prayers and so we think of you too. I love how our thoughts fly to the other side of the world and back again! xxx

  3. The outfit sounds pretty, sophisticated, and perfect for Gemma-Rose. You're right it doesn't matter what we're wearing when we're doing something important as receiving confirmation. To think otherwise would be superficial.

    1. Susie,

      Superficial? Oh yes, it's always good to dress up for big events, but our clothes aren't the most important thing. I had a bit of a discussion with someone on my FB page about wedding clothes after he read this post. The first time Andy and I got married, (in a registry office) I wore an elaborate white dress and veil. A few years later, after I became a Catholic, we had a Church wedding, and I just wore a Sunday best dress. Despite my lack of proper wedding clothes, that second wedding was the most beauitful!

  4. Thanks for "inviting" us to the ceremony, Sue. It is always lovely to enter in to your family life. Our felicitations to Gemma-Rose and to little Thomas. God chose wisely his gift of parents for your children. "Fill the hearts of Thy faithful"!

    1. Cindy,

      Some of my comments seem to have disappeared, probably due to all the recent changes I made with my blog. I shall post my reply again!

      Cindy, it is so lovely to exchange comments with you! I'm glad you shared some of our special family moments. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and for your kind words!

  5. You are an amazing mother and family! So beautiful all of your eight children are confirmed. Your beautiful Thomas must be overjoyed for Emma-Rose and all of you. Thank you for sharing these Holy Sacraments with us. Prayers, love and light your way....

    1. Cynthia,

      I do think Thomas shares in these happy moments! And I'm glad I was able to arrange Thomas' confirmation before he died. Years later, I realised he'd never received a confirmation name. I know he doesn't need the prayers of a patron saint, but we belatedly gave him a name anyway: St Joseph.

      Amazing? You are very kind and I do appreciate your words though I know I'm far from great. I remember when I was pregnant with Thomas. I begged God to save him because I thought I would never cope with the grief of losing him. I knew I was weak. But I did cope because God gave me the necessary graces. It's amazing what God can do! God bless you!

  6. So glad you were able to have Thomas confirmed, Sue. I know it must have given you comfort as you deal with his loss and your grief. Congrats to your daughter on her confirmation! Trying to think of the 12 fruit of the Spirit? I come up with 9 from Galatians 5:22-23. Just curious :)


    1. Betty,

      Thomas' confirmation was indeed a comfort to us. It was good knowing we'd done everything we could for him. Yes there are only 9 fruits mentioned in Galatians. Apparently, the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible listed 12: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity. I always have trouble remembering such a long list! Thank you for your congratulations!


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