There it was, staring me in the face. It was as scary as I had expected and I was certain God was looking down on me at this particular moment in time. My palms were sweating and my breath was growing shallow. I had spent so much time preparing for this and now I was frozen in fear.
Focus, man, FOCUS!
On this particular spring day, I found myself in a classroom at All Saints Catholic Church trying to complete a test to “confirm my faith.” I was told that was the purpose of this exam. There were one hundred questions about the Catholic faith and as my eyes surveyed the room I realized I was the only one that appeared to be stumped. All I could hear was the scratching of pencils on paper, the loud ticking of the clock and a disappointed sigh from God himself.
For months we had been studying this material in our Catechism class on Wednesday nights in preparation for our Confirmation. We were told the bishop was arriving for this ceremonial event and he would call upon us at random to answer the questions that were included on this exam. The religious pressure just kept growing!
My mom resorted to buying my brother and me a copy of the Good News Bible to help in our comprehension of the material. She said this was our “Catholic Cliff’s Notes” and it was apparent we were not to look to her for the answers. At such a young age, I couldn’t understand why my faith came down to a written test. If I couldn’t name all of Jesus’ disciples did that mean I was going to hell? If the bishop called me out and I didn’t know the correct answer would I be asked to leave the church?
This was big stuff for a little guy.
I was the last one to complete the test and as I handed it over to Marilyn Hodge, the look in her eyes made me think that she knew, I knew, I had failed. As I shuffled out of that musty classroom, I prepared a speech for the ride home, “Mom…I’m sorry but I think I’m going to have to become a Presbyterian.”
Turns out I did pass that exam. However, I didn’t pass with flying colors. If there was a scale that measured Catholic faith, my test score would have placed me somewhere in the below average range. I thought the worst was over and if I could just avoid eye contact with the bishop during his Q&A, I would be golden.
Little did I know there was more to this Confirmation thing than I had expected. In my overwhelming preoccupation with studying for that religious exam, I had forgotten to find a sponsor. Apparently you had to have a Catholic sponsor to accompany you through the Confirmation ceremony. Since my Godfather had passed away and every Catholic man I knew was already spoken for, I was left in a lurch.
Again, I started to panic.
So I did what any kid needing Confirming would do. I got out the phone book and started cold calling people that went to our church…
I started with the “A’s” and worked my way through the alphabet. Finally at “F” I had a hit! Blaine Fritsche said he would gladly be my sponsor. I had never met the man before and I haven’t seen him since. Clearly, he knew I needed all the religious help I could get.
By the time Confirmation had concluded, I was relieved. Exhausted but relieved. Not only was my religious duty stressful but I was also rockin’ a new hairdo (middle part) and my all-white suspender outfit (a la Kirk Cameron). There was a lot to celebrate.
A few photos were snapped that day. There was an informal group shot on the front lawn of All Saints…
A picture with my best bud, Vince (he went on to become a professional wrestler)…
And a photo of me, the bishop and that ever important sponsor…
A crisis was averted.
I like to think I’m good with God. Until the next test anyway…