Dear Mary Beth,
Sweet girl! You came to this day as you have come to every day of your life, with deep, unwavering, childlike faith and gentle grace. You do not have a story of tribulation to tell; indeed, there isn't even the slightest hint of doubt or searching or rebellion. Instead, you have a love story. As you approached the altar to complete the work begun in Baptism, it was so easy for me to remember your baptism. Behind you today, with her hand on your shoulder, was your beloved Mel. She sang for you on your baptism day. "Rejoice and be glad! Blessed are you, holy are you. Rejoice and be glad! For yours is the kingdom of God." Blessed you have been. You are one of those rare souls who has been blessed with an extraordinary faith. You don't wrestle; you don't fret. You believe to the core of your being and you live what you believe.
It was Mel who first led you to the Atrium, where you sunk into the environment and seemed to come alive before your Lord every week. Mrs. Bishop nurtured that gift of faith and we all watched as it bloomed brilliantly. As soon as you were too old to be a child in the atrium, you became an assistant, sometimes twice a week, once with Mrs. Bishop and once with Mel. There, in the hush and the joy of children embracing the Good Shepherd, your own childlike faith grew.
Make no mistake, it's not a childish faith. You are not the slightest bit immature. Instead, it is a faith reminds me daily of your Confirmation patron, St Therese of the Child Jesus. She has been your companion for so long, hasn't she? Remember how you begged her for a little sister? You were the only girl, stuck between five boys. Tiny little one, you wanted to wish every day for a sister to love. I suggested we pray instead. So began our perpetual novena to St. Therese. And then, there was Kirsten Therese. With sure faith that your prayers would be answered, you begged your sweet saint for a "shower of roses." Mel was with you the day you helped Daddy and I welcome Karoline Rose to the world. And on the night you called the scariest of your whole life, you sat up all night with St. Therese and begged some more. What a gift you are to sweet Sarah Anne!
And there's another thing that has struck me in the days we've spent preparing for Confirmation: with the gift of extraordinary faith, God gave you another gift. He gave you the gift of a rare and enduring friendship. You really do have a best friend for life. I will never forget how you and Bailey giggled with sheer delight when you discovered that independently you'd chosen the same First Communion dresses. What a sweet picture you made that day, lovely little girls with darling curls. Your curls didn't come naturally but you begged me to help you make some for that day so you and Bailey could really match. I've watched you this year as Bailey has suffered. I know how your heart breaks for her and how constantly you hold her in prayer. And I know that Bailey, well enough to be sitting with you, being sealed in the Holy Spirit right alongside you, brought you a special joy.
Finally, it is fitting that girl whose heart nearly broke when Patrick chose not to be confirmed when it was "his turn" two years ago and who never lost faith in him and never stopped praying for him should be granted the great privilege and joy of standing right next to him as he was confirmed this year. No one loves Paddy the way you love Paddy and no one could have been happier to share her moment before the bishop with him.
As I kissed your forehead confirmation night, I inhaled the sweet scent of chrism that took me back to a beautiful baby in a white dress and bonnet. A first daughter. The answer to a lifelong prayer. In all my imagining, in every hope and wish and prayer, I could not have begun to grasp the gift that is you.
God bless you!