Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
Easter 3, 23 April 2023
You may have noticed that I read a lot of books. A six-year-old neighbour popped their head into my flat this week and was stunned by the sheer number of books I own. Among the stranger books that I enjoy reading are novels by a nineteenth-century anti-feminist English author, Charlotte M. Yonge. Miss Yonge is one of the most bigoted religious authors I have ever read; apparently for her the only true Church was the Church of England; to her Catholics and ‘Dissenters,’ Methodists and Congregationalists among others, were equally misguided. Despite this, I find reading her family stories relaxing, and I have just finished one that was first published in 1854 titled The Castle Builders, or, The Deferred Confirmation. It begins with two sixteen- and seventeen-year-old girls who have been approved as ready for Confirmation. But they are terrified of it, because when they are confirmed they will become eligible to receive Communion. As the younger says:
The priest “said if we were fit for Confirmation we were fit for the Sacrament,” said Kate; “but I can’t quite see how that can be. We promised all these things by our Godfathers and Godmothers, and are bound to do them now, so it does not seem so much to promise them for ourselves; but the other – it is a great deal too awful!”
For almost 300 pages the two continue to avoid their Confirmation until it takes place on the book’s second-last page, and the second-last paragraph of the book says:
Sunday is come, and again Emmeline and Katherine kneel on that step, and now it is beside their sister, while their brother and uncle admit them to the partaking of that Meat and Drink indeed, which can preserve their souls to everlasting life.
Miss Yonge has written an entire and entertaining book out of two teenagers being afraid of participating in the Eucharist. I would find that more amusing if my heritage were not Scottish Presbyterian, and I had not heard from my grandmother about Elders visiting church members to determine whether they were worthy to participate in the quarterly Communion, and giving them tokens to indicate their eligibility.
Charlotte M. Yonge
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