Here’s a set of phrases I use often: “My work is done”, “Your work is done”, “His work is done”, and so on. As you can see, it involves any possessive pronoun followed by the words “work is done”. I use it to describe the conclusion of mundane tasks (watching a TV programme, finishing a meal, completing a puzzle on a Saturday afternoon) and occasionally for more significant events.
Over the weekend my daughter celebrated her Confirmation, the fourth and final Catholic Sacrament before adulthood. When I was a child, these four Sacraments all began with the same letter: Christening, Confession, Communion, Confirmation. These days the first two are usually called Baptism and Reconciliation but the names of the last two are the same. The phrase “My work is done” came to mind often over the weekend. I have kept the vow that I made on my wedding day just over 20 years ago, in the same church: to bring up our children as Catholic. Any further Sacraments that they celebrate will be in adulthood. Two of them are nearly always mutually exclusive (Marriage and Holy Orders) and I don’t expect to be around for the last of them (Anointing of the Sick, or “Extreme Unction” as it was called in my childhood).
Unsurprisingly, considering how my brain works, during the service I reflected on the number of Sacraments my family have celebrated in that same church. The first of them was my parents’ marriage soon after they arrived from Ireland in the 1950s. My brother, sister and I were all baptised there, and were there for our first Confessions, First Holy Communions and Confirmations. One of my nieces also celebrated the same four Sacraments there. My wife and I were married there and now both of our children have completed the first set of four. Two marriages, six Baptisms, six first Confessions, six First Holy Communions and now six Confirmations: 26 Sacraments celebrated by my immediate family in the same church. And (although it’s not a Sacrament) my mother’s funeral mass was there too. It was harder to add up the number of these services that we have attended for other people. My children became altar servers back in 2015 (something that I never did) and have served at Communions and Confirmations for people we know.
I had not progressed very far, totting up the number of weddings, christenings and other services I have been to in my local church, when it was time for the final blessings, photographs with the bishop, godparents and other family, and lunch at a nearby restaurant. The sun shone, we headed home for a small party (a dozen of us, exactly); we had a wonderful day.
The road is long. There are many miles left to travel. But as the champagne flowed on Saturday afternoon I indulged myself with the thought that in one very significant way my work is done.