What is Confirmation in the Catholic Church?


Dove of the Holy Spirit in stained glass

The sacrament of Confirmation strengthens relationships with the Church, as Lumen gentium teaches and Paul VI reaffirmed at the promulgation of the revised Confirmation Rite:

“Through the sacrament of Confirmation they (the faithful) are more perfectly bound to the Church through the Sacrament of Confirmation.”

The Catholic Church teaches that the Holy Spirit is the supreme gift given at confirmation. Catholics need the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to live a life of divine grace, the life of virtue. Leo XIII expresses it magnificently in Divinum illud munus:

“Thanks to them, the soul is furnished and fortified to obey more easily and more quickly its voice and its impulse. This is why these gifts are so effective that they lead the righteous to the highest degree of holiness; and of such excellence that they continue to exist even in heaven, though in a more perfect way. By means of these gifts the soul is excited and encouraged to seek and attain the Gospel beatitudes which, like the flowers that appear in spring, are the signs and heralds of eternal beatitude.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Candidate confirmed by the bishop

The Catholic Church goes on to teach the following about the Sacrament of Confirmation:

1285 Baptism, the Eucharist and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the “sacraments of Christian initiation”, whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the fulfillment of baptismal grace. Because “through the sacrament of Confirmation, (the baptized) are more perfectly linked to the Church and are enriched with a particular power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly bound to spread and defend the faith in word and deed.

I. Confirmation in the economy of salvation

1286 In the Old Testament, the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the expected Messiah for his mission of salvation. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that it was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are accomplished in total communion with the Holy Spirit that the Father gives him “without measure”.
1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain with the Messiah alone, but was to be communicated to all the Messianic people. On several occasions, Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly on Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the Messianic age. Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized in turn received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
1288 “From then on, the apostles, in fulfillment of the will of Christ, communicated to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit which completes the grace of baptism. This is why, in the Letter to the Hebrews, the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands appears among the first elements of Christian teaching. The laying on of hands is rightly recognized by Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.

1289 Very early on, to better signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) is added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name “Christian”, which means “anointed” and derives from that of Christ himself whom God “anointed with the Holy Spirit”. This anointing rite has been perpetuated ever since, both in the East and in the West. For this reason, the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or Myron which means “chrism”. In the West, Confirmation suggests both the ratification of Baptism, thus completing Christian initiation, and the strengthening of baptismal grace, both fruits of the Holy Spirit.

III. The Effects of Confirmation

1302 It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

1303 Therefore, Confirmation brings an increase and a deepening of baptismal grace:
– it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry out: “Abba! Dad!”

– it unites us more firmly to Christ
– it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us
– it makes our bond with the Church more perfect
– it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and deed as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly and never be ashamed of the Cross:

Remember then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of righteous judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in the presence of God . Keep what you received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has vindicated you and placed his earnest, the Spirit, in your hearts.

1304 Like Baptism, which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, because it too imprints an indelible spiritual mark on the soul, the “character”, which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.

1305 This “character” perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and “the confirmed person receives the power to publicly and, so to speak, officially profess faith in Christ (quasi ex officio)”.

IV. Who can receive this sacrament?

1306 Any baptized person who has not yet been confirmed can and must receive the sacrament of Confirmation. Since Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist form a unity, it follows that “the faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament at the opportune moment”, for without Confirmation and Eucharist Baptism is certainly valid and effective, but Christian initiation remains incomplete.

1307 The Latin tradition gives the “age of discretion” as a point of reference for receiving Confirmation. But in mortal danger, children must be confirmed even if they have not yet reached the age of discretion.

1308 Although Confirmation is sometimes called the “sacrament of Christian maturity”, one should not confuse adult faith with the adulthood of natural growth, nor forget that baptismal grace is a grace of free and undeserved election. and does not need “ratification” to become effective. Saint Thomas reminds us:

The age of the body does not determine the age of the soul. Even in childhood man can attain spiritual maturity: as the Book of Wisdom says: “For old age is not honored for duration, or measured by number of years.” “Many children, through the strength of the Holy Spirit they received, fought courageously for Christ until their blood was shed.

1309 Preparation for Confirmation should aim to lead the Christian towards a more intimate union with Christ and a more living familiarity with the Holy Spirit – his actions, his gifts and his commands – in order to be better able to assume apostolic responsibilities. of the Christian life. . To this end, Confirmation catechesis must strive to awaken a sense of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the universal Church as well as to the parish community. The latter bears particular responsibility for the preparation of the confirmands.

1310 To receive Confirmation, one must be in a state of grace. One should receive the Sacrament of Penance in order to be purified for the gift of the Holy Spirit. A more intense prayer should prepare to receive the strength and the graces of the Holy Spirit with docility and readiness to act.

1311 Candidates for Confirmation, as for Baptism, rightly seek the spiritual help of a godfather. To emphasize the unity of the two sacraments, it should be one of the baptismal godparents.

In summary, confirmation in the Catholic Church is a sacrament that deepens the faith of a baptized Catholic.


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