The Sacrament of Confirmation
Together, the sacrament of Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation constitute the “sacraments of Christian initiation,” whose unity must be safeguarded. The reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For by this sacrament, the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1285).
History of the Sacrament of Confirmation
For at least the first three centuries of the Church confirmation, known as the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, was not a distinct sacrament, but rather an essential component of the sacrament of baptism. Immediately after the candidates had emerged from the baptismal water, they were anointed with oil to signify the fact that they had been filled with grace by the Holy Spirit. In those places where a bishop was in attendance, it was not at all unusual for the bishop to anoint the newly baptized with oil and impose this hands upon their head, praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them. Each member of the Christian community would then embrace the new Christian and they would all proceed to celebrate the thanksgiving Eucharist, a sharing in the body and blood of Christ.
Although this anointing and imposition of hands by the bishop was common, it did not take place in a uniform manner throughout the entire Church until the middle of the thirteenth century when the Council of Lyons (1274 AD) named confirmation as one of the seven sacraments. And in 1439 the Council of Florence clarified the doctrinal teaching of the Council of Lyons and added that as a sacrament it strengthened individual Christians in faith and fortified them against temptation and determined that the matter of the sacrament was the anointing with chrism of salvation with the words. “I sign you with the sign of the cross, and I confirm you with chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” In addition, the council defined the bishop as the ordinary minister of the sacrament. In 1566 the Council of Trent reaffirmed the doctrinal statement of the last two councils.
The Effects of Confirmation
The primary effect of confirmation is the full outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1302). Confirmation increases and deepens the roots of grace that were first experienced at baptism and enables those confirmed to become fuller witnesses to the power of God working within them. In the words of Saint Ambrose, quoted in a reference in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, confirmed gifts the person who receives the sacrament with “a spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence” (CCC 1303).
Like baptism, confirmation also imprints a special character, an indelible spiritual mark, upon the person. Confirmation completes the process, first experienced through baptism, by which the Lord claims the individual person for his kingdom. As such, confirmation, once received, must never be repeated.
The Reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church
1. Preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation requires all candidates to complete a two year designated program for tenth and eleventh graders.
2. Candidates for the Sacrament of Confirmation must be baptized Catholic and provide a certificate of baptism at the time of registration. This certificate will be kept on file in the Faith Formation Office.
3. Candidates and their parents are required to attend a mandatory orientation meeting at the beginning of each school year.
4. Candidates are required to be present for all classes, perform all the activities assigned, attend a yearly retreat, and take an active role in one of the parish’s ministries.
5. Candidates and their parents are asked to choose a sponsor, who is a practicing Catholic, leads a life in harmony with the faith and is not bound by a canonical penalty. A candidate’s godparent may also be chosen.
6. Within two weeks prior to receiving the sacrament, candidates will be interviewed by the Pastor, Confirmation Coordinator or designates.
7. Adult candidates are to be prepared according to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).