The Sacrament of Confirmation

“Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:14-17

This passage of sacred scripture teaches us that while Confirmation is a complement to Baptism, it is a distinct and complete sacrament in its own right. Its purpose is to complete in us that which was begun in the sacrament of Baptism. The Samaritans had already been baptized, yet it was still necessary for them to receive the laying on of hands.

We might say that we are baptized in order that we may be confirmed.

In the sacrament of Baptism we are born spiritually. We become sharers in the divine life of the most Blessed Trinity. We begin to live a supernatural life. As we practice the virtues of faith, hope and love and as we unite with Christ in his Church in offering worship to God, we also grow in grace and goodness.

A useful comparison is the difference, in natural life, between conception and later growth.

When we are confirmed we receive a special grace by which our faith is deepened and strengthened, so that it will be strong enough not only for our own needs but also for the needs of others with whom we shall try to share it. With the onset of adolescence a child begins to assume, progressively more and more, the responsibilities of adulthood. Young men and women begin to see their place in the total family picture and in the community at large. Similarly, confirmed Christians should begin to see more clearly their responsibility to Christ for their neighbors and become deeply concerned with the welfare of Christ in the world – which is the Church – and the welfare of Christ in their neighbors. It is in this sense that Confirmation is a spiritual growing up.

The sacrament of Confirmation makes them feel more identified with the Church, their Mother, and helps them live in accordance with their Catholic beliefs and convictions. It reminds them of the fact that they have a vocation to holiness and calls them to go forth joyfully in fulfillment of their vocations - strong in their faith and with an ardent love for souls, which stems from their love for Christ.

They should feel a continual concern for others and a restless discontent unless they are doing something worthwhile for others – something to ease their burdens in this life, and something to make more secure their promise of eternal life. Their words and actions should proclaim to those around them: “Christ lives, and He lives for you”.

The grace to do this is the grace which Jesus promised to his apostles (and to us) when He said: “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth". Acts 1:8

The Catechism states, “The reception of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace” and defines Confirmation as the sacrament by which “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”.

Jesus instituted each individual sacrament because He foresaw, in his infinite wisdom, that we would have a need of certain special graces under certain particular circumstances. He foresaw, among other things, the dangers to which our faith would be exposed.

In the sacrament of Confirmation divine grace anticipates the dangers of temptation young (and old) men and women are likely to experience.

Some of these dangers would come from within, as when passion or self-will conflicts with our beliefs. We may wish to pursue some course of action that our faith forbids. We cannot live with a continual conflict raging inside ourselves. We want interior peace. So something has to give. If we could just convince ourselves that our faith is wrong, then we could follow our desires and still be at peace. It is at a time like this that the grace of Confirmation comes to our aid (if we will let it) and pushes back the urgings of self-will so that faith may triumph. The peace we find in overcoming these temptations is a genuine peace.

Sometimes the dangers to our faith come from without. For example, there exists a danger for us who live in an atmosphere of religious indifferentism to give in to the temptation to diminish our profession and practice of our Catholic faith. To do so would risk losing our faith and our path to heaven entirely.

It is the effects of the sacrament of Confirmation that gives Catholics the necessary spiritual strength to:

1. Witness for Christ and his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
2. Spread and defend the fullness of their Catholic faith.
3. Live authentic Catholic Christian lives.

The Catechism puts it this way:

It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation, which makes us, cry, “Abba! Father!”
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders 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 action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:

Recall then that you have received the 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. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.

Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, 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.

This character perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially. CCC 1302-1305

The majority of this text was extracted from The Faith Explained by Leo J. Trese, Scepter Publishers

The Faith Explained is an all-in-one handbook to help you understand, explain, and defend the great truths of the Catholic Faith. In easily readable chapters, it explains the purpose of human existence, God and his perfections, the creation and fall of man, the Incarnation, the Redemption, the sacraments, sacramentals, prayer, the importance of the Bible, and much more. Perfect for RCIA classes, this book is also a magnificent refresher course on the Faith for Catholics and an illuminating resource for non-Catholics with questions about the Church.