Confirmation is the reception the Holy Spirit, signified by a laying on of hands and an anointing with perfumed oil. It leaves and indelible mark uniting us more firmly with Christ, rendering the bond with the Church more perfect, and giving us the strength of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the faith.
The Sacrament of Confirmation completes Baptism. The children renew the Baptismal Promises made by their parents on their behalf when they were infants. This is an opportunity to involve School, Church & Home in the preparation of this especially important milestone in your child’s life. The effect of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit like that of Pentecost. A candidate for Confirmation who has attained the age of reason must profess the faith, be in a state of grace, have the intention of receiving the sacrament and be prepared to assume the role of disciple and witness to Christ both within the Church and within the world.
Every baptised person is eligible to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. In cases of danger of death, it can and should be administered to children.
On the day of your child’s baptism you brought them to the Church and began their journey of faith. You stood before the priest and the community of the Church, represented by your family and friends and promised to:
- ‘keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts’ (Rite of Baptism).
- ‘be the first teachers of your child in the ways of faith’ (Rite of Baptism)
- be ‘the best of teachers’ (Rite of Baptism).
Over the last twelve years you have been responsible for
- teaching them their prayers
- bringing them to Church
- giving them the first lessons in right and wrong
The family has been described as the ‘domestic church’, where your children receive their ‘first Christian experience.’ This experience frequently leaves decisive traces which last throughout life.
On the day of Confirmation, it is time for children to take on the responsibility for their own faith. However, for parents and godparents it is not the end. Parents still have a great deal to do with the religious upbringing of their children, a responsibility which often remains throughout life. Parents will always pray for their children, and hopefully in a spirit of love and caring offer advice and encouragement from time to time.
On the day of Confirmation, the school is also present with the teachers, the choir, the servers and all the others it takes to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. The teachers that are present have prepared the young people in the last year for the Sacrament of Confirmation. However, on the day they also represent the many teachers who have nurtured the faith of the girls and boys over the years since they began school, because teachers have the responsibility to cultivate this gift by nourishing it and helping it to grow. It is the special function of the school to enable young people, while developing their own personality, to grow at the same time in that new life which has been given to them in baptism.
On the day of Confirmation, the Christian community is present once again. The community in our parish plays its part in the journey of faith of the young people who are about to be confirmed. By virtue of their own Confirmation, the members of the community ‘are more perfectly bound to the Church and are endowed with the special strength of the Holy Spirit. Our parish is, without doubt, the most prominent place in which the Christian community is formed and expressed. It is the place where faith is born and grows. All who help in the preparation for the day of Confirmation have helped the faith of candidates.
It is the privilege of the community to contribute what was contributed for them – the witness, prayer and practical assistance to the young people. In the future and in their turn the girls and boys who are confirmed today will help the future generations.
‘I received from the Lord, what I also passed onto you’. St. Paul, l Cor. 11:23.
Finally, the clergy are present – the bishop and the priests of our parish. The bishop is the original minister of Confirmation. The reason for this is to signify an obvious link with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles at Pentecost. As the leaders of the Church, the bishops are the successors to the Apostles.
In the normal course of events the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation takes place during the celebration of the Eucharist. Confirmation, like Baptism, relates to the Eucharist. The Gift of the Holy Spirit confirms us as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, uniting ourselves more consciously with Jesus, who offers to the Father His sacrifice of love for the salvation of the world. The word ‘Eucharist’ means thanksgiving. The Gift of the Holy Spirit makes us more aware of the goodness of God and deepens our sense of gratitude and thanksgiving. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus enables us to appreciate more fully that partaking with others in the Bread of Life at Communion commits us to a life of mutual love and sharing in accordance with the commandment of Jesus: ‘love one another’.
The Confirmation Ceremony:
The Ceremony of Confirmation is broken up into four main parts. They are as follows:
- Presentation of the Candidates:
After the Gospel, the bishop and the priests take their seats. The parish priest will present the candidates for Confirmation. The candidates are asked to stand and present themselves for receipt of the sacrament. This presentation of candidates is also part of the rite of ordination for a priest and bishop. It marks the willingness of the candidates to go forward and receive the sacrament that is about to be conferred on them. They stand up by themselves in marked contrast to the day when they were carried to the Church on their baptism.
- Renewal of Baptismal Promises:
After a homily by the bishop, the young people are asked to stand to renew the promises made for them at Baptism by their parents and godparents. Candidates renew their Baptismal promises during the Confirmation Ceremony to highlight the connection between Baptism and Confirmation. In the presence of the community and with their support and prayers we are confirming the promises made for us at our Baptism. We are now saying yes for ourselves to a Christian way of life and the community is witnessing that and promising to help us as we continue the journey of faith.
In Baptism we became children of God, followers of Jesus Christ, and members of the Church. In Confirmation we publicly profess our faith in God our Father and in Jesus Christ who sent us the Spirit to enable us to take part in the life and mission of the Church.
The renewal of promises reminds us of the close link between baptism and confirmation. It begins with a renunciation of sin. At baptism we took Jesus as our leader. The renewal of baptismal promises means that we want Jesus to continue as our leader.
- Laying on of Hands:
The laying on of hands is the biblical gesture by which the Holy Spirit in invoked. In the Acts of the Apostles (6:1-7), the Apostles lay their hands on the seven they chose to assist them. In Acts 13 the prophets and teachers of the Church at Antioch laid their hands onto Paul and Barnabas before they undertook the ministry for which God was calling them. The apostles used the laying on of hands to signify the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts of the Apostles 8:14-17). The laying on of hands is used in Confirmation and in other sacraments. In Confirmation it evokes the invisible gift of the Holy Spirit given to us by God.
The bishop accompanied by our priests lay their hands on the children for Confirmation during the prayer: It begins with the bishop saying:
My dear friends, in baptism God our Father gave the birth of eternal life to his chosen sons and daughters. Let us pray to our Father that he will pour out the Holy Spirit to strengthen his sons and daughters with this gift and anoint them to be more like Christ, the Son of God.
The bishop and our priests extend their hands over the candidates:
All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Anointing with Chrism:
The sacramental sign of Confirmation is the anointing with Chrism and the words ‘Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit’. The anointing with oil is a sign that we are being strengthened by the Holy Spirit, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are being given to them and that they are being blessed by God.
The oil used for this anointing is Chrism is a mixture of purest olive oil and balsam. Chrism is blessed by a bishop in a special manner at the Chrism Mass. Rather than making the sign of the cross over it, as with other blessings, the Bishop breathes on it, signifying the invocation of the Holy Spirit.
Chrism is used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders: the head of the newly baptised is anointed with chrism, the forehead of the person confirmed, the head and hands of a bishop at his consecration, and the hands of a priest at his ordination. It is used in the consecration of churches, chalices, patens, altars and altar-stones.
The candidates will be called by the name they have chosen for confirmation. The Bishop will then make the sign of cross with chrism on each candidate’s forehead using the words ‘be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ In doing this he echoes the words used in the Old Testament ‘I have called you by name. You are mine.’ The Sponsor stands behind the candidate during the anointing as support and witness. Signed with the perfumed oil, the young person receives the seal of the Lord and the gift of the Holy Spirit, drawing them closer to Christ and to the ministry for which all, as baptised Christians, are called.
It is an old custom to add a new name for confirmation. In the Old Testament God gave new names to some of the people he called to serve him, e.g. Abram became Abraham. In the New Testament Jesus called Simon to have a special place among his followers. As a sign of this calling Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter.
Confirmation calls us to follow Jesus more closely. Our lives are changed by this special gift of the Holy Spirit, and as a sign of that change we add a new name to our baptismal name.
In choosing a confirmation name, which must be a saint’s name, we choose a model and friend who will pray to God for us throughout our lives. This confirmation name we choose should, therefore, be the name of a saint we admire and whom we would like to imitate.
At Confirmation the sponsor presents the child to the bishop. The sponsor stands behind the child and places their hand on the child’s shoulder as a sign of support. At Baptism and Confirmation these sponsors promise to help and support the child to grow as a follower of Jesus.
The sponsors at Baptism are usually called the godparents. At Confirmation there is usually just one sponsor. To maintain the link between Baptism and Confirmation, one of the godparents usually acts as sponsor to the child.
At baptism, the godparents promise to help their godchild grow in the love of God as a member of the Church. The sponsors represent the whole community/Parish which rejoices as another person becomes fully part of the family of the Church. Because sponsors are so important, they must be: at least 16 years old; be active members of the Catholic Church; be able to give good example and encouragement to the person being confirmed.
The sponsor stands behind the person being confirmed who kneels before the bishop. As a sign of sponsorship, the sponsor puts a hand on the candidate’s shoulder. This gesture tells us:
That the whole community presents the candidate for confirmation
That we do not come to God alone
We come with the help and support of others.
Signing of the Cross:
When a legal document is drawn up, it is signed to show that it is genuine and binding. When we are signed with the cross, it is as if God is putting his signature on us. He has called us and chosen us.
The Greeting of Peace:
In the early days of the Church, the Greeting was the kiss of peace but, over the years, the kiss of peace became a tap on the cheek. People saw it as reminder that we had to be prepared to suffer for the sake of Christ and his Gospel.
The Sacrament of Confirmation is given to us so that we can give active witness to the love of God. It is given to us to change the world with the love of Christ.
SACRAMENT: Confirmation is a sacrament, a gift from God through Jesus which assures us of his love and in a special way makes that love present.
CELEBRATION: In the Rite of Confirmation we celebrate and, in a special way, make present the power and action of the Holy Spirit among us.
WITNESS: The spirit of truth given to us in confirmation calls us to witness to the truth about God. God calls us to give this witness in real and active ways.
STRENGTH: As the apostles were strengthened by the Holy Spirit so we are strengthened in confirmation. Our faith is deepened.
COMMUNITY: Confirmation is the way in which we are drawn completely into the life of the community of the Church. As members of the Church we must share its work and concerns.
CONFIRMATION: We have been called to make Christ’s love present and active in the world today.
CONFORMATION: Through the power of the Holy Spirit given to us in the Sacrament of Confirmation we are made more like (conformed to) Christ.
POWER: The Spirit given to us in confirmation gives us the power to do all that God asks of us.
ACTION: The confirmation call is a call to action – action which will make Christ known in our world.