Confirmation is a precious gift of grace won for us by Jesus Christ through his death on the cross. If you are interested in being Confirmed, the sections below will hopefully answer some of your questions. Also please come to one of the parish Confirmation classes. For more details, see our Parish Groups page.
The following questions and answers are derived from the Catholic Truth Society CTS Essentials pamphlet “Being Confirmed” (All rights reserved copyright 2005).
A big thank you to the CTS. Details of their website can be found on our Links page.
What does Confirmation mean ?
Confirmation is the completion of Baptism. It is a sign appointed by God which conveys the gift of His Holy Spirit. People sometimes put the emphasis wrongly on the candidate confirming his or her baptismal promises. This central moment of the sacrament, however is not this preliminary element but God confirming us by his sealing us with the gift of the Holy Spirit, signified by the oil of chrism administered by the bishop. “Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once because it too imprints on the soul an endelible spiritual mark or ‘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 can be His witness” (Catechism, 1304)
United to Christ
By our anointing, we are united more firmly to Christ. Notice that ‘Jesus Christ’ does not represent forename and surname but name and title, ‘Jesus the Christ‘ (Greek version of the Messiah, the “Anointed one”). He was anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism in the Jordan by John and we share His anointing in our Confirmation. By this sacrament, Christians share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which He is filled. Anointing with chrism at Confirmation is a sign of our consecration, our belonging to Christ and commitment to God’s service.
Drawn deeper into the Church
We are not only united more firmly to Christ, but also drawn deeper by Confirmation into the life of the Church by the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of unity, the Spirit of communion. What was begun in Baptism, our entry into and membership of Christ’s family, is perfected at Confirmation and is expressed most fully in the Eucharist. “The administration of this sacrament by bishops demonstrates clearly that its effect is to unite those who receive it more closely to the Church, to her apostolic origins and to her mission of bearing witness to Christ” (Catechism, 1313)
Filled with the Spirit
In Confirmation we are given a special strengthening by 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. As the Holy Spirit came upon the Church at Pentecost, empowering the apostles to spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world, so the Holy Spirit gives power to those who are confirmed to share in God’s work, His mission in the entire world. The sacrament of Confirmation commisions us to bear public witness to Christ.
At what age is a person confirmed ?
The usual age for Confirmation is from seven, considered to be the dawn of the age of reason, to teenage years. In the case of adults entering the Church, they receive Baptism and then are immediately confirmed and receive the Eucharist. This pattern of Confirmation and Eucharist, straight after adult Baptism was the practise of the Church of the early centuries> It illustrates the fact that the three sacraments of entry (‘initiation’) into the Church – Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist belong together. At the Easter vigil, the adults would be baptised in a separate building near the Church, the baptistry, and then would be confirmed by the Bishop before entering the Church to join the congregation for the Eucharist. Confirmation is the bishops part in initiation. In later centuries when the majority of candidates were children, Confirmation was usually delayed, perhaps for years, until the bishop came on his travels around the diocise and administered the sacramnent. So nowadays, as a result of these historical developments, the three sacraments of entry into the Church are separarated, with children baptised as infents, receiving First Holy Communion as seven or eight and Confirmation some years later.
The Ceremony of Confirmation
Young people are usually confirmed during a special Mass. After readings from Scripture and a homily, the candidates renew their baptismal promises. Then the bishop extends his hands over the whole group of candidates and calls God to send His Holt Spirit upon them. This Spirit is spoken of by the prophet Isaiah: “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of wonder and awe in God’s presence” (Is 11:2).
Each candidate, accompanied by a sponsor, then comes to the bishop, who traces a cross with the oil of chrism on the candidate’s forehead saying “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”. The bishop greets the newly confirmed person with a sign of peace. The ‘chrism’ used in Confirmation (also in Baptism and Ordination) is olive oil mixed with a perfume. This has been consecrated by the bishop at the ‘Chrism Mass’ in Holy Week. Its use signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In special circumstances
The ordinary minister of Confirmation is the bishop but in special circumstances (e.g. reception of an adult, baptised convert) he may delegate this ministry to a priest. Even when the bishop himself does not confirm, the link with him is maintained by the use of the chrism which he has consecrated.
In danger of death even very young children may be confirmed, for “the Church desires that none of her children, even the youngest, should depart this world without having been protected by the Holy Spirit with the gift of Christ’s fullness”. (Catechism, 1314)
What preparation ?
Preparation for Confirmation can take many different forms but whatever the programme, it should aim at leading the candidate to a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the work of the Holy Spirit. The candidate needs to develop a sense of belonging to the universal Church as well as the parish community. Shortly before Confirmation the candidate should make use of the sacrament of Reconciliation so as to be ready to receive the Holy Spirit.
Candidates will need the spiritual help of a sponsor who may well be one of the baptismal godparents.