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The Sacrament of Confirmation

Updated on May 11, 2013

My Confirmation in the Year of Faith 2013

My sponsor and I are standing next to the Bishop who con-celebrated my Confirmation Mass on April 30th. Pope Benedict declared 2013 the Year of Faith. To honor it, I was finally confirmed in my church.
My sponsor and I are standing next to the Bishop who con-celebrated my Confirmation Mass on April 30th. Pope Benedict declared 2013 the Year of Faith. To honor it, I was finally confirmed in my church. | Source
Baptismal font
Baptismal font | Source

Confirmation Fast Facts

  • To be confirmed, you first need to have been baptized and to have completed your First Reconciliation (or First Penance) and First Holy Communion.
  • You must have a sponsor in order to be confirmed.
  • Your parent(s) cannot be your sponsor.
  • Your sponsor must be at least sixteen years old, also have been confirmed and be a practicing Catholic, in good standing with the Church.

What is the Sacrament of Confirmation?

While there are seven major Sacraments in the Roman Catholic faith, the Sacrament of Confirmation is one of the most important rites (or traditions) of the Roman Catholic Church, second only to Baptism. It is the second of the three Sacraments of Initiation, or the second Sacrament on the way to becoming a full member of the Roman Catholic Church and community. (Actually, the order in which the Sacraments are received by a Catholic individual would put Confirmation in third place. A Catholic is baptized as a baby; receives First Holy Communion (also called First Eucharist, Holy Eucharist) at about age 7; and is considered mature enough to profess his or her own faith, through the Sacrament of Confirmation, at about age 15.)

Roman Catholics are baptized as babies in order to correct the state of original sin with which we believe all human beings are born. Through Baptism, Jesus gives us divine life and joins Himself to us. However, a baby cannot profess his or her own faith (a necessary condition for an individual to become a full member of the Roman Catholic Church). That is why the Sacrament of Confirmation is usually received at around 15 years of age, when an individual is mature enough to reason, to consciously profess his or her own faith. In so doing, the individual receiving Confirmation completes the circle of grace begun by having received the Sacrament of Baptism. Through Confirmation, we receive the power to profess our faith in our everyday lives. The Sacrament of Confirmation completes the grace received from Jesus for “free” at Baptism by our conscious acceptance of Him, and, in this way, seals our individual relationship with Jesus while beginning our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, we essentially confirm our parents' and godparents' intent for our faith and spiritual salvation, as rational, reasoning, mature individuals.

Painting by Emile Claus – "First Communion"
Painting by Emile Claus – "First Communion" | Source

Pentecost As Basis for the Sacrament of Confirmation

"When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

"Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his [or her] own language. They were astounded, and in amazement, they asked, 'Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in [our] own native language? We are Parthians, Medes and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God." (Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11)

What Is the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation?

As Roman Catholics, we believe Jesus Christ instituted our Sacraments. But the Sacrament of Confirmation is really about the Holy Spirit (also called the Holy Ghost) descending on us as it descended upon Jesus' Apostles on Pentecost Sunday.

When we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit, a gift from Jesus to us, grants us the power to profess, defend and spread our faith, to proclaim the Gospels in our daily, everyday lives; this power is the Holy Spirit's gift to us. This gift opens us to the inspiration and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, which strengthens our wills.

The Works of Mercy

There are two types of Works of Mercy, Corporal and Spiritual.

The Corporal Works of Mercy

  1. Feed the hungry.
  2. Give drink to the thirsty.
  3. Clothe the naked.
  4. Visit the imprisoned.
  5. Shelter the homeless.
  6. Visit the sick.
  7. Bury the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy

  1. Admonish the sinner.
  2. Instruct the ignorant.
  3. Counsel the doubtful.
  4. Comfort the sorrowful.
  5. Bear wrongs patiently.
  6. Forgive all injuries.
  7. Pray for the living and the dead.

How Do Confirmed Catholics Profess and Spread the Faith?

Once we accept Confirmation, we accept the obligation to live the Commandments and the virtues of a good follower of Christ (as described in the Gospels) more perfectly; to truly follow the example of Jesus Christ’s life. This means that we pray for all people; publicly profess our belief in Christ; live our lives as role models (as good examples); perform the Works of Mercy; aid foreign and domestic missions through prayer, alms-giving, encouraging vocations to the missions and/or actually taking part in the work of the missions; participate in the “apostolate of suffering;” and take part in the work of the Church, that is, to sanctify its members and, through its members, to teach and sanctify the entire world.

In the Nicene Creed, the profession of faith said at almost every Mass, Roman Catholics state that we believe in an "apostolic" Church. This means that, once we are confirmed as full members of the Roman Catholic faith, and, thus, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, we share the responsibility of carrying the message of the Gospels and of Jesus to all peoples all over the world. For most of us, this means to our families, our friends, our co-workers. However, if we are truly to follow the example of Jesus Christ's public ministry, we need to show concern for everyone - not just the people we know - and we need to actively work to help solve the social justice issues of our day (homelessness, domestic violence, hunger, distribution of wealth, to name a few).

Rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation

The Rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation consists of three parts: the renewal of the baptismal promises by the confirmandi (people about to be confirmed), the imposition of hands by the minister of Confirmation, usually a Bishop, and the anointing with chrism oil and sign of peace.

The New Roman Missal Translation of the Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right side of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.


Renewal of the Baptismal Promises

The Bishop asks the candidates for Confirmation to stand and, essentially, profess their faith again by answering "I do" to five questions, taken from the five parts of the Nicene Creed, recited at each Mass. At Baptism, this faith is professed for the infant by the baby's parents and godparents (the baby's sponsors before the Church); at Confirmation, the teenager or adult candidate repeats this profession of faith willingly, consciously, in a more mature way. The candidates are to answer "I do" to all of the Bishop's questions.

The first question the Bishop asks is: "Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises?"

The second question the Bishop asks is: "Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?"

The third question the Bishop asks is: "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died and was buried, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?"

The fourth question the Bishop asks is: "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who came upon the Apostles at Pentecost and today is given to you sacramentally in confirmation?"

The fifth question the Bishop asks is: "Do you believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?"

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Roman Catholics believe that, through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit descends upon us and gives us the following gifts:

  1. Wisdom
  2. Understanding
  3. Counsel
  4. Fortitude
  5. Knowledge
  6. Piety
  7. Fear of the Lord

The Imposition of Hands

"Philip went down to [the] city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them...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 received the holy Spirit." (Acts of the Apostles 8:5, 14-17)

While some Christian denominations perform the imposition, or laying on, of hands by the minister’s physically placing his or her hands on congregants’ heads, for Roman Catholics it seems enough for the celebrating minister (in the Sacrament of Confirmation this is usually a Bishop) to raise his right hand in the air and say a prayer. This is a tradition that hails from at least the second century A.D.

My Confirmation Mass on April 30, 2013 was concelebrated (celebrated jointly, together) by my parish’s Pastor, our Parochial Vicar, a visiting priest and the Bishop. They all came and stood in front of the altar, facing the congregation, and raised their right hands over us while the Bishop said, “My dear friends: in Baptism, God, our Father, gave the new 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 his gifts and anoint them to be more like Christ, the Son of God. All-powerful God, the 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.” The entire congregation then responded, “Amen.”

The Anointing with Chrism Oil and Sign of Peace

This is the part of the Confirmation Mass where each candidate for Confirmation and his/her sponsor, presents him-/herself to the Bishop for anointing. This is also where the recipient usually takes a second name, essentially adopting a second patron saint. (Catholic first names, traditionally, are usually a saint's name and officially given, in the faith, at Baptism; this would be the first patron saint in the life of a Catholic child.)

As each candidate for Confirmation comes up to the Bishop, his or her sponsor places his/her right hand on the candidate’s left shoulder and essentially introduces the candidate to the Bishop and the congregation as a whole, stating the candidate’s chosen patron saint name (e.g., Mary, Margaret, John, Matthew, etc.).

The Bishop then makes the sign of the Cross with chrism oil (a mixture of olive oil and a perfume called balm – which smells just like Patchouli – that was consecrated by the bishop at the Holy Week Chrism Mass, held annually on Holy Thursday) on the forehead of each candidate, saying: “(Confirmation Name) be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The candidate for Confirmation replies, “Amen” and then the Bishop gives the newly confirmed individual the sign of peace, saying, “Peace be with you,” to which the newly confirmed replies, “And with your Spirit.”

Where the Sacrament of Baptism gives new birth, through Water, to each of us as an infant, reconciling us to God, the Father, by uniting us to Jesus Christ, the Sacrament of Confirmation seals this relationship by joining us even more deeply to Christ through our willing and conscious acceptance of His gift of the Holy Spirit. Through Confirmation, then, we come into full union with the entirety of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost).


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