The Nature of the Sacrament of Confirmation
The Nature of the Sacrament of Confirmation
The great gift of the Sacrament of Confirmation is described by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf.# 1285 ff):
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as children of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word.”…
In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him “without measure.”
This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age. Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.
Every baptized person not yet confirmed can and should receive the sacrament of Confirmation. Since Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist form a unity, it follows that “the faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament at the appropriate time,” for without Confirmation and Eucharist, Baptism is certainly valid and efficacious, but Christian initiation remains incomplete.
Preparation for Confirmation should aim at leading the Christian toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit—his actions, his gifts, and his biddings—in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life. To this end catechesis for Confirmation should strive to awaken a sense of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ, the universal Church as well as the parish community.
Preparation and Requirements
To receive Confirmation one must be in a state of grace and should receive the sacrament of Penance in order to be cleansed for the gift of the Holy Spirit. More intense prayer should prepare one to receive the strength and graces of the Holy Spirit with docility and readiness to act. Since the parish is primarily responsible for preparing candidates for the reception of this sacrament, the pastor will require formal education in the understanding of the sacrament. This will ordinarily take place in classroom instruction either at Presentation BVM School or St. Joseph Parish CCD Religious Education Program. Adults should make arrangements for the educational program with Fr. Harrison.
Candidates for Confirmation, as for Baptism, fittingly seek the spiritual help of a sponsor. To emphasize the unity of the two sacraments, it is appropriate that this can be one of the baptismal godparents. To be eligible to be a sponsor at Confirmation, as it is for godparents at Baptism, the individual:
- must have already celebrated their sixteenth birthday;
- must have already received Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist and must be regularly participating in the Sunday liturgy;
- must be presently living in conformity with Catholic doctrine and discipline;
- must receive a certificate indicating their eligibility according to church standards to be a sponsor from the pastor of their home parish where they are registered and practicing the faith. Non-Catholics and non-Christians may never stand as a sponsor for Confirmation.
Time of Celebration
Confirmation is ordinarily administered on a visit by a bishop, either the Archbishop or one of the auxiliary bishops. These visits to a parish are scheduled by the bishop’s office.
Confirmation of adults who have already been baptized in the Catholic faith can be received at this same time if they wish. They may also choose to receive Confirmation from the Archbishop of Philadelphia at the cathedral on the feast of Pentecost.
Confirmation of individuals who are to receive Baptism, or who are to be received into the Catholic Church, is usually scheduled for the Easter Vigil each year, celebrated in the parish.