Confirmation is one of the three Rites of Initiation in the Catholic Church, and is one of the most important Catholic sacraments. All Catholics, whether cradle Catholics or converts, will experience their own Confirmation.
It’s an incredibly common rite and sacrament, but the beliefs behind it can be a bit confusing. So, if you, or someone you know, is planning to be confirmed, there are a few things you should know before the big day.
What is Confirmation?
Confirmation is meant to confirm the faith given to a person in Baptism. By confirming their faith, it is being made stronger. One way Catholics often describe the effects of Confirmation is by saying that Confirmation allows the soul to mature, just like a body will mature with age.
This is a quintessential step in a Catholic’s life that brings them closer than ever to God.
To understand the Sacrament of Confirmation, you need to first understand Pentecost, because the two are directly related to each other.
Pentecost commemorates the Holy Spirit’s descent on the Apostles, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus’ other disciples. By being filled with the Holy Spirit, they were given twelve fruits, or gifts: charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity.
These supernatural graces given by God to his followers helped them to stay faithful Christians, and gave them courage to live their lives in a holy way.
These are the same gifts given to believers during their Confirmation. Confirmation, like the Pentecost, works as a way to reward and prepare believers for life as a follower of Christ.
Once confirmed, the soul is able to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to mature in preparation for the candidate’s life ahead.
The tradition of Confirmation is thousands of years old. Its parallels with the Bible and the early Christians are incredible. When you get confirmed, you’re not only celebrating a new life in God, but are celebrating a part of Church history.
How Does Confirmation Work?
Traditionally, Confirmation would take place before First Communion, and after Baptism. But since 1932, the second and third sacraments are allowed to be switched.
Catholics can do Confirmation and First Communion at the age of 7 (the common age range for First Communion is 7-13, and for Confirmation it is 7-18). However, most people choose to do Confirmation when they are a bit older and can have a better understanding of the meaning behind the ceremony.
It is often the diocese or parish that a church is attached to that chooses the age for Confirmation. For adult converts, all three of the Rites of Initiation will happen on the same day.
The Confirmation ritual itself is a part of a Confirmation Mass that is said specifically for the candidates and their families. This mass is quite similar to other masses – there are readings from the Bible and homilies – but the focus of the mass will be on the Holy Spirit and what it means to be confirmed into the Catholic faith.
The clergy will likely be wearing red robes during this mass to represent the flames of the Holy Spirit depicted over the apostles’ heads in Pentecost paintings.
Towards the end of the mass, the Confirmation candidates will be addressed directly by the bishop, and the third Rite of Initiation will begin.
1.The candidates and their sponsors come forward
All candidates must have a sponsor who is over the age of 16 and who has already been confirmed. A sponsor can be a godmother or godfather, but can also be another member of the Church who the candidate looks up to.
2. The candidates select their Confirmation name
Each candidate picks a name for themselves. This name must hold religious significance, whether it comes from the Bible, or is the name of a saint.
3. The candidates kneel in front of the bishop
While the candidate is kneeling, the bishop speaks the chosen Confirmation name, then puts Chrism Oil on the candidate’s forehead.
The bishop will then say, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The candidate responds with, “Amen.” The bishop will speak again saying, “Peace be with you.” And the candidate responds, “And with your spirit.”
Once Confirmation is over, the candidate is completely initiated into the Christian community. They can now be thought of as mature members of the faith, and may be taken more seriously by other members of the community.
For someone who wants to be a real part of the Catholic faith, going through Confirmation is a major step. But, while it may be the final Rite of Initiation, it is only the beginning of a person’s religious journey.
Once confirmed, a person can really begin thinking about their future as a Catholic, and what that means to them. Volunteering at Church, becoming a Sunday School teacher, becoming a deacon or parochial vicar or priest, or even joining religious orders – these opportunities and more open up to Catholics once confirmed.
Whatever the person chooses to do, the Holy Spirit will be with them, helping them out along the way.
Here are great gift ideas to celebrate confirmation