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The sacrament of confirmation

By Sean Martin
John Paul II Generation

What is Confirmation?
Confirmation is the Sacrament of Initiation “in which we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to be soldiers of Christ by steadfastly professing our faith and faithfully living up to it” (John J. Keating, C.S.P. Outlines of Catholic Teaching 85). The recipient of Confirmation is obliged to spread and defend the Catholic Faith in word and deed, to go out and be Christ’s “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). He or she receives the Holy Spirit more fully in their life to say no to sin and temptation and to say yes to Christ. St. Cyril of Jerusalem said “Just as Christ, after his baptism, and the coming upon him of the Holy Spirit, went forth and defeated the adversary, so also with you after holy Baptism and the Mystical Chrism, having put on the panoply of the Holy Spirit, you are to withstand the power of the adversary and defeat him, saying, ‘I am able to do all things in Christ, who strengthens me’" (William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers 842a).

“The reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of Baptismal grace” (CCC 1285). In Baptism a person receives the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity, the infused virtues, and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation completes and perfects those infused virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit. “It roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, ‘Abba! Father!’; it unites us more firmly to Christ; it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us; it renders our bond with the Church more perfect; it gives us a special strength of 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” (CCC 1303).

Who can receive Confirmation?
Any baptized person, who has not already been confirmed, is in good standing with the Church, in the state of grace, and according to the age requirements of the person’s particular Rite can receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Confirmation is only given once “for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark” (CCC 1304). In the some of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, Confirmation is received as an infant immediately following Baptism. In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, Confirmation can be received at the age of discretion, which has been defined at the age of 7 years old. In the United States in the Latin Rite, the age norm for reception of Confirmation is from the age range of the age of discretion to sixteen years old (Cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Rite of Confirmation 1971).

Regarding spiritual maturity of children, St. Thomas Aquinas stated “age of body does not determine age of soul. Even in childhood man can attain spiritual maturity: as the book of Wisdom says: ‘For old age is not honored for length of time, or measured by number of years.’ Many children, through the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received, have bravely fought for Christ even to the shedding of their blood” (CCC 1308).

Who is the minister of Confirmation?
In the Latin Rite, the ordinary minister for the Sacrament of Confirmation is the local bishop, and with expressed permission from the local bishop the extraordinary minister is the priest. In the Eastern Rites, it is ordinary for the priest to Confirm immediately after Baptism (CCC 1312).

What is needed for Confirmation to be valid?
The essential elements for the Sacrament of Confirmation are the proper form, matter, and intentions. The proper form is the words of the minister “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit." The proper matter is the anointing with Sacred Chrism on the forehead of the recipient and the laying on of hands. The minister must intend to do what the Church intends for the Sacrament of Confirmation.

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