Sacrament of Confirmation
The Sacrament of Confirmation celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit into the life of a human being. In the ‘west’ it is usually administered when a person is considered old enough to make a profession of faith in Christ Jesus, (generally not before the age of 11y or 12y). Confirmation completes the Sacrament of Baptism that was administered when the person was an infant and unable to make that profession of faith at that time.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit imparts his Seven gifts which enables the Christian to be bold and fearless in proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ. These gifts are:
1. Sapientia, (Wisdom). It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that helps us to judge the things of the world in light of the highest end of man – the contemplation of God.
2. Intellectus, (Understanding). This gift differs from wisdom in that wisdom is the desire to contemplate the things of God, while understanding allows us to “penetrate to the very core of revealed truths.”
3. Consilium, (Counsel). Through this gift of the Holy Spirit, we are able to judge how best to act almost by intuition. Because of the gift of counsel, Christians need not fear to stand up for the truths of the Faith, because the Holy Spirit will guide us in defending those truths.
4. Fortitudo, (Fortitude). It is the gift that allows us to overcome fear and to remain steady in our will in the face of all obstacles, physical and spiritual.
5. Scientia, (Knowledge). Through this gift of knowledge, we can ascertain God’s purpose in our lives and His reason for placing us in our particular circumstances. This gift of knowledge is sometimes called “the science of the saints,” because “it enables those who have the gift to discern easily and effectively between the impulses of temptation and the inspirations of grace.”
6. Pietas, (Piety). Piety is the gift that gives us an instinctive affection for God that makes us desire to render worship to Him.
7. Timor Domini, (Fear of the Lord). This gift of the Holy Spirit gives us the desire not to offend God, as well as the certainty that God will supply us the grace that we need in order to keep from offending Him.
In the Acts of the Apostles, (2, 1–13) we read of the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit and the immediate transformation it brought about in them. Now full of understanding, faith and courage they unlocked the doors from where they were hiding – and go out to the world to announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Who Can Receive this Sacrament?
All baptised persons must receive the Sacrament of Confirmation if they are to participate fully in the Christian life.
(In the case of a non-baptised adult wishing to share in the life of the Church the three great sacraments of initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist are administered all together after a suitable period of instruction – this programme is known as ‘Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults’ [RCIA]).
Sponsors at Confirmation
There is a tradition of having a sponsor stand behind the candidate for Confirmation who places her hand on the shoulder of the candidate during the Rite as a sign that she will support the candidate in living out her baptismal promises. Sponsors must be over the age of 16 years, and have already received the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.
The Confirmation sponsor may be one of the people who was a sponsor at Baptism.
Name at Confirmation
The tradition of taking a new name at Confirmation emphasises the new identity of a Christian being called to witness to their faith. People are encouraged to take the name of a saint or a person from the Bible who inspires them in some way.
Oil used at Confirmation
The oil used is called the Oil of Chrism. It is olive oil mixed with balsam that is blessed and consecrated by the bishop and priests of a diocese at the ‘Chrism Mass’ each Holy Thursday. The Sacrament is conferred with the anointing with this ‘Oil of Chrism’ on the forehead as the Bishop says ‘Be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit’.