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The Catholic Defender: Confirmation

From the writing Ordo Confirmation is (550 A.D.) the Bishop invokes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, “All powerful God, 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 judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. We ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord.” The Sacrament of Confirmation is one of the seven Sacraments that our Lord established through the Church for ministering to his people. The coming of the Holy Spirit began with Pentecost, and its associated miracles.

The Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles, then, and has remained with us ever since. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to make us holy.

This begins at Baptism. The Holy Spirit implants sanctifying grace, empowering us with faith and love. The faith can be embodied in its attitudes and rites before it is explicitly formulated.

Acts 8:14-17 states, “Now when the Apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, since they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” The “laying on with hands” is the oldest name given for the Sacrament of Confirmation. This happens when the Apostles pray over the person receiving the gift. Acts 19:5, 6 states, “And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”

Confirmation, thus, is the Sacrament whereby the Apostles and their successors anoint the Holy Spirit by laying of hands and anointing with chrism. By the end of the second century, extraordinary and miraculous charisma had largely disappeared.

Pope Gregory the Great (604 A. D.) explained it by pointing out that such charismatic signs were “necessary in the first days of faith, but not in later years” (Homiliae in Evanfelia, Hom 29.4).

The Holy Spirit is poured out upon the recipient through the invocation of the Bishop. During the Easter Vigil the Priest is authorized to Confirm by proxy for the Bishop.

What a great blessing and honor it was to participate in this process while serving in Iraq.

I had 70 Soldiers preparing for the Easter Vigil who all had participated in the RCIA program.

In Iraq I was graced to be one of the leading Catechists is Baghdad as we Confirmed all of the Candidates and Catechumens.

The miracle is that all those receiving this great Sacrament received the Holy Spirit with all the blessings, as those from the beginning.

Pope Pius XII states in his encyclical, Mediator Dei, 11/20/47, “…that we learn of confirmation through its liturgy is significant. This highlights the importance of liturgy as a means of knowing and transmitting religious teaching.” As water is used in baptism, olive oil, perfumed with balsam is used in Confirmation, the Sacrament of the Holy Spirit. It is Pentecost extended throughout the world, perpetuated and made ever present in the church. It is a call to spread the Kingdom of Christ, to spread the message of salvation.

Pope Paul VI states in his encyclical, Divine Consortium Nature, 8/15/71, “The sharing in the divine nature which is granted to men through the grace of Christ has a certain likeness in the origin, development, and nourishing of natural life. The faithful are born anew by baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of confirmation and finally are sustained by the food of eternal life in the Eucharist.”

St. Paul says, “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ; and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2Corinthians 1:21,22).

The bishop who administers Confirmation will state, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We are called to be a witness for Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, to be a Holy Nation, a people set apart to be the ‘Light of the World,’ and ‘Salt of the Earth.’ Our lives should be transformed from our former self to become a new creature in Christ. In the RCIA, we encourage people to see this faith as a pilgrimage, a journey of faith to be lived.

St. Paul described this growing process, the Mystery. “The mystery, which is Christ in you… Him we proclaim, warning every man teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:27,28).

Jesus says, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witness…to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Church declares that those who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation “…are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by both work and by deed as true witnesses of Christ” (Dogmatic Constitution of the Church). The Church teaches us to be merciful in various ways. These are taken from Matthew 25:31-45, and are called the corporal works of mercy:

Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Cloth the naked. Shelter the homeless. Comfort the imprisoned. Visit the sick. Bury the dead

The spiritual works of mercy are:

Admonish sinners. Instruct the uninformed. Counsel the doubtful. Comfort the sorrowful. Be patient with those in error. Forgive offenses. Pray for the living and the dead.

Let us in our day reaffirm our baptismal/confirmation vows to reject the glamour of evil and follow the most Holy Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One simple way to do this is the holy water font.

The custom of the holy water font goes all the way back to Pope Alexander I near the year 105. He placed the font at the front of the meeting place to illustrate that the Sanctuary had been opened up for all. In the Old Testament only the priests used the holy water.

He was the fifth successor of Saint Peter.

This custom began to remind us of our baptismal vows.

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