Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Acts 8:14-17 "Now, when the apostles, who were in Jerusalem, had heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John. Who, when they were come, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. For he was not as yet come upon any of them: but they were only baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands upon them: and they received the Holy Ghost.

Ephesians 4:30 "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God: whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption."

First, what is Confirmation (also called "Chrismation")? What does Confirmation do? Confirmation:

  • indelibly seals us to the Holy Ghost, hence its name, "Sacrament of the Seal." Because this seal is indelible and leaves a permanent mark on the recipient's soul, the Sacrament, like Baptism and Holy Orders, may be received only once.
  • gives us the sanctifying grace to become perfect Christians and true soldiers of Christ, well-armed to defend Christ as King, His Mother as Queen, and the Church Militant as His Kingdom on earth. God confirms us (strengthens us) so we may do spiritual battle.
  • imparts to us the 7 Gifts of the Holy Ghost, as in a "personal Pentecost":
    • Wisdom
    • Understanding
    • Counsel
    • Fortitude
    • Knowledge
    • Piety
    • Fear of the Lord

The Sacrament may only be received by one who is baptized, preferrably while he is in a state of grace (i.e., not in a state of mortal sin). If it is received when the recipient is not in a state of grace, it is illicilty but still validly received; the fruits of the Sacrament will be delayed until he receives Penance. In addition, if the confirmand (the one to be confirmed) has reached the age of reason, he should be well-catechized and know the Pater (Our Father), the Ave (Hail Mary), the Apostles' Creed, and the 10 Commandments.

The ordinary minister of Confirmation is the Bishop; priests are extraordinary ministers of the Sacrament and may offer the Sacrament if the Bishop authorizes them to. The matter is the imposition of hands, the chrism, and the annointing. The form of the Sacrament is:

"N., I sign thee with the sign + of the Cross, and I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation; in the Name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy + Ghost.".

"N., signo te signo crucis +  et confirmo te chrismate salutis, in nomine Patris + et Filii + et Spiritus + Sancti."

As in Baptism, a sponsor is chosen to stand for the confirmand. The sponsor should be a baptized and confirmed Catholic who's at least 14 years old, is of the same sex as the confirmand, and is well-instructed in the Faith. Also as in Baptism, among those who may not act as sponsors are: members of religious orders, spouses in respect to each other, parents in respect to their own children, infidels, heretics, members of condemned secret societies, and public sinners. The 1917 Code of Canon Law excludes godparents from being sponsors except in cases of emergency, but the 1983 Code of Canon Law recommends the opposite practice: that the godparent should act as sponsor at Confirmation if at all possible in order to better tie Baptism and Confirmation together.

In any case, just as Abram became Abraham, as Jacob became Israel, as Simon became Peter, and as Saul became Paul, the confirmand takes on the name of a Saint when he is sealed to the Holy Ghost. This isn't necessary for the sake of validity, but it is the traditional practice of the Church, and especially important for those whose Baptismal names are pagan. Read the lives of the Saints and choose your patron well!

If one is raised a Catholic, one is usually confirmed around the age of 7 or so, though Confirmation may come earlier or later at the discretion of the priest and Bishop. If a child attends a Catholic school, he may be confirmed along with classmates in preparation for First Communion together as a class. If one enters the Church as an adult, he is usually baptized (if necessary), confirmed, and offered his first Communion all at the same time (usually at the Easter Vigil), but Confirmation may take place outside of the Easter Vigil, at the discretion of the Bishop and the priest.

On a cultural note, just as in Baptism, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, and one's First Communion, it is customary for guests to bring a small gift to the one receiving the Sacrament, a gift usually, but not necessarily, religious in nature. Icons of his new patron, rosaries, books, etc. are typical. A small party may follow the ceremony, especially in the case of young confirmands. When children are confirmed as a part of a class -- or if a thoughtful adult remembers in the case of a child being confirmed by himself -- the boys wear red rosettes on their lapels, and girls typically wear a pin that symbolizes the Holy Ghost (such as a pin of a dove).

The Rite of Confirmation

I. Preparatory Ceremonies 

The Invocation

Turning to the candidates, the Bishop or delegated priest sings or says:

May the Holy Spirit come down upon you, and the power of the Most HIgh keep you from all sin. Spiritus Sanctus superveniat in vos, et virtus Altissimi custodiat vos a peccatis.
R. Amen R. Amen

The Bishop or priest then makes the Sign of the Cross and says:

V. Our help + is in the Name of the Lord. V. Adjutorium + nostrum in nomine Domini.
R. Who made Heaven and earth. R. Qui fecit caelum et terram.
V. O, Lord, hear my prayer. V. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
R. And let my cry come unto You. R. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
V. The Lord be with you. V. Dominus vobiscum.
R. And with your spirit.
R. Et cum spiritu tuo.

The Collective and Preparatory Imposition of Hands

The Bishop or delegated priest stretches out his hands over the candidates and says:

Let us pray. Almighty, everlasting God, You have been pleased to regenerate these Your servants by water and the Holy Spirit, and have given them remission of all their sins; send forth upon them from Heaven Your sevenfold Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. Oremus. Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui regenerare dignatus es hos, famulos tuos ex aqua et Spiritu Sancto, quique dedisti eis remissionem omnium peccatorum: emitte in eos septiformem Spiritum tuum sanctum Paraclitum de caelis.
R. Amen. R. Amen.
V. The Spirit of Wisdom and understanding. V. Spiritum sapientiae et intellectus.
R. Amen. R. Amen.
The Spirit of Counsel and fortitude. Spiritum consilii et fortitudinis.
R. Amen. R. Amen.
The Spirit of knowledge and piety. V. Spiritum scientiea et pietatis.
R. Amen. R. Amen.
Fill them with the spirit of Your holy fear, and sign them with the sign of the cross + of Christ in mercy for eternal life. Through the same Jesus Christ... in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Adimple eos Spiritu timoris tui, et consigna eos signo crucis + Christi, in vitam propitiatus aeternam. Per eumdem Dominum... in unitate ejusdem Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.
R. Amen. R. Amen.

II. The Sacrament

The candidates may come up in two ranks with hands joined, carrying a card bearing their Confirmation names. Each sponsor places his right hand on the right shoulder of the candidate they are sponsoring.

The Bishop, or delegated priest, stretching the fingers of his right hand over the head of each candidate, addresses each candidate by his Confirmation name and annoints each candidate's forehead with his thumb dipped in holy chrism. He confirms then with the words below

"N., I sign thee with the sign + of the Cross, and I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation; in the Name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy + Ghost." "N., signo te signo crucis +  et confirmo te chrismate salutis, in nomine Patris + et Filii + et Spiritus + Sancti."

The newly-confirmed reply:

R. Amen. R. Amen.

The Bishop or priest then gently strikes each candidate on the cheek, symbolizing that the Christian is now a soldier for Christ and must endure suffering and the persecution that comes from conflict with the world. A hymn might now be sung if the candidates are numerous.

III. Concluding Prayers

When all have been confirmed, the following antiphon is sung or read:

ANT: Confirm, O Lord, what Thou has wrought in us, from Thy holy temple which is in Jerusalem. Alleluia. ANT: Confirma hoc, Deus, quod operatus es in nobis, a templo sancto tuo, quod est in Jerusalem. Alleuia.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. V. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. R. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

After the antiphon has been repeated, the Bishop or priest turns to the Altar and sings:

V. Lord, show up Your mercy. V. Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam.
R. And grant us Your salvation. R. Et salutare tuum da nobis.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer. V. Domine, exaudi orationem mean.
R. And let my cry come to You. R. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
V. The Lord be with you. V. Dominus vobiscum.
R. And with your spirit. R. Et cum spiritu tuo.
V. Let us pray. O God, You gave Your Holy Spirit to Your apostles, and willed that through them and their successors the same gift should be delivered to all the faithful: look graciously on the service we humbly render to You; grant that the same Spirit, coming down upon those whose foreheads we have annointed with the holy chrism, and signed with the sign of the holy cross, may by His gracious indwelling make them a temple of His glory, You Who are God, living and reigning with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end.
R. Amen. R. Amen.

The Bishop then gives to the confirmed a special blessing in this form:

V. Behold, thus shall every man be blessed who fears the Lord: May the Lord bless + you out of Sion, that you may see the good things of Jerusalem all the days of your life, and have life everlasting. V. Ecce sic benedicetur omnis homo qui timet Dominum: Benedicat + vos Dominus ex Sion, ut videatis bona Jerusalem omnibus diebus vitae vestrae, et habeatis vitam aeternam.
R. Amen. R. Amen.

The Bishop sits down, and puts on his mitre. The newly confirmed recite aloud the Apostles' Creed, the Our Father, and the Hail Mary. The Bishop then gives the Pontifical Blessing to the entire congregation. A Te Deum or the Psalm Laudate pueri (Psalm 112) might be sung.

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