Of the seven sacraments instituted by Christ, Confirmation
is probably the one that is least known or appreciated. Thats understandable
because it focuses on the working of the Holy Spirit who is often the
forgotten person of the Trinity. The Sacrament of Confirmation can be described
as the sacrament of spiritual maturity. It enriches the soul of the person with
deep graces (helps and assistance) of the Spirit. Confirmation is the sacrament that calls
recipients to witness courageously the gift of faith by word and, especially,
by the example of their lives. The Vatican IIs Dogmatic Constitution on the Church states that Catholics are more perfectly bound to the Church by the Sacrament
of Confirmation and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they
are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and deed,
as true witnesses
of Christ (Par. 11).
This sacrament harkens back to the great Pentecost event
(Acts: 2) when the disciples were huddled in the upper room and the Holy Spirit, whom
Jesus had promised them, came upon them in the form of a mighty wind and tongues of fire.
The disciples gathered there had been commanded by Jesus to take the good news of his
death and resurrection to the ends of the earth. Yet those gathered there, up to that
point, lacked a real understanding of what Jesus life and death fully meant. But at
the Last Supper Jesus assured them that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and
teach them all they needed to know. They would be strengthened to go everywhere proclaiming
Jesus as Lord and Savior. Pentecost was the moment of their confirmation.
The basic effects of Confirmation are: a) It roots us more deeply in
our relationship with God; b) it unites us more firmly with Christ and reminds us that every
sacrament we receive is an encounter with Jesus himself; c) it increases in us the gifts of the
Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety,
fortitude and fear of the Lord; d) it strengthens our bond to the Church;
e) finally, it gives us strength to spread and defend
the faith by word and deed.
If you consider what strengths we need simply to live our Christian, Catholic
lives in our present society and to make moral decisions in the face of serious temptation, it is
easy to see how we need wisdom and strength. For example, a married couple raising children need
to be able to counsel and encourage them to live their lives not by following the way of least
resistance, but by taking the basic gospel message (Love God and your neighbor) and
making it a part of their lives. No matter what our vocation, married, religious, priesthood
or single, we need the strength of the Spirit in our lives.
The Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred by the bishop and is usually
given in the early teen years when youngsters are mature enough to realize that they face
serious religious and moral issues in their lives. Those received into the Church at the
Easter Vigil (through Baptism or the Profession of Faith) are confirmed as part of their entrance rite into the Church.
Adults who have never received the sacrament for one reason or another should contact their pastor
to see when the sacrament can be received in a ceremony with other unconfirmed adults in their diocese.
However, the Sacrament of Confirmation is not a prerequisite to being married in the Church.
The oil used in the sacrament symbolizes strength given to profess
one’s faith in difficulty. The laying on of hands by the bishop is the symbol of the coming of the
Holy Spirit upon the person. Few, if any, of us may live in circumstances that demand we lay down
our lives for our beliefs. Yet there is seldom a day when we are not faced with difficult
choices that test the authenticity of our faith.
respond to Friar Jacks musings on Heralds of the King
Dear Friar Jack: Thank you for sharing St. Francis
thoughts on the Incarnation and all of nature. Sometimes environmental concerns
get written off as the worries of those crazy greenies. But
I just wonder how much healthier the planetand we!would be if we shared St. Francis
understanding. Thank you again, and Happy Adventing. Pat
Dear Friar Jack: For each of usin our own wayis called
to announce the arrival of Christs saving presence in our own world, you wrote
in your last column Heralds
of the King. How true! How challenging! My Christian vocation is a call to receive
God's free gift of grace, the gift of his self-emptying love for me. It will be most wicked
of me not to help others to receive that gift, too. To share in the mission of John the
Baptist, i.e., to announce the arrival of the King, is therefore my privilege and duty!
A blessed Advent, Friar Jack! Henry (Nairobi, Kenya)
Dear Henry: Letters like yours remind me of the global
reach of Internet efforts like Friar Jacks E-spirations. Its
wonderful to see that the spirit of St. Francis and the message of
Christ are embraced with joy in far off nations such as Kenya in Africa.
Thanks for your own hope-filled words! Friar Jack
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