Confirmation basics

| Father Michael Van Sloun | April 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

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Confirmation is one of the seven sacraments, and it belongs to a special group of sacraments, the sacraments of initiation, along with baptism and Eucharist.

Confirmation imparts the gift of the Holy Spirit, intensifies the gift received at baptism and completes baptismal grace. Once confirmed, the person is no longer considered a beginner in the faith who is dependent upon the faith of others, but rather someone who is mature, takes initiative, and is responsible for one’s own relationship with Jesus and is actively involved in the body of Christ, the Church.

A duty. The Church teaches that “the faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament” (Canon 890). A baptized Catholic is expected to seek and receive the sacrament of confirmation.

Prerequisites. Baptism is required before a person is eligible for confirmation, and proof must be provided with a baptismal certificate. The candidate must have faith, a basic understanding of the sacrament, a genuine desire to receive it and be able to renew one’s baptismal promises.

Age of reception. At one time in the early Church, all three sacraments of initiation were administered together, whether as an adult or an infant. Today, all three sacraments are administered together as the culmination of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), but separately for those who are baptized as infants. In the Latin rite, the appropriate time for confirmation is “the age of discretion” (Canon 891). It is customary for the bishop to establish a policy for the appropriate age in a diocese. It may be as early as second grade or as late as high school. A person of any age can be confirmed if there is danger of death.

Preparation with prayer. The two essential components for preparation for confirmation are prayer and study. Since the candidate intends to be bound more closely to Christ and his Church, private and communal prayer are indispensable — personal prayer alone each day and communal prayer each weekend at Mass. It may be beneficial to keep a prayer journal. A pre-confirmation retreat is highly recommended and may be required. Good works and community service are the natural outcome of prayer. It is necessary to be properly disposed and in the state of grace to receive the sacrament, so the candidate should approach the sacrament of reconciliation first.

Preparation with study. It is critical to learn more about the faith before taking a major step in the life of grace. The candidate is to enroll in a pre-confirmation catechetical program, a series of classes or presentations with a curriculum that covers the Trinity — particularly the Holy Spirit — as well as prayer, the sacraments, the Church, the creed, the commandments, and living the Christian faith as a committed adult. The candidate should attend the sessions, listen attentively, participate actively, read the materials and fulfill the program requirements. Participation in the parish youth group may also be required.

Sponsor. Each candidate is to have a sponsor, someone to serve as a spiritual mentor and companion. The person must be at least 16 years of age, fully initiated, actively practicing the Catholic faith, and not the candidate’s mother or father. It is desirable for the baptismal godparent to serve as the confirmation sponsor to emphasize the unity of the two sacraments (Catechism, No. 1311; Canon 893). The sponsor helps the candidate as a role model, guide and resource, and offers prayer, support and encouragement. The sponsor is able to testify before the community regarding the candidate’s faith, intention, moral character and readiness, and takes “care that the confirmed person behaves as a true witness of Christ and faithfully fulfills the obligations inherent in the sacrament” (Canon 892). Ideally, a spiritual partnership between the newly confirmed and the sponsor will continue for many years.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. This column is part of an ongoing series on confirmation.

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Category: Faith Fundamentals