Confirmation basics, part two

| Father Michael Van Sloun | May 21, 2020 | 0 Comments

Last month’s column provided the first half of a list of the basic aspects of the sacrament of confirmation: the duty to receive it, the prerequisites, the appropriate age, preparation with prayer and study, and the qualifications and duties of the sponsor. This article completes the list. Combined, the lists offer a general overview of confirmation.

Frequency. Confirmation is administered only once. It has a permanent, lifelong effect, an indelible character. It marks and changes the soul.

A bridging sacrament. Confirmation completes the sacraments of initiation and serves as the foundation for the sacraments of commitment: marriage and holy orders.

Confirmation name. In addition to one’s baptismal name and middle name, the candidate is confirmed with a third name, the confirmation name, a saint chosen by the confirmand. The new name reflects a change in status and a new reality, that the person is a fully initiated Catholic and has freely and intentionally made a mature, lifelong commitment to Christ and his Church. The saint serves as a personal patron, a model and inspiration for Christian living, a companion and protector on the journey of faith, and a special intercessor before God.

Minister. The ordinary minister of confirmation is the bishop of the diocese. He serves as a sign of unity with the universal Church. The bishop can delegate an auxiliary bishop, if there is one, or another bishop such as one who is visiting or retired, or a priest. A priest is the minister at the Easter Vigil for those who are baptized or received into the Church in the rite of full communion. A bishop or priest may confer the sacrament if there is danger of death.

Ritual method. Confirmation is conferred by an anointing with sacred chrism in the form of a cross on the forehead and applied by the right thumb of the minister. Simultaneously, there is an imposition of the hand, technically achieved by the anointing alone, but also demonstrated by the extended fingers and the open palm of the hand of the minister that are placed on the confirmand’s head as the person is anointed. The minister says, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The response is, “Amen.” Then the minister adds, “Peace be with you,” and the confirmand replies or the candidates from that parish alone. In emergency situations, confirmation may be conferred outside of a church.

Seasonal timing. The preferred time to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation is during the Easter season — the 50 days that begin with Easter when confirmation is celebrated at the Easter Vigil and end with Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation can be celebrated during any liturgical season.

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