With the recent mitigations in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state, we had to make the difficult decision to suspend several of our in-person activities for Faith Formation, including our Family of Faith program for our children. But we can see God’s Providence working in having our parish switch to this model last year, giving our families the experience to undertake the important work of faith formation in their homes, the domestic church. Even though we are not gathering physically as a group, we continue to move forward!
As we move into December, the sacrament of the month is the Sacrament of Confirmation. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Confirmation completes the grace of Baptism, so it is only logical that we focus on this sacrament after having just completed a month with Baptism. I would like to focus on what is called the “essential rite” of Confirmation, which is what is absolutely necessary for the sacrament to be conferred validly. Here is what the Catechism says:
The essential rite of the sacrament follows. In the Latin rite, “the sacrament of Confirmation is conferred through the anointing with chrism on the forehead, which is done by the laying on of the hand, and through the words: ‘Accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti‘ [Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.].” (CCC 1300)
The use of Sacred Chrism for this sacrament is worth reflecting on for a moment. This holy oil is used anytime the Church consecrates somebody for a special mission. At Baptism, the newly baptized anointed with Sacred Chrism and is set apart as a child of God, called to live a life of holiness and to one day be in Heaven. Confirmation sets us apart for the spreading and defending of the faith, aided by the new outpouring of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Bishops and Priests are anointed with Sacred Chrism at their ordination, signifying that they are set apart for their participation in the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ in service to the people of God, especially though the celebration of the sacraments.
Sacred Chrism is also used to consecrate things. In particular, it is used to consecrate churches and altars, for these are set aside for the purpose of offering a sacred place in which to worship God and to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. Just this past week, on December 2, we celebrated the Anniversary of the Re-Dedication of our Cathedral. One of the greatest parts of that ceremony was the consecration of the new altar. I remember vividly that moment of the Mass as Archbishop Lucas spread the Sacred Chrism all over the altar, creating that beautiful aroma that comes from that holy oil. Since that day, the altar has served its purpose of being a place set apart for God. May we recall the day of our Confirmation (if we have been confirmed) and ask for the grace to rededicate ourselves to living our vocation to be set apart for the spreading and defending the faith in our daily lives, confident of the power of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to assist us.