This month we are focusing on the Sacrament of Confirmation in our bulletin columns. For several years now, the parishes of our diocese have been in the process of implementing the “restored order” of the Sacraments of Initiation. Confirmation is the second sacrament of Initiation, which is why it is more appropriate to receive it before receiving first Holy Communion.
There is a mistaken understanding that some hold in our Church today, which comes from the meaning of the word “Confirmation.” Confirmation in this sense means a strengthening or fortifying. It’s like putting a spiritual suit of armor on a new Christian! Because Confirmation was given around the time of adolescence for several decades in the United States, the understanding has been flip-flopped. I remember at the time I was Confirmed that my classmates and I understood that we were confirming our belief in Jesus. This is obviously a very good thing to do, and one that we do every day as Christians. However, receiving a sacrament is not about what we do for God, but what God does for us.
This misunderstanding is not a new idea in the Church, and even the Council of Trent (around 1550) spoke about this. One of the statements of this ecumenical council was, “If anyone says that the Confirmation of those who have been baptized is a catechism whereby those near adolescence give an account of their faith in the face of the Church, let him be anathema.” This is a normal formula used by Church councils to explain that an idea is not in accord with the Catholic Faith. This statement was a response to some Christians who believed that while Baptism was a sacrament, Confirmation was not a true sacrament and was simply a way for youth to express their faith.
As with all the sacraments, it is important to keep in mind that the sacraments impart God’s divine life to us. Expressing our faith is, of course, an essential part of the Christian life, but sacraments are all about receptivity. Some Christian traditions give babies Confirmation in the same ceremony as Baptism, which really emphasizes the receptive aspect of the sacraments!
More and more dioceses are moving to implement the restored order of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist around the country. Hopefully younger children receiving this great sacrament will be more receptive than older teenagers who have often already checked out of their faith life or abandoned it altogether. Every day, we should ask the Holy Spirit to be with us and fill with his love which was increased and strengthened in our reception of the sacrament of Confirmation.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.