PROVINCE OF EUROPE
A WESTERN [LATIN RITE] EXPRESSION OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH

 The Old Roman Catholic Church

Old Roman Catholic Church in Europe

Confirmation

Confirmation

"When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.

When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and
they received the Holy Spirit."
Acts of the Apostles 8:14-17

Young people or adults wishing to be received into the Catholic Faith or make their committment to the Catholic Faith after their infant Baptism are welcome to contact the Mission Clergy about receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation from the Bishop.  

Confirmation is the completion of Baptism. It is a sign appointed by God which conveys the gift of His Holy Spirit. People sometimes put the emphasis wrongly on the candidate confirming his or her Baptismal promises. This central moment of the sacrament, however is not this preliminary element but God confirming us by His sealing us with the gift of the Holy Spirit, signified by the Oil of Chrism administered by the Bishop.

In Confirmation we are given a special strengthening by the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the Faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly and never to be ashamed of the Cross. As the Holy Spirit came upon the Church at Pentecost, empowering the Apostles to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the world, so the Holy Spirit gives power to those who are confirmed to share in God's work, His mission in the entire world. The Sacrament of Confirmation commisions us to bear public witness to Christ.

After readings from Scripture and a homily in the Confirmation Mass, the candidates renew their Baptismal promises. Then the bishop extends his hands over the whole group of candidates and calls God to send His Holy Spirit upon them. This Spirit is spoken of by the prophet Isaiah: "the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of wonder and awe in God's presence" (Is 11:2).

Each candidate, accompanied by a sponsor, then comes to the Bishop, who traces a cross with the Oil of Chrism on the candidate's forehead saying "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit". The Bishop greets the newly confirmed person with a sign of peace. The 'Chrism' used in Confirmation (also in Baptism and Ordination) is olive oil mixed with a perfume. This has been consecrated by the Bishop at the 'Chrism Mass' in Holy Week. Its use signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Preparation for Confirmation can take many different forms but whatever the programme, it should aim at leading the candidate to a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the work of the Holy Spirit. The candidate needs to develop a sense of belonging to the universal Church as well as the parish community. Shortly before Confirmation the candidate should make use of the sacrament of Reconciliation so as to be ready to receive the Holy Spirit.

Candidates will need the spiritual help of a sponsor who may well be one of the baptismal godparents.

The Rite

 

I. Preparatory Ceremonies 

The Invocation

Turning to the candidates, the Bishop or delegated priest sings or says:

May the Holy Spirit come down upon you, and the power of the Most High keep you from all sin.Spiritus Sanctus superveniat in vos, et virtus Altissimi custodiat vos a peccatis.
R. AmenR. Amen

The Bishop or priest then makes the Sign of the Cross and says:

V. Our help + is in the Name of the Lord.V. Adjutorium + nostrum in nomine Domini.
R. Who made Heaven and earth.R. Qui fecit caelum et terram.
V. O, Lord, hear my prayer.V. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
R. And let my cry come unto You.R. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
V. The Lord be with you.V. Dominus vobiscum.
R. And with your spirit.
 
R. Et cum spiritu tuo.

The Collective and Preparatory Imposition of Hands

The Bishop or delegated priest stretches out his hands over the candidates and says:

Let us pray. Almighty, everlasting God, You have been pleased to regenerate these Your servants by water and the Holy Spirit, and have given them remission of all their sins; send forth upon them from Heaven Your sevenfold Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.Oremus. Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui regenerare dignatus es hos, famulos tuos ex aqua et Spiritu Sancto, quique dedisti eis remissionem omnium peccatorum: emitte in eos septiformem Spiritum tuum sanctum Paraclitum de caelis.
R. Amen.R. Amen.
V. The Spirit of Wisdom and understanding. V. Spiritum sapientiae et intellectus.
R. Amen.R. Amen.
The Spirit of Counsel and fortitude. Spiritum consilii et fortitudinis.
R. Amen.R. Amen.
The Spirit of knowledge and piety. V. Spiritum scientiea et pietatis.
R. Amen.R. Amen.
Fill them with the spirit of Your holy fear, and sign them with the sign of the cross + of Christ in mercy for eternal life. Through the same Jesus Christ... in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Adimple eos Spiritu timoris tui, et consigna eos signo crucis + Christi, in vitam propitiatus aeternam. Per eumdem Dominum... in unitate ejusdem Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.
R. Amen.R. Amen.
 

II. The Sacrament

The candidates may come up in two ranks with hands joined, carrying a card bearing their Confirmation names. Each sponsor places his right hand on the right shoulder of the candidate they are sponsoring.
The Bishop, or delegated priest, stretching the fingers of his right hand over the head of each candidate, addresses each candidate by his Confirmation name and annoints each candidate's forehead with his thumb dipped in holy chrism. He confirms then with the words below

"N., I sign thee with the sign + of the Cross, and I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation; in the Name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy + Ghost.""N., signo te signo crucis +  et confirmo te chrismate salutis, in nomine Patris + et Filii + et Spiritus + Sancti."

The newly-confirmed reply:

R. Amen.R. Amen.

The Bishop or priest then gently strikes each candidate on the cheek, symbolizing that the Christian is now a soldier for Christ and must endure suffering and the persecution that comes from conflict with the world. A hymn might now be sung if the candidates are numerous.


III. Concluding Prayers

When all have been confirmed, the following antiphon is sung or read:

ANT: Confirm, O Lord, what Thou has wrought in us, from Thy holy temple which is in Jerusalem. Alleluia. ANT: Confirma hoc, Deus, quod operatus es in nobis, a templo sancto tuo, quod est in Jerusalem. Alleuia.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. V. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.R. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

After the antiphon has been repeated, the Bishop or priest turns to the Altar and sings:

V. Lord, show up Your mercy.V. Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam.
R. And grant us Your salvation.R. Et salutare tuum da nobis.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.V. Domine, exaudi orationem mean.
R. And let my cry come to You.R. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
V. The Lord be with you.V. Dominus vobiscum.
R. And with your spirit.R. Et cum spiritu tuo.
V. Let us pray. O God, You gave Your Holy Spirit to Your apostles, and willed that through them and their successors the same gift should be delivered to all the faithful: look graciously on the service we humbly render to You; grant that the same Spirit, coming down upon those whose foreheads we have annointed with the holy chrism, and signed with the sign of the holy cross, may by His gracious indwelling make them a temple of His glory, You Who are God, living and reigning with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end.
R. Amen. R. Amen.

The Bishop then gives to the confirmed a special blessing in this form:

V. Behold, thus shall every man be blessed who fears the Lord: May the Lord bless + you out of Sion, that you may see the good things of Jerusalem all the days of your life, and have life everlasting. V. Ecce sic benedicetur omnis homo qui timet Dominum: Benedicat + vos Dominus ex Sion, ut videatis bona Jerusalem omnibus diebus vitae vestrae, et habeatis vitam aeternam.
R. Amen.R. Amen.

The Bishop sits down, and puts on his mitre. The newly confirmed recite aloud the Apostles' Creed, the Our Father, and the Hail Mary. The Bishop then gives the Pontifical Blessing to the entire congregation. A Te Deum or the Psalm Laudate pueri (Psalm 112) might be sung.

 

Present Practice & Doctrine 

Confirmation

A sacrament in which the Holy Ghost is given to those already baptized in order to make them strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.

It has been variously designated: bebaiosis or confirmatio, a making fast or sure; teleiosis or consummatio, a perfecting or completing, as expressing its relation to baptism. With reference to its effect it is the “Sacrament of the Holy Ghost”, the “Sacrament of the Seal” (signaculum, sigillum, sphragis). From the external rite it is known as the “imposition of hands” (epithesis cheiron), or as “anointing with chrism” (unctio, chrismatio, chrisma, myron). The names at present in use are, for the Western Church, confirmatio, and for the Greek, to myron.

I. PRESENT PRACTICE AND DOCTRINE

Rite

In the Western Church the sacrament is usually administered by the bishop. At the beginning of the ceremony there is a general imposition of hands, the bishop meantime praying that the Holy Ghost may come down upon those who have already been regenerated: “send forth upon them thy sevenfold Spirit the Holy Paraclete.” He then anoints the forehead of each with chrism saying: “I sign thee with the sign of the cross and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” Finally, he gives each a slight blow on the cheek saying: “peace be with thee”. A prayer is added that the Holy Spirit may dwell in the hearts of those who have been confirmed, and the rite closes with the bishop’s blessing.

The Eastern Church omits the imposition of hands and the prayer at the beginning, and accompanies the anointing with the words: “the sign [or seal] of the gift of the Holy Ghost.” These several actions symbolize the nature and purpose of the sacrament: the anointing signifies the strength given for the spiritual conflict; the balsam contained in the chrism, the fragrance of virtue and the good odor of Christ; the sign of the cross on the forehead, the courage to confess Christ, before all men; the imposition of hands and the blow on the cheek, enrollment in the service of Christ which brings true peace to the soul. (Cf. St. Thomas, III:72:4).

Minister

The bishop alone is the ordinary minister of confirmation. This is expressly declared by the Council of Trent (Sess. VII, De Conf., C. iii). A bishop confirms validly even those who are not his own subjects; but to confirm licitly in another diocese he must secure the permission of the bishop of that diocese. Simple priests may be the extraordinary ministers of the sacrament under certain conditions. In such cases, however, the priest cannot wear pontifical vestments, and he is obliged to use chrism blessed by a Catholic bishop. In the Greek Church, confirmation is given by simple priests without special delegation, and their ministration is accepted by the Western Church as valid. They must, however, use chrism blessed by a patriarch.

Matter and Form

There has been much discussion among theologians as to what constitutes the essential matter of this sacrament. Some, e.g. Aureolus and Petavius, held that it consists in the imposition of hands. Others, with St. Thomas, Bellarmine, and Maldonatus, maintain that it is the anointing with chrism. According to a third opinion (Morinus, Tapper) either anointing or imposition of hands suffices. Finally, the most generally accepted view is that the anointing and the imposition of hands conjointly are the matter. The “imposition”, however, is not that with which the rite begins but the laying on of hands which takes place in the act of anointing. As Peter the Lombard declares: Pontifex per impositionem manus confirmandos ungit in fronte (IV Sent., dist. xxxiii, n. 1; cf. De Augustinis, “De re sacramentaria”, 2d ed., Rome, 1889, I). The chrism employed must be a mixture of olive oil and balsam consecrated by a bishop. (For the manner of this consecration and for other details, historical and liturgical, see CHRISM.) The difference regarding the form of the sacrament, i.e. the words essential for confirmation, has been indicated above in the description of the rite. The validity of both the Latin and the Greek form is unquestionable. Additional details are given below in the historical outline.

Recipient

Confirmation can be conferred only on those who have already been baptized and have not yet been confirmed. As St. Thomas says:

Confirmation is to baptism what growth is to generation. Now it is clear that a man cannot advance to a perfect age unless he has first been born; in like manner, unless he has first been baptized he cannot receive the Sacrament of Confirmation (ST III:72:6).

They should also be in the state of grace; for the Holy Ghost is not given for the purpose of taking away sin but of conferring additional grace. This condition, however, refers only to lawful reception; the sacrament is validly received even by those in mortal sin. In the early ages of the Church, confirmation was part of the rite of initiation, and consequently was administered immediately after baptism. When, however, baptism came to be conferred by simple priests, the two ceremonies were separated in the Western Church. Further, when infant baptism became customary, confirmation was not administered until the child had attained the use of reason. This is the present practice, though there is considerable latitude as to the precise age. The Catechism of the Council of Trent says that the sacrament can be administered to all persons after baptism, but that this is not expedient before the use of reason; and adds that it is most fitting that the sacrament be deferred until the child is seven years old, “for Confirmation has not been instituted as necessary for salvation, but that by virtue thereof we might be found well armed and prepared when called upon to fight for the faith of Christ, and for this kind of conflict no one will consider children, who are still without the use of reason, to be qualified.” (Pt. II, ch. iii, 18.)

Such, in fact, is the general usage in the Western Church. Under certain circumstances, however, as, for instance, danger of death, or when the opportunity of receiving the sacrament is but rarely offered, even younger children may be confirmed. In the Greek Church and in Spain, infants are now, as in earlier times, confirmed immediately after baptism. Leo XIII, writing 22 June, 1897, to the Bishop of Marseilles, commends most heartily the practice of confirming children before their first communion as being more in accord with the ancient usage of the Church.

Effects

Confirmation imparts

* an increase of sanctifying grace which makes the recipient a “perfect Christian”;

* a special sacramental grace consisting in the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost and notably in the strength and courage to confess boldly the name of Christ;

* an indelible character by reason of which the sacrament cannot be received again by the same person.

Regarding the obligation of receiving the sacrament, it is admitted that confirmation is not necessary as an indispensable means of salvation (necessitate medii).

On the other hand, its reception is obligatory (necessitate præcepti) “for all those who are able to understand and fulfill the Commandments of God and of the Church. This is especially true of those who suffer persecution on account of their religion or are exposed to grievous temptations against faith or are in danger of death. The more serious the danger so much greater is the need of protecting oneself”. (Conc. Plen. Balt. II, n. 250.) As to the gravity of the obligation, opinions differ, some theologians holding that an unconfirmed person would commit mortal sin if he refused the sacrament, others that the sin would be at most venial unless the refusal implied contempt for the sacrament. Apart, however, from such controversies the importance of confirmation as a means of grace is so obvious that no earnest Christian will neglect it, and in particular that Christian parents will not fail to see that their children are confirmed.

Publication information

Written by T.B. Scannell. Transcribed by Charles Sweeney, S.J..

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

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