Catholicism For Dummies
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@ Lennon Caranzo /

Just as bodies and minds grow, Catholics believe that the soul also needs to grow in the life of grace. The sacrament of confirmation builds on the sacraments of baptism, penance, and holy communion, completing the process of initiation into the Catholic community. (Note: The Byzantine Church confirms (or chrismates) at baptism and gives Holy Eucharist as well, thus initiating the new Christian all at the same time.)

What the Catholic sacrament of confirmation means

Confirmation, a sacrament of initiation, establishes young adults as full-fledged members of the faith. This sacrament is called confirmation because the faith given in baptism is now confirmed and made strong. During your baptism, your parents and godparents make promises to renounce Satan and believe in God and the Church on your behalf. At confirmation, you renew those same promises, this time speaking for yourself.

During confirmation, the focus is on the Holy Spirit, who confirmed the apostles on Pentecost and gave them the courage to practice their faith. Catholics believe that the same Holy Spirit confirms Catholics during the sacrament of confirmation and gives them the same gifts.

Traditionally, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude (courage), knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. These gifts are supernatural graces given to the soul. The 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity — human qualities that can be activated by the Holy Spirit.

The Catholic ritual of confirmation

The confirmation ceremony may take place at Mass or outside of Mass, and the presiding bishop wears red vestments to symbolize the red tongues of fire seen hovering over the heads of the apostles at Pentecost. Each person wishing to be confirmed comes forward with his or her sponsor, who may or may not be one of the godparents chosen for baptism.

When you’re confirmed, you get to choose a confirmation name to add to your first and middle names — or you can just use the names given to you at baptism. However, your new name must be a Christian name, such as one of the canonized saints or a hero from the Bible.

Here's what happens at the actual ritual of confirmation:
  1. You stand or kneel before the bishop.

  2. Your sponsor lays one hand on your shoulder and speaks your confirmation name.

  3. The bishop anoints you by using oil of Chrism (a consecrated oil) to make the sign of the cross on your forehead while saying your confirmation name and “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

  4. You respond, “Amen.”

  5. The bishop then says, “Peace be with you.”

  6. You respond, “And with your spirit” or “And also with you.”

And you are now an adult in the eyes of the Church.

Being confirmed in the Church means accepting responsibility for your faith and destiny. Adulthood, even young adulthood, means that you must do what’s right on your own, not for the recognition or reward but merely because it’s the right thing to do.

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