What is Catholic Confirmation?

The History of Confirmation
         
In the Bible, according to Acts of the Apostles (8:14-17) after the Samaritan  converts were baptized by Phillip the deacon, the Apostles "sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost; for he was not yet come upon any of them, but they were only baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus; then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost". 
           
St. Paul (19:1 - 6) "came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples; and he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? But they said to him: We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Ghost. And he said: In what then were you baptized? Who said: In John's baptism. Then Paul said: John baptized the people with the baptism of penance . . . Having heard these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had imposed his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied".
           
From the earliest days of the Church there was a rite separate of baptism in which the Holy Ghost was received through the laying on of hands.
           
In the early Church Baptism, Confirmation and Communion (the three Sacraments of Initiation) were celebrated in the same ceremony.  Adult catechumens descended into a pool where they were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.   When they ascended from the pool they were clothed in white robes and anointed with oil by the bishop. Then, given a place of honor, they participated in receiving their First Holy Communion.
           
The separation of the bishop's anointing came during the fourth century in the Western after Constantine's proclamation declaring Christianity the state religion.  With the spread of Christianity from the cities into rural areas it became impossible for the bishop to be present at every Baptism.  The Bishops of the East then delegated the three Sacraments of initiation to the priest and reserved only the blessing of the oil for themselves. Today, Eastern churches still initiate all three sacraments at once.  In the West the bishops delegated Baptism to the priests but retained the anointing and laying on of hands for themselves on separate occasions.  They would confirm whenever they happened to visit a certain area.
           
The practice of receiving confirmation in adolescence (rather than infancy) evolved during the Middle Ages when those received were regarded as being old enough to live responsible Christian lives.  The candidates were then sealed as witnesses for Christ and fortified by the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to fight, suffer and die for the faith.  Thus, the term 'soldiers of Christ' became common.  Also with the separation of the sacrament, the sign of peace given in the rite was replaced with a gentle slap to indicate 'readiness to face life's battles'.
           
Today many consider Confirmation the sacrament of maturity.  It is not that the candidate is mature in his faith.  It simply means the candidate has been fortified with the strength to endure the trials of faith ahead.
           
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states, “The Rite of Confirmation is to be revised also so that the intimate connection of this sacrament with the whole of Christian initiation may more clearly appear” (71). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, says, “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit.” (1285)
           
The Second Vatican Council (the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy revised in 1971) changed, again, the inference of the 'slap on the cheek'.  The gesture was determined to be a 'friendly gesture' and the words "Peace be With you" were reinstated.
           

While it has never been an official practice governed by the Church choosing a names of  patron saints for Confirmation has become a tradition.  This is not a legal act.  The name is taken as a candidate's middle name and has no legal reference.

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