What is Catholic Confirmation?

In the Catholic Church both Baptism and Confirmation are permanent and cannot be received again.  The Church recognizes the practice of the Eastern Orthodox Church which also considers Confirmation a Sacrament.  Of the Protestant Churches, many do not consider Confirmation a sacrament so the Church does not accept their practice.  Someone who was baptized in most Protestant churches but who wishes to join the Catholic Church will have to be confirmed under the Canon Laws.  Some who were raised in specific Protestant faiths and join the Catholic Church as adults will also have to be baptized again before they can receive Communion or be confirmed in the Catholic Church.
           
The effect of the Sacrament of Holy Confirmation is to 'give us a special strength of 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' (according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1303).   A confirmed individual is described as being a 'soldier of Christ' and thus renders their bond with the Church more perfect. The term 'soldier of Christ' has been used as far back as 350 by St. Cyril of Jerusalem. 
             
Part of the Catholic Confirmation ritual involves the bishop giving the recipient a touch on the cheek with his fingertips while saying "Pax tecum" (Latin) or "Peace be with you." Before the Second Vatican council this interaction was interpreted in the Roman Pontifical as a slap, a physical reminder to be brave while spreading and defending the faith.  The Confirmation slap was revised in 1971 to be described as a 'friendly gesture' or 'the sign of peace'.
           
The Sacraments of Baptism, Communion, Confirmation are called the 'sacraments of Christian initiation' in that through the grace of Baptism one is welcomed into the family of God, in Holy Communion (the Eucharist) one accepts the Body and Blood of Jesus to become one with their body; and Confirmation completes the baptismal grace and unification so that one becomes armed and ready to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.
           
In the first centuries Confirmation was included in a single celebration with Baptism.  Over time the growing number of infant baptisms through the year, the increase of rural parish and the overall growth of each diocese prevented the bishop from being present at all the baptismal celebrations.  Those of the Western Church separated the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation while those of the East kept them united. In the East the priest who baptizes can also confer confirmation provided that he does so with the 'myron' consecrated by a bishop.
           
In most cases the bishop confirms Catholics within his diocese.  In certain circumstances priests can be delegated to confirm adult converts (from other religions) when they become members of the Roman Catholic Church at the Easter vigil.  Catholics who are born of Catholic parents are generally baptized as infants, receive First Communion as children and are confirmed as adolescents.  However, the Sacraments of Initiation are available to persons of any age.  Those who were baptized in a Protestant Church may make a profession of faith by receiving First Holy Communion and Confirmation at the same mass.  Others attend RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) classes and receive their First Holy Communion and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil Mass the evening before Easter.
           
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1302- 1303 states: It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace: it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15); it unites us more firmly to Christ; it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us; it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;  it gives us a special strength of 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".
           
It is customary in most English speaking countries for a person to being confirmed to take the name of a saint who that person admires are feels a certain affinity with.  This is believed to secure an additional patron saint as a protector and guide. Choosing a name for Confirmation' is not practiced in Spanish speaking countries or France and Italy.  It is not mentioned in the official liturgical book of the Rite of Confirmation.  The saint's name is often taken as a 'middle name' but has no effect in civil law unless the confirmed person pursues such legal action.
           
The Church prescribes that a sponsor shall stand before the person confirmed.  This must be at least fourteen years of age, the same sex as the candidate, should have already receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and is expected to be well instructed in the Catholic faith.  The sponsor cannot be a father or mother of the candidate, a member of a religious order unless the candidate seeks to become a member of a religious order, or anyone known as a public sinner or under public ban of interdict (general prohibition under the Canon Law) or excommunication (the severest censure, it deprives the guilty of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society).  Only in cases of necessity can a baptismal godparent also serve as sponsor for the same Confirmation candidate.
           
At Confirmation the candidate is given the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge and reverence.  These are supernatural gifts given to nurture the soul. The Biblical origin of these seven spirits is found in Isaiah (11:1 - 3) where he foretells the qualities of the Messiah.

"But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord."

Confirmation means accepting responsibility in your faith destiny.  The focus of Confirmation is on the Holy Spirit who confirmed the apostles on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).  The Holy Spirit gave the apostles courage to practice their faith.  The Catholic teaching is that the same Holy Spirit acts through the Bishop to bestow the same gifts and fruits as those received by the apostles. The fruits given at Confirmation are human qualities activated by the Holy Spirit.  They are charity, joy, patience, benignity, goodness, long suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, contingency and chastity.

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