Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Christian initiation is completed as the recipients become more perfectly bound to the Church as a true witness to Christ.
Confirmation is a Sacrament which must be understood as a continuation of the Faith journey, begun with Baptism, along with the Eucharist, to constitute a single saving event – Christian initiation, changed by this encounter with the Lord, Bishop Frank J. Dewane explained during a Confirmation Mass on May 30, 2021 for the youth of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula.
This May 30 Mass marked the conclusion of more than nine months of Confirmations presided over by Bishop Dewane. From early September 2020 to the end of May 2021 more than 1,500 received the Sacrament at 40 different Parishes. The total number was significantly higher during the past nine months as Parish Confirmations were necessarily put on hold from March to September 2020 due to the global Pandemic. Confirmation classes from the Spring of 2020 were rescheduled to the Fall when possible, or groups were merged into one larger Mass in 2021.
Bishop Dewane stressed the importance of ensuring the Confirmation Masses took place and scheduling them became a top priority. Some Parishes were forced to divide their groups in half or thirds to ensure social distancing was possible. For example, the St. Michael Parish Mass was held at the new St. Paul Parish Church in Arcadia to ensure all confirmandi, and their families, could participate under one roof.
At that Mass, held on Holy Trinity Sunday, Bishop Dewane told the confirmandi that they were given a great opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, a time when they publicly “give witness to who you are as followers of Jesus Christ. It is part of your Faith journey to live the commitment of believers, a beginning of a new life in the Holy Spirit and to become more the man or woman of God you are called to be.”
This Sacrament imbues the recipient with the Holy Spirit, making the person an advocate for the Lord, Bishop Dewane said. “This becomes a permanent part of who you are. Live your Faith to the fullest. Use these Gifts of the Holy Spirit every day. They must become part of who you are. The more you use them, the closer you will grow to the Lord.”
The Sacrament should not be viewed as the end of the journey, but the continuation of the journey of Faith with the new dimension of the Holy Spirit.
“You stand and give a superb witness by answering the call of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Dewane continued. “However, sometimes standing forward isn’t enough to give that witness to Christ. You need to speak up and say who you are as Catholic men and women. You must have courage to do that.”
The term ‘confirmation’ must remind one that this Sacrament involves growth from baptismal grace, Bishop Dewane explained. “It unites us more firmly with Christ; it completes our bond with the Church; it accords to us the special strength of the Holy Spirit in order to spread and to defend the Faith.”
Before the Sacred Chrism was administered, the Bishop asked the candidates to renew their baptismal promises as a sign of their personal assent to the Faith. This is the giving of their assent to a belief in Christ and His Church. The Bishop also extended his hands over the candidates during the Rite. This action is called, “The Laying on of Hands.” In this action, the Bishop imparts the Holy Spirit upon the candidates, completing the grace of their Baptism.
Finally, the candidates are individually presented to the Bishop with the sponsor placing their right hand on the candidate’s right shoulder. Then with his right thumb, the Bishop makes the sign of the cross on their forehead using the Sacred Chrism and says “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Sacrament of Confirmation requires comprehensive preparation – often years of study and spiritual growth – as it aims to lead candidates toward a personal attachment to Faith in Christ and to reawaken in them a sense of belonging to the Church.
The Diocese of Venice has a religious education program which emphasizes the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation with a two-year program. The young women and men go through a process where they complete one phase of their Faith journey and prepare to begin the next phase as full Christians who are called to be more and reflect the love and goodness of Christ in their heart and soul.