Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic
Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, Christian initiation is completed, as the recipients become more perfectly bound to the Church as a true witness to Christ.
This is how Pope Francis views Confirmation which he said is a Sacrament which must be understood as a continuation of the faith journey, beginning with Baptism, along with the Eucharist, to constitute a single saving event – Christian initiation – “in which we are brought into Christ who died and rose again, and become new creatures and members of the Church.”
Throughout much of history, these three Sacraments were celebrated together, at the end of the catechumenal path – normally on Holy Saturday. “It was a step-by-step process, first reaching Baptism, then Confirmation, and finally the Eucharist,” the Holy Father explained
The term ‘confirmation’ must remind one that this Sacrament involves growth from baptismal grace, Pope Francis continued. “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 to spread and to defend the Faith, to confess the name of Christ and never to be ashamed of His Cross.”
It should be noted that while the order of the Sacraments may have changed over time, “confirmation, like every Sacrament, is not the work of men, but rather the work of God, who takes care of our lives so as to mold us in the image of His Son, to make us able to love like Him,” the Holy Father added. “He infuses us with the Holy Spirit whose action pervades the whole person and all of life, as is shown by the Seven Gifts that Tradition, in the light of the Sacred Scriptures, has always made clear: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. When we welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts and allow it to act, Christ Himself is made present in us and takes form in our lives; through us, it will be He who prays, forgives, brings hope and consolation, serves our brothers, is close to the needy and the abandoned, who creates communion and sows peace.”
A group of young men and women recently completed their own final step of Christian initiation by being “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” during their Confirmation at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota on April 28. Bishop Frank J. Dewane used Holy Chrism oil to anoint the confirmandi.
This was repeated by Bishop Dewane throughout the year, with more 1,792 men and women receiving the Sacrament during since last fall at 54 different Parishes and in area prisons. An additional 398 women and men received the Sacrament of Confirmation at their home Parishes on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil.
Bishop Dewane told the confirmandi at St. Jude Parish that their sacramental life is key to who they are becoming by growing in the “Grace of God.” In order to do that, they must carry the Gifts of the Holy Spirit with them beyond the four walls of their Church. They must be doers of their Faith because there is nothing passive about being Catholic. The Sacrament of Confirmation is not an ending to the faith journey, but a beginning.
“You are on a journey to become women and men of God… We are each called to follow the lead Jesus gives us. You are old enough to do so freely in receiving this Sacrament,” Bishop Dewane added. “Allow this sacramental gift to enter into your life and carry the Holy Spirit with you from this point forward. You must each be changed by this encounter!”
During the Sacrament of Confirmation, the candidates renew their baptismal promises and then the Bishop, the attending priests, and all the faithful, pray that the Holy Spirit descend upon and remain on the Confirmandi. The Bishop then recites a prayer. Finally, the candidates are presented to the Bishop with their sponsor placing his/her hand on the candidates’ right shoulder. Then with his right thumb, the Bishop makes the sign of the cross on their forehead with the Holy Chrism oil and says “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The newly confirmed replies: “Amen.”
Choosing Confirmation names such as St. Jude, St. Edward the Confessor, St. Maria Goretti, St. Padre Pio, St. Patrick, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Peter, St. Martha, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Luisa, St. Juan Diego, St. Magdalena, and many more, the youth spoke about what it meant to receive this Sacrament which fully welcomes them into the full benefits of the Universal Church.
“This was an important day for me,” one young man explained. “I have struggled with my faith in the past, however, during my catechism classes I found myself realizing I had developed a special bond with Christ. That makes me very happy.”
One young lady who got emotional when the Bishop anointed her forehead explained that she was nervous because she had doubts about being worthy of the Sacrament. “When the Bishop made the sign of the cross on my forehead I immediately felt a calm and joy wash over me. That was very powerful.”
Pope Francis explains that when we are anointed with Holy Chrism we are conformed, “by the power of the Holy Spirit, to Christ, who is the only true ‘anointed one’ the Messiah, the Saint of God.”
The Holy Father often stresses how important it is that all children receive the Sacrament of Confirmation because while there is an important emphasis on the Sacrament of Baptism, there tends to be a less of a focus on the Sacrament of Confirmation. He explained that those who are only baptized remain at a halfway point, and do not “receive the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to go forward in Christian life.”
The Sacrament of Confirmation requires good preparation – often years of study and spiritual growth – as it aims to lead candidates toward “personal adhesion to faith in Christ and to reawaken in them a sense of belonging to the Church,” the Holy Father added. He also reminded the faithful to thank the Lord for receiving the gift of confirmation. “Then ask Him for His help in living as true Christians, to always journey with joy according to the Holy Spirit that has been granted to us.”
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 with the fullness of their Baptism and as Christians who are called to be more and reflect the love and goodness Christ in their heart and soul.
In addition, through Epiphany Cathedral, there is Religious Education for Special Needs Individuals (RESI) program, which is an outreach for those with Special Needs. The program welcomes God’s children by acknowledging that all children can learn, pray and have a relationship with God. This program is specifically designed to meet the spiritual needs of persons with developmental disabilities and intellectual challenges and welcomes candidates from age 10 to adulthood. Through this program they are incorporated into the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. On April 15, Bishop Dewane confirmed six individuals who completed the RESI program at Epiphany Cathedral.