Through the Sacrament of Confirmation the Christian initiation is completed as the recipients become more perfectly bound to the Church as true witnesses to Christ. This season almost 1,500 have been confirmed in the Diocese of Venice.
Pope Francis said Confirmation 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, Pope Francis continued. “This concluded the process of formation and gradual insertion into the Christian community that could take several years. It was a step-by-step process, first reaching Baptism, then Confirmation, and finally the Eucharist.”
The term ‘confirmation’ must remind one that this Sacrament involves growth from baptismal grace, Pope Francis said. “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, 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, Pope Francis said that “Confirmation, like every Sacrament, is not the work of men, but rather the work of God, Who takes care of our lives in order to mold us in the image of His Son, to make us able to love like Him. 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.”
Here in the Diocese of Venice, 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 Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton on April 22, 2022. Bishop Frank J. Dewane used sacred Chrism oil to anoint the confirmandi in Bradenton. This has been repeated by Bishop Dewane, and delegated Parish priests, since the fall of 2021, with more than 1,411 young men and women receiving the Sacrament during that time. Among that number were 397 adults who received the Sacrament of Confirmation at their home Parishes on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil on April 16, 2022.
Bishop Dewane told the confirmandi at Sacred Heart 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,” the Bishop said. “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.”
“This Sacrament makes you more,” he explained. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit and let this conscious action you take be a sign of who you have become as Catholics, and who you are going to be going forward as women and men of God. Be an inspiration to others as you let the light and the gifts of the Holy Spirit shine forth in your words and your deeds.”
During the Sacrament of Confirmation, the candidates renew their baptismal promises, which Bishop Dewane said is done to publicly proclaim who they are as Catholics and to have the courage, hope, faith and perseverance to be true followers of Christ.
As the Rite continues, the Bishop, the attending priests, and all the faithful, pray in silence for the candidates and then the Bishop recites a prayer aloud. Finally, the candidates were presented with the sponsor placing their right 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.” It is at this point, the Bishop said, that their unity to the Church was complete.
Recently, the Holy Father repeatedly stressed how important of how important it is that all children receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. While there is a logical emphasis on the Sacrament of Baptism, there tends to be less of a focus on the Sacrament of Confirmation. Therefore, those who are baptized remain at a halfway point, and as Pope Francis said, they do not “receive the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to go forward in Christian life.”
The Diocese of Venice has a religious education program which emphasizes the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation with a two-year process. The young men and women 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. There is an additional program called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which not only assists adults in receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, but other Sacraments they might be missing, thus allowing them to be in full Communion with the Church.