Confirmation in the faith
In the early church, Baptism contained what we now know as the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, First Eucharist and Confirmation. Indeed adults who receive the Sacrament of Baptism at the Easter Vigil today, are also Confirmed and receive first Eucharist.
Infants cannot prepare for their Baptism as an adult would. Instead their time of learning or initiation takes places from the time of their Infant Baptism until they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. This allows them to grow in faith and understanding of their faith across their childhood years.
Confirmation celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the Acts of the Apostles chapter 2, verses 1 to 13, we read of the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit. They had been hiding after Jesus’ death, afraid and uncertain. The coming of the Holy Spirit with his gifts inspired them and enabled them to take the step of preaching the good news. We too are in need of God’s grace to live life to the full!
We are made members of God’s family at Baptism. At Confirmation, our Baptism is completed or “sealed” by the Holy Spirit and we are called to be Christian witnesses, just like the apostles. The whole of our Christian living and the life of the Church, too, are sustained by the same Spirit.
Who Can Receive the Sacrament of Confirmation?
Any baptised Catholic wishing to advance on the path of developing their faith. For young people in Ireland, this is usually part of the 5th/6th class primary school programme. For adults who were not confirmed as children, it means taking part in the Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.) program.
A sponsor is a committed Christian who stands for the person asking for Confirmation. This is symbolised on the day of Confirmation when the Sponsor stands behind the candidate at the Confirmation ceremony and places their hand on the shoulder of the candidate as a sign that they will support them in living out their baptismal promises. So you can see that the role of the sponsor is not just for one day. The sponsor undertakes to assist the confirmed person in growing in the fullness of their faith and in their membership of the Catholic Church.
A person qualifies as a sponsor by being a reasonably mature adult, who is at least 16 years old, and has already received the Sacraments of Initiation, (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) themselves. The Confirmation sponsor may be one of the people who was a sponsor at Baptism.
The tradition of taking a new name at Confirmation emphasises the new identity of a Christian being called to witness to their faith. People are encouraged to take the name of a saint or a person from the Bible who inspires them in some way. Just as we ask our sponsor to support us, we ask this saint to pray for us and guide us. HERE is a list of some Catholic saints that may inspire you.
The oil used is called the Oil of Chrism. It is olive oil mixed with balsam that is blessed by the bishop and priests of the diocese in the Cathedral at the ‘Chrism Mass’ on Holy Thursday. The Sacrament is conferred with the anointing with this ‘Oil of Chrism’ on the forehead as the Bishop says ‘Be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit’.