The Second Sacrament of Initiation
The primary symbol of Confirmation is the community itself. Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist are sacraments of initiation, initiation into a community.
The community that gathers to celebrate your Confirmation is not there merely to watch; it is the community into which you are being initiated. The community is the sign of Christ’s presence for you.
In Confirmation we hear again the name we were given in Baptism (Some people take a new name at Confirmation in order to have an additional heavenly patron). Confirmation begins with Baptism. Confirmation complements the symbols of Baptism. Confirmation means all that Baptism means.
God’s grace fills us with redemption and salvation. This grace, this presence of God in us, is the Holy Spirit. Confirmation is the Sacrament of the Holy Spirit.
From ancient times, to impose hands on someone or to extend one’s hand over the person’s head was the sign of calling down the Holy Spirit. All seven sacraments employ this symbol. We call the prayer which accompanies the imposition of hands an epiclesis, which is an invocation.
In Confirmation, the presider places his hand on the head of each one to be confirmed and prays that the Holy Spirit descend upon them. You will hear this prayer: "All powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their Helper and Guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence".
This prayer asks for the graces which we have come to call the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The number seven is itself a symbol of completeness, of boldness, of abundance.
The words used in the rite are another symbol of Confirmation. The words of the ceremony, the readings from Scripture, the homily, the invitation of the presider, the prayer for the sevenfold Spirit: All of these can help us learn the meaning of the sacrament.
The Sacrament of confirmation may only be received by one who is baptized, preferable while he/she is in a state of grace (i.e., not in a state of mortal sin). In addition, if the confirmand (the one to be confirmed) has reached the age of reason, he/she should be well-catechized.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, the minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation is the bishop. Each bishop is a successor to the apostles, upon whom the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost—the first Confirmation. The Acts of the Apostles mentions the apostles imparting the Holy Spirit to believers by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:15-17 and 19:6).
Because Confirmation perfects our baptism, we are obliged to receive it "in due time." Any Catholic who did not receive Confirmation as part of his/her religious education during grade school or high school should contact a priest and arrange to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The Archbishop has established the 10th or 11th grade as the specific period for Confirmation preparation and reception of the sacrament. This is when a person is old enough to make his/her own decisions. The rite is seen as a strengthening of the rites of baptism and communion in which a person is now able take responsibility for his/her own faith and destiny.
A person being confirmed will have a sponsor, who will stand with the person while he or she is confirmed. The sponsor should be a baptized and confirmed Catholic who's at least 14 years old, is of the same sex as the confirmand, and is well-instructed in the Faith. Canon Law recommends that the godparent should act as sponsor at Confirmation if at all possible in order to better tie Baptism and Confirmation together. As in Baptism, among those who may not act as sponsors are: members of religious orders, spouses in respect to each other, parents in respect to their own children, infidels, heretics, members of condemned secret societies, and public sinners.
Qualifications of the CandidateEach baptized Catholic has the right and the obligation to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, but the candidate has the responsibility to personally choose to complete initiation into the faith life of the Church. The candidate may request the Sacrament if he/she:
• is baptized and able to renew baptismal promises unless a grave reason suggests
• exhibits an active faith life and knowledge of the Church
• participates in the sacramental life of the Church, especially Eucharistic Liturgies
• is willing to commit to active involvement in the parish Confirmation catechesis
• is willing to respond to the call of active ministry
• is willing to continue to learn and grow in faith following Confirmation and throughout
• has no impediment to full-communion (e.g. has not notoriously rejected the Catholic faith
by joining another denomination or non-Christian faith; if married, is in a marriage
as valid by the Catholic Church)
Sponsors for Confirmation
Canonical Guidelines for Sponsors
Sponsors represent in a personal way the witness and support of the parish community. "It is desirable that the sponsor chosen be the one who undertook this role at Baptism" (Canon #893).
Sponsors should be mature persons of faith who are highly convinced that their faith makes a difference in their lives. The sponsor should be a mature person of faith capable of meeting regularly with the candidate. Opportunities for catechesis should be offered to the sponsors in order to assist them in fully understanding their role in the ongoing formation of the candidate. The sponsor should participate with the candidate in his/her preparation, as well as the celebration. To perform the role of sponsor, it is necessary that a person fulfill the conditions stated in the Code of Canon Law:
1. be designated by the one to be confirmed, by the parents or the one who takes their place or, in their absence, by the pastor or minister and is to have the qualifications and intention of performing this role
2. have completed the sixteenth year, unless a different age has been established by the diocesan bishop.
3. be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the sacrament of the Eucharist and leads a life in harmony with the faith and the role to be undertaken (e.g. if married, marriage must be recognized by the Catholic Church as valid)
4. not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared
5. not be the father or the mother of the one to be baptized (confirmed)
This ministry of a Sponsor can be fulfilled by:
• Accompanying the candidate to candidate/sponsor sessions, retreats or liturgical celebrations
• introducing the candidate to the dimension of service in the life of the community, and supporting him/her in some form of service
• reflecting on scripture and other background reading with the candidate
• assisting the candidate in the discernment process to know whether he/she is called at this time to make the Confirmation commitment
• sharing his/her own faith-story with the candidate
• being a "role model" of witness and example to a Catholic Christian lifestyle
• presenting the candidate for the sacramental anointing, attesting to the
• candidate's willingness and readiness to celebrate the sacrament
• Once the youth has been fully initiated, the sponsor's task is one of follow-up, which is as important in many ways as all the efforts during the preparation period. However, it is less structured and informal. The sponsor could:
• inquire periodically with the confirmed person’s efforts, challenges and success
• in living as a more active witness for Christ
• offer suggestions and assistance in helping the newly confirmed to become an
• active member of the Church community
Resource: Archdiocesan Conformation Guidelines and Resources Revised March 2007