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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Questions & Answers About Confirmation

How is confirmation administered?

While a priest usually has faculties to confirm converts, along with baptizing them and giving them first Holy Communion; usually the bishop is the minister of the sacrament. The bishop imposes his hands upon them and beseeches the Holy Spirit to descend with his sevenfold gifts. He anoints them with sacred chrism in the sign of the cross upon the forehead. This anointing points toward a spiritual character that is offered by the Spirit of God. The cross stands for our redemption and our willingness to enter into the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Accompanying the anointing are these words: “N., be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The candidate may choose to use his baptismal name or that of another patron saint.

What is the oil used?

It is a sacred chrism (possessing balm or a scent) blessed by the bishop during Holy Week, traditionally on Holy Thursday but nowadays often done earlier to ease schedules so that more priests can concelebrate the Mass and renew their priestly promises.

What does it signify?

The sweet fragrance signifies the sweetness of virtue, displacing the corruption of sin with the healing presence of Christ. It will strengthen the candidate for the struggle against the enemies of Christ and of the Church. As the older language would infer, we become an adult in the Church and a soldier for Christ.

Why is the sign of the cross made upon the head?

It is to emphasize that the Christian should never be ashamed of the cross, but to confess his faith in Christ crucified without regard to human opinion or persecution.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.

One Response

  1. I was confirmed at a very early age; I believe I was in 5th grade. Admittedly, at the time I was going through a rebellious phase. When it was time to renew our baptismal promises, I didn’t say “I do” to renouncing Satan and all his evil works. I remember I was thinking, “Oh that means I can never do anything bad or make a mistake and that I have to be perfect.”

    I am currently 18 and very involved in my faith. I am volunteering with my youth group, attend a theology class and participate in a faith group on my university campus. I am just wondering if I discounted my Confirmation by deliberately failing to say, “I do?”

    I fully renounce Satan and all his evil works now. I have been to a few of the kid’s Confirmations last year (for those who attend youth group). While attending, I said “I do” to all the promises. Does this renew my baptismal promises? Am I still confirmed? Do I have any right helping other kids get confirmed?

    I am so stressed. Thank you in advance, sorry if all that was difficult to follow. Have a great day. 🙂

    FATHER JOE:

    Unlike the sacrament of marriage where the ministers of the sacrament are the couple (the priest witnesses for the Church); the minister of Confirmation is the bishop (or priest if delegated). Confirmations in the United States usually take place in the seventh or eighth grade. Some places even do it them high school grades. While consent is required for a person over the age of reason, the law would only restrict the minister if a reservation is expressed to the Church. Evidently, you kept yours private or to yourself.

    Infants are validly confirmed in the Eastern rites routinely and in the Roman rite when there is the danger of death. We would look here to the consent of parents and the desire of the Church. We would not want to deliberately deprive children of the saving graces from the sacraments.

    Canon law stipulates: “Apart from the danger of death, to receive confirmation lawfully a person who has the use of reason must be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises (CIC 889).”

    This means that had you told your teachers, family and pastor that you did not want to be confirmed, the sacrament would have been illicit. However, this is a separate question from validity.

    Given that a genuine bishop confirmed you, then you are confirmed even if there were a degree of immaturity and lack of conviction. Thus, to answer your question, you were truly confirmed. Now that you are properly disposed, and I would add the need to go to Confession, you should be able to dully access the graces of Confirmation.

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