I have been given the amazing privilege of being asked to be the Confirmation Sponsor for Mary, one of the young women in our homeschool group! (She is also a very close and dear friend to Abby and Alex, both). I feel very humbled, and have been praying, not only for her spiritual growth, but also that I will be a good example and sponsor. I have to be very honest and say that I feel woefully inadequate to the task at hand, but I am determined, by the Grace of God, to do my best!
So, what is the Sacrament of Confirmation, according to the Catholic Church? First, please allow me to say that I think it is one of the coolest things about being Catholic, as it is a direct participation in Apostolic Succession. Apostolic Succession is what the Holy Spirit kept whispering in my heart when Gaylon and I first started discussing returning to Catholicism, back in 2005. No other Christian denomination can claim that. It’s like playing “Pass It On” in Grade School. Jesus himself laid his hands on the Apostles, who, in turn, laid their hands on the next Bishops. Those Bishops laid their hands on their successors, and so on down the 2,000 year long line! The Bishops ordain the Priests, the Priests bless the People. And, in the case of Confirmation, the Bishop himself comes and anoints the ‘Confirmands’ (This is a big, fancy word for the folks who receive this awesome sacrament.) So, in my somewhat simplistic mind, when the Bishop lays his hands on the person being confirmed, it’s almost like he’s saying “This is from Jesus! Pass it on!”
Of course most of us won’t grow up and become Bishops and literally pass on the Sacrament, but we can, and should, pass on the gifts of the Holy Spirit received in the Sacrament of Confirmation, which are Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, Knowledge and Fear of the Lord. (See Isaiah 11:2)
Much has been written to explain and define Confirmation, but I like the simple explanation given by Catholic.org:
The sacrament of confirmation completes the sacrament of baptism. If baptism is the sacrament of re-birth to a new and supernatural life, confirmation is the sacrament of maturity and coming of age. The real confession of Christ consists in this ‘that the whole man submits himself to Truth, in the judgment of his understanding, in the submission of his will and in the consecration of his whole power of love . . . To do this, poor-spirited man is only able when he has been confirmed by God’s grace’
Confirmation, like all of the sacraments, is a very serious and holy matter. Fisheaters explains that “(Confirmation) indelibly seals us to the Holy Ghost, hence its name, “Sacrament of the Seal.” Because this seal is indelible and leaves a permanent mark on the recipient’s soul, the Sacrament, like Baptism and Holy Orders, may be received only once.”
In the United Sates, Confirmation is usually conferred upon teens who have already received the sacrament of Baptism. This generally takes place at about the same time as a Jewish boy or girl would celebrate his or her Bar/Bat/s Mitzvah, around the age of 13. Occasionally the recipient is younger or older, but I have noticed a trend toward waiting until the child is a bit older, and possibly even until they are 18. I guess, for the sake of brevity, I should just say: it varies!
For anyone wanting Scripture references for this Sacrament, ScriptureCatholic.org gives lots of wonderful references, as well as some really good quotes from some of the best-known disciples and theologians of the early Church (we refer to them as the “Church Fathers”). These really are worth checking out, but I do not really have the space to cover them all here, reinventing the wheel, as it were.
So, yeah. I am excited, and have been praying a lot for my little ‘Sponsoree’. She is so delightful, and I cannot say enough how incredibly honored and humbled I am that she chose me to be her sponsor. The Confirmation Mass with Bishop Joe Vasquez is Thursday night at our Parish, St. William. Mary is one of over 150 youth being Confirmed!