Under certain circumstances, however, as, for instance, danger of death, or when the opportunity of receiving the sacrament is but rarely offered, even younger children may be confirmed. In the Greek Church and in Spain , infants are now, as in earlier times, confirmed immediately after baptism. Leo XIII , writing 22 June, , to the Bishop of Marseilles , commends most heartily the practice of confirming children before their first communion as being more in accord with the ancient usage of the Church. Effects Confirmation imparts an increase of sanctifying grace which makes the recipient a "perfect Christian" ; a special sacramental grace consisting in the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost and notably in the strength and courage to confess boldly the name of Christ ; an indelible character by reason of which the sacrament cannot be received again by the same person.
A further consequence is the spiritual relationship which the person confirming and the sponsor contract with the recipient and with the recipient's parents. This relationship constitutes a diriment impediment to marriage. It does not arise between the minister of the sacrament and the sponsor nor between the sponsors themselves. Necessity Regarding the obligation of receiving the sacrament , it is admitted that confirmation is not necessary as an indispensable means of salvation necessitate medii.
This is especially true of those who suffer persecution on account of their religion or are exposed to grievous temptations against faith or are in danger of death.
The more serious the danger so much greater is the need of protecting oneself". II, n. As to the gravity of the obligation , opinions differ, some theologians holding that an unconfirmed person would commit mortal sin if he refused the sacrament , others that the sin would be at most venial unless the refusal implied contempt for the sacrament.
Apart, however, from such controversies the importance of confirmation as a means of grace is so obvious that no earnest Christian will neglect it, and in particular that Christian parents will not fail to see that their children are confirmed. Sponsors The Church prescribes under pain of grievous sin that a sponsor, or godparent, shall stand for the person confirmed. The sponsor should be at least fourteen years of age, of the same sex as the candidate, should have already received the Sacrament of Confirmation, and be well instructed in the Catholic Faith.
From this office are excluded the father and mother of the candidate, members of a religious order unless the candidate be a religious , public sinners , and those who are under public ban of interdict or excommunication. Except in case of necessity the baptismal godparent cannot serve as sponsor for the same person in confirmation. Where the opposite practice obtains, it should, according to a decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Council, 16 Feb. The Second Plenary Council of Baltimore declared that each candidate should have a sponsor, or that at least two godfathers should stand for the boys and two godmothers for the girls n.
See also prescriptions of the First Council of Westminster. Formerly it was customary for the sponsor to place his or her right foot upon the foot of the candidate during the administration of the sacrament ; the present usage is that the sponsor's right hand should be placed upon the right shoulder of the candidate.
The Holy Office decreed , 16 June, , that no sponsor could stand for more than two candidates except in case of necessity. The custom of giving a new name to the candidate is not obligatory ; but it has the sanction of several synodal decrees during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Fifth Council of Milan, under St.
Charles Borromeo , insisted that a candidate whose name was "vile, ridiculous, or quite unbecoming for a Christian " should receive another at Confirmation" cf. It is clear from the diversity of practice at the present day, that there is much uncertainty as to the doctrine concerning confirmation. It is certain that the sacrament is validly and lawfully administered in the Church ; but this does not solve the theological questions regarding its institution, matter , form , and minister. At the time of the Council of Trent the difficulty was felt to be so great that the assembled Fathers contented themselves with only a few canons on the subject.
They defined that confirmation was not "a vain ceremony but a true and proper sacrament "; and that it was not "in olden days nothing but a sort of catechism in which those who were entering upon youth gave an account of their faith in the face of the Church " can. They did not define anything specific about the institution by Christ ; though in treating of the sacraments in general they had already defined that "all the sacraments of the New Law were instituted by Christ our Lord " Sess. VII, can. Nothing whatever was said about the form of words to be used; and regarding the matter they merely condemned any one who should maintain "that they who ascribe any virtue to the sacred chrism of confirmation offer an outrage to the Holy Ghost " can.
The third and last canon defined that the "ordinary" minister of the sacrament is a bishop only, and not any simple priest. This guarded language, so different from the definite canons on some of the other sacraments , shows that the council had no intention of deciding the questions at issue among theologians regarding the time and manner of the institution by Christ direct or indirect institution , the matter imposition of hands or anointing, or both , the form "I sign thee", etc.
Elsewhere Sess. XXIII the council declared that " bishops are superior to priests ; they administer the Sacrament of Confirmation; they ordain the ministers of the Church ; and they can perform many other things over which functions others of an inferior rank have no power". Concerning the administration of the sacrament from the earliest times of the Church , the decree of the Inquisition Lamentabili sane, 3 July, condemns the proposition 44 : "There is no proof that the rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation was employed by the Apostles ; the formal distinction, therefore, between the two sacraments , Baptism and Confirmation, does not belong to the history of Christianity ".
The institution of the sacrament has also been the subject of much discussion as will appear from the following account.
History The Sacrament of Confirmation is a striking instance of the development of doctrine and ritual in the Church. We can, indeed, detect much more than the mere germs of it in Holy Scripture ; but we must not expect to find there an exact description of the ceremony as at present performed, or a complete solution of the various theological questions which have since arisen.
It is only from the Fathers and the Schoolmen that we can gather information on these heads. Confirmation in the Bible We read in the Acts of the Apostles that after the Samaritan converts had been baptized by Philip the deacon, the Apostles "sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost ; for he was not yet come upon any of them, but they were only baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus ; then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost ".
Again : St. Paul "came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples ; and he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? But they said to him: We have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Ghost. And he said: In what then were you baptized? Who said: In John's baptism.
Then Paul said: John baptized the people with the baptism of penance. Having heard these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had imposed his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied ". From these two passages we learn that in the earliest ages of the Church there was a rite , distinct from baptism , in which the Holy Ghost was conferred by the imposition of hands dia tes epitheseos ton cheiron ton Apostolon , and that the power to perform this ceremony was not implied in the power to baptize.
No distinct mention is made as to the origin of this rite ; but Christ promised the gift of the Holy Ghost and conferred it. Again, no express mention is made of anointing with chrism ; but we note that the idea of unction is commonly associated with the giving of the Holy Ghost.
Christ Luke applies to Himself the words of Isaias : "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, wherefore he hath anointed me to preach the gospel ". John tells the faithful : "You have the unction chrisma from the Holy One , and know all things"; and again: "Let the unction [ chrisma ], which you have received from him, abide in you" 1 John A striking passage, which was made much use of by the Fathers and the Schoolmen , is that of St.
Paul : "He that confirmeth [ ho de bebaion ] us with you in Christ , and hath anointed us, is God , who also hath sealed [ sphragisamenos ] us, and given us the pledge [ arrabona ] of the Spirit in our hearts" 2 Corinthians No mention is made of any particular words accompanying the imposition of hands on either of the occasions on which the ceremony is described; but as the act of imposing hands was performed for various purposes, some prayer indicating the special purpose may have been used: "Peter and John.
Further, such expressions as "signing" and "sealing" may be taken as referring to the character impressed by the sacrament : "You were signed [ esphragisthete ] with the holy Spirit of promise"; "Grieve not the holy Spirit of God , whereby you are sealed [ esphragisthete ] unto the day of redemption " Ephesians ; See also the passage from Second Corinthians quoted above.
8 Things You Need to Know About Confirmation
Again, in the Epistle to the Hebrews the writer reproaches those whom he addresses for falling back into their primitive imperfect knowledge of Christian truth ; "whereas for the time you ought to be masters, you have need to be taught again what are the first elements of the words of God" Hebrews He exhorts them: "leaving the word of the beginning of Christ , let us go on to things more perfect, not laying again the foundation. It is clear that reference is made here to the ceremony of Christian initiation: baptism and the imposition of hands whereby the Holy Ghost was conferred, just as in Acts The ceremony is considered to be so well known to the faithful that no further description is necessary.
This account of the practice and teaching of the Apostles proves that the ceremony was no mere examination of those already baptized , no mere profession of faith or renewal of baptismal vows. Nor was it something specially conferred upon the Samaritans and Ephesians. What was done to them was an instance of what was generally bestowed. Nor was it a mere bestowal of charismata ; the Holy Ghost sometimes produced extraordinary effects speaking with divers tongues, etc. The practice and teaching of the Church at the present day preserve the primitive type: the imposition of hands , the gift of the Holy Ghost , the privileges of the episcopate.
What further elements were handed down by tradition will be seen presently. Church Fathers In passing from Holy Scripture to the Fathers we naturally expect to find more definite answers to the various questions regarding the sacrament. From both their practice and their teaching we learn that the Church made use of a rite distinct from baptism ; that this consisted of imposition of hands , anointing, and accompanying words; that by this rite the Holy Ghost was conferred upon those already baptized , and a mark or seal impressed upon their souls ; that, as a rule, in the West the minister was a bishop , whereas in the East he might be a simple priest.
The Fathers considered that the rites of initiation baptism , confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist were instituted by Christ , but they did not enter into any minute discussion as to the time , place, and manner of the institution, at least of the second of these rites. In examining the testimonies of the Fathers we should note that the word confirmation is not used to designate this sacrament during the first four centuries; but we meet with various other terms and phrases which quite clearly refer to it. Thus, it is styled "imposition of hands" manuum impositio, cheirothesia , "unction", "chrism", "sealing", etc.
Before the time of Tertullian the Fathers do not make any explicit mention of confirmation as distinct from baptism. The fact that the two sacraments were conferred together may account for this silence. The unction runs bodily over us, but profits spiritually. Next to this, the hand is laid upon us through the blessing , calling upon and inviting the Holy Spirit [ dehinc manus imponitur per benedictionem advocans et invitans Spiriturn Sanctum ]. The flesh is anointed [ ungitur ] that the soul may be consecrated.
The flesh is sealed [ signatur ] that the soul may be fortified. The flesh is overshadowed by the imposition of hands that the soul may be illuminated by the Spirit. The flesh is fed by the Body and Blood of Christ that the soul may be fattened of God.
Catechism of the Catholic Church - The sacrament of Confirmation
Another great African Father speaks with equal clearness of confirmation. Cyprian , "preside over the perfect birth of a Christian , the one regenerating the man, which is baptism , the other communicating to him the Holy Spirit " Epistle Which also is now done among us; so that they who are baptized in the Church are presented to the bishops [ prelates ] of the Church , and by our prayer and imposition of hands , they receive the Holy Ghost and are perfected with the seal [ signaculo ] of the Lord " Epistle For God first formed him and breathed into his face the breath of life.
For the Spirit cannot be received except there is first one to receive it. But the birth of Christians is in baptism " Epistle Pope St. Cornelius complains that Novatus , after having been baptized on his sickbed, "did not receive the other things which ought to be partaken of according to the rule of the Church --to be sealed, that is, by the bishop [ sphragisthenai ypo tou episkopou ] and not having received this, how did he receive the Holy Ghost?
In the fourth and fifth centuries the testimonies are naturally more frequent and clear. Hilary speaks of "the sacraments of baptism and of the Spirit"; and he says that "the favor and gift of the Holy Spirit were, when the work of the Law ceased, to be given by the imposition of hands and prayer " In Matt. Cyril of Jerusalem is the great Eastern authority on the subject, and his testimony is all the more important because he devoted several of his "Catecheses" to the instruction of catechumens in the three sacraments which they were to receive on being initiated into the Christian mysteries.
Nothing could be clearer than his language: "To you also after you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, was given the chrism [unction], the emblem of that wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Ghost. This holy ointment is no longer plain ointment nor so as to say common, after the invocation, but Christ's gift; and by the presence of His Godhead , it causes in us the Holy Ghost.
This symbolically anoints thy forehead, and thy other senses; and the body indeed is anointed with visible ointment, but the soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit. To you not in figure but in truth , because ye were in truth anointed by the Spirit" Mystagogical Catechesis 3. And in the seventeenth catechesis on the Holy Ghost , speaks of the visit of Peter and John to communicate to the Samaritans the gift of the Holy Ghost by prayer and the imposition of hands. Forget not the Holy Ghost ", he says to the catechumens , "at the moment of your enlightenment; He is ready to mark your soul with His seal [ sphragisai ].
He will give you the heavenly and divine seal [ sphragisai ] which makes the devils tremble; He will arm you for the fight; He will give you strength. Optatus of Mileve , "went down into the water, not that there was what could be cleansed in God , but the water ought to go before the oil that was to supervene, in order to initiate and in order to fill up the mysteries of baptism ; having been washed whilst He was held in John's hands, the order of the mystery is followed.
Heaven is opened whilst the Father anoints; the spiritual oil in the image of the Dove immediately descended and rested on His head, and poured on it oil, whence He took the name of Christ , when He was anointed by God the Father ; to whom that the imposition of hands might not seem to have been wanting, the voice of God is heard from a cloud, saying, This is my Son, of whom I have thought well; hear ye him" De schism.