This weekend, 33 Candidates received the Sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop Rice here at St. Agnes Cathedral. They began their preparation in August and it was one of choice, commitment, witness, and ministry. The candidates were asked over the months to take a good hard look at their practice of their faith life, to participate in the sacramental classes, perform apostolic works and make their own decision to ask for the sacrament. After meeting with each candidate for 15-20 minutes I happily recommended these candidates to our bishop. I celebrate and congratulate all those Confirmands who took the time of preparation prayerfully and seriously.
For those of us who are at least 30 years of age, we had very little or no preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Depending upon our parishes of the past, the bishop may have only come every three years, thus Confirmation was given at all different ages. I personally received the sacrament when I was in the eighth grade. Our Bishop along with our Presbyteral Council recommend that the age of celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation be lowered from Sophomore - Senior to no younger than 7th grade and before their Sophomore year. The exact years would depend upon how offer the bishop comes to the parish for Confirmation. The different programs used are still being decided. The Diocese had begun this discussion years about 12 years ago when I was a member of the Presbyteral Council. Our confirmands came from the freshman and sophomore classes. Next year the eighth grade and freshman will be offered the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The Sacrament of Confirmation is a special event in the life of an individual Catholic and the entire parish family. Its’ call and grace confirm discipleship. The gifts of the Holy Spirit help to form the Christian more fully in the image of Jesus Christ. We use the term, an adult Catholic, within the Church with all the responsibilities that parents had accepted when they asked to have their son or daughter baptized. Thus Vatican II decreed that the rite of the sacrament be revised, that those receiving the sacrament be fully educated so that its’ connection with the whole church and the rite of Christian Initiation be understood.
As early as the 7th Century, the post baptismal anointing with Sacred Chrism by the bishop became the regular practice in the Western Roman Catholic Church. Medieval theologians saw Confirmation as a gift of the Holy Spirit for the strengthening of the candidate’s inner life and social witness.
By the 16th century, the general practice after the Tridentine reforms was to confirm, as an affirmation or public profession, the baptismal commitment that had been made by parents and god parents at the time of Baptism.
Following Vatican II, two major understandings and approaches to the sacrament of Confirmation became accepted. The importance of Confirmation as a part of the RCIA with the Easter Vigil, and the maturity model as a person becomes more active within the Church, using their gifts and talents for the building up of Gods’ Kingdom by asking for the fullness of the Holy Spirit in ones’ life.