The Sacrament of Confirmation

Those who have been Baptized continue on the path of Christian Initiation through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In this Sacrament, they receive the seal of the Holy Spirit which strengthens them and conforms them to Christ the Anointed One.

After they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, they are incorporated fully into the Body of Christ by participation in the Eucharist.

If you are looking to have your child or yourself receive this Sacrament, please contact the Central Office to speak with the Director of Faith Formation & Youth Ministry. The minimum age to receive this Sacrament is Grade 9, unless a child is participating in the RCIA program.

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A brief History of the Sacrament of Confirmation

(For Parents of Confirmation Candidates)

The history of Confirmation is complicated.  But the main aspect that affects the current decision to celebrate Confirmation before First Eucharist is easy enough to summarize.

Originally, Confirmation was part of a single ritual of initiation that marked a person’s entrance into full membership in the Church.  That initiation ritual included the celebration of three Sacraments:  Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.  Whether the person entering the Church was an infant or an adult, immediately after being baptized, the individual received a laying on of hands and an anointing to affirm his or her passage from death to new life and confer the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  This paralleled the New Testament description of the Spirit’s affirmation of Jesus after He was baptized in the Jordan River.  Then, having been baptized and confirmed, the new Christian was invited to share in the Eucharist which completed the initiation process.

Down the centuries these three initiation Sacraments – Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist – were separated for many reasons.  The main reason that Confirmation got separated was because the bishop was the ordinary minister of that special anointing and he could not be available for every celebration of Baptism.  Sometimes many years intervened, until it became common for Confirmation to be received around the age of reason.  The traditional sequence of the initiation sacraments was generally observed, but without much consciousness of their connection to each other.

Up until 1910 most people received Baptism as infants, Confirmation around the age of seven, and Eucharist in early teens.  In 1910, Pope Pius X reacted against the exaggerated sense of unworthiness that had led to the late age for First Eucharist.  He changed the recommended time for First Eucharist to the age of reason (about seven).  An unintended byproduct of this decision was the subsequent decision in some countries like the United States to postpone the age of Confirmation, moving it from the age of reason to approximately the early teens.

That postponement of Confirmation in our country in this century was the pragmatic decision rather than a theological one.  The focus was on providing time for extensive sacramental preparation rather than on the initiation aspect of the sacrament or the traditional initiation sequence.  Later, religious educators tried to emphasize aspects of the sacrament that seemed appropriate to the age of the recipients – like religious maturity.  At the same time there was a tendency to use the sacrament of Confirmation as leverage to maximize participation in religious education classes.  So reception of this Sacrament gradually became the climax of a long regimen of education and service.  The emphasis on service was valuable and continues to be necessary – no as a Sacramental requirement, but as a requirement of Christian life.

This summary of the history of Confirmation may help you understand the reasons for this change.

-Source Unknown

Outline History:  The Sacrament of Confirmation Through the Centuries

1st & 2nd Century:

  • Single paschal rite of initiation for adults
  • Initiation of children not the norm, but modeled on adult process
  • Some variations:
    • Presbyter does the first anointing; local bishop does the second
    • Length of preparation period varies
    • Reception of Eucharist is final step in rite
    • Full initiation sometimes occurs at Pentecost

3rd Century:

  • Catechumenate evolving:
    • Process often taking years
    • Sponsor vouches for readiness
  • Rite of adult initiation becoming more formalized:
    • Exorcism and first anointing
    • Immersion in water
    • Profession of faith
    • Clothing in white garment
    • Bishop performing the laying on of hands and final anointing

4th & 5th Century:

  • Adult baptism still the norm
  • Catechumenate process beginning to disappear
  • Initiation rite separating into rites of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist
  • Many factors influencing these changes:
    • Christianity becomes state religion
    • Many become cultural Christians to obtain or keep government jobs
    • Increased numbers mean the bishop can no longer attend all baptisms
    • In the western Church, the second anointing reserved to the bishop, separating it from baptismal rite.

6th to 15th Century:

  • Baptism viewed almost exclusively as cleansing from sin.
  • Infants baptized within a month of birth because of high mortality rates and the influence of St. Augustine’s teaching on Original Sin.
  • By the thirteenth century, infant baptism is the usual practice.
  • Confirmation becoming separate sacrament, disconnected from Baptism
  • Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas supports separation of Confirmation:
    • Confirmation seen as confirming the Holy Spirit given at Baptism.
    • Confirmation seen as signifying that faith is mature.
  • Eucharist still received after Confirmation
  • Eucharist now preceded by Penance.

16th to 19th Century:

  • Rite of initiation divided into three separate sacramental moments
  • Some attempt to mission lands to restore rite for catechumens

20th Century:

  • 1910:
    • Pope Pius X decrees that children about age of seven should receive Eucharist
    • Confirmation, which had been at that age, is generally postponed.
    • Sequence of sacraments becomes: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation
    • Confirmation displaces Eucharist as completion of initiation.
  • 1963 – 1965:
    • Second Vatican Council calls for renewal of all the Church’s sacraments and rites in the light of biblical and historical understandings of the traditions of the Church.  Specifically calls for restoration of the catechumenate and revision of the rite of adult Baptism.
  • 1983:
    • Code of Canon Law expresses preference for Confirmation to be received about the age of seven.
  • 1988:
    • Catholic Bishops of the United States announces that use of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is mandatory in all dioceses of this country.  This restores the traditional sequence of the initiation sacraments for adults entering the Church and provides that they receive all three initiation sacraments in a single rite, preferably at the Easter Vigil.  Parish priest can confirm these new Catholics as well as administer Baptism and Eucharist.

-Source Unknown