Confirmation is for anyone 15 years of age and older.
For further information,
call the St Joseph parish office at 360-748-4953.
Confirmation, the Sacrament of Spiritual Strengthening
When the Roman Catechism was published in 1566, the faithful were warned regarding the Sacrament of Confirmation, There are found in the holy Church of God many by whom this sacrament is altogether omitted; while very few seek to obtain from it the fruit of divine grace which they should derive from its participation.
The same could be said today. Only the Lord really knows, but in my judgment, Confirmation is the most ignored sacrament of our faith.
The biblical grounds for our faith in Confirmation are Christs promise to send the Holy Spirit on the apostles. Not surprisingly, it is the evangelist St. Luke who records the Saviors promise. Just before His ascension, Jesus told His disciples, I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city, then, until you are clothed with the power from on high (Lk 24:49). On the same occasion, the Lord promised His followers, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses, not only in Jerusalem, but throughout Judea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
In the same context, we are told that converts to the faith were first baptized, and then the Apostles laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17).
Immediately we see that the basic reason why Christ instituted the Sacrament of Confirmation was that His followers would witness to Him, even to the ends of the earth. The original revealed Greek term for witnesses, as quoted by St. Luke, is martyrs. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday to enable His disciples to be His martyrs until the end of time.
Divinely Conferred Effects:
There is a mountain of implications hidden in this precious sacrament. We shall therefore concentrate on the effects of Confirmation and our responsibility to live as not only baptized, but confirmed Christians in our day.
We define Confirmation as the sacrament of spiritual strengthening, in Latin, roboratio spiritualis. Our English word robust comes from the Latin robur, which means oak wood or hardwood.
More concretely, Confirmation strengthens the supernatural life we receive in Baptism. Confirmation increases our sanctifying grace in every way, but mainly in deepening our capacity to remain spiritually alive. It gives us the power of resistance, the ability to resist dangers, and the strength to become more Christ?like until the dawn of eternity.
Confirmation gives us, even before the age of reason, the title to such fortitude as no one else except confirmed believers can claim. It does nothing less than provide us with superhuman strength against hostile forces from within our own fallen nature and from the world and the evil spirit who is literally hell-bent to destroy us.
There are three sacraments that give a person what we call an indelible character. They are Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. Confirmation confers the character of assimilation to Jesus Christ, the priest, teacher, and king.
On each of these levels, the assimilation is associated with Christs role as Savior. As we know, the priesthood of Jesus is the mission that He came into the world to fulfill by offering Himself in sacrifice on the cross. We cannot repeat too often what sacrifice means. Sacrifice is the voluntary surrender of something precious to God. On Calvary, Jesus offered His human life for our salvation. But the heart of His bloody sacrifice was in His human will, freely surrendering Himself to the Father.
On this first level of assimilation to Jesus Christ the priest, Confirmation gives us the strength to bear suffering (passively) in union with Him and the courage to sacrifice pleasant things (actively) out of love for the One who died on the first Good Friday out of love for us.
Confirmation assimilates us to Christ the teacher. We acquire a strong will in adhering to the faith in the face of obstacles, a strong mind in not doubting the truths of faith, a strong humility of spirit in professing the faith, and a strong wisdom that knows how to communicate the faith to others effectively.
Finally, Confirmation assimilates us to Christ the King. It gives us a quality of leadership that can direct others on the path of salvation. It gives us a strong character that can withstand the ravages of bad example or the snares of seduction, and a strong personality that will attract even the enemies of Christ to His standard.
We might describe the sacramental character of Confirmation by calling it the sacrament of witness to Christ, in the Church and before the world.
In other words, Confirmation is the sacrament of fearless apostolic zeal. Having said this, we are ready to spell out in as clear words as possible what this sacrament gives us the grace to do. In the words of the new canon of law, issued by Pope Jolu1 Paul II on the first Sunday of Advent in 1983, we are told that by the sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized are made strong and more firmly obliged by word and deed to witness to Christ and to spread and defend the faith.
Immediately we see that Confirmation is exactly what its name implies. It is the supernatural, which means superhuman, courage we receive to be apostles of Jesus Christ.
To witness means to testify to others of what we are absolutely sure is true. It is no mere cliché to say that not every believing Catholic is unqualifyingly sure of what he believes. To be sure of the faith means to be certain that what God has revealed is unchangeably true. Certitude of faith is in the mind, convinced that the mysteries of our faith cannot be questioned because they are revealed by the all?wise and truthful God.
We get some idea of what Confirmation does by what happened on Pentecost Sunday. In the Churchs tradition, it was on Pentecost that the disciples received the graces of their Confirmation when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples, gathered with Mary, awaiting the coming of the power that Jesus had promised to send them.
Remember, it was just over fifty days before that Peter, the coward, three times denied that he even knew Jesus Christ. Yet now he stood before several thousand people in Jerusalem and spoke to them with such courageous conviction as he never had before.
Men of Israel, listen to what I am going to say: Jesus the Nazarene was a man sent to you by God. Miracles and portents and signs God worked through Him when He was among you, as you all know. This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had Him crucified by men outside the law. You killed Him, but God raised Him to life (Acts 2:22-24).
The result was that some three thousand Jews were baptized that very day.
The lesson is obvious. No less than what the Holy Spirit did to Peter on Pentecost Sunday, the same Spirit has done to us when we were confirmed on our Pentecost day. We have received nothing less than miraculous power to witness to Jesus Christ.
Spreading the Faith:
Confirmation develops our sense of mission and inflames our desire to share with others what others had so generously shared with us.
According to St. John Chrysostom, on the Last Day, we shall be judged mainly on our practice of charity in spreading the faith. The number of ways of spreading the faith is beyond human reckoning. But the one way that has been most effective from the dawn of Christian history has been by living a life of selfless charity. The charity of which we are speaking is not only, or even mainly, the charity of the corporal works of mercy. Certainly, as Christ tells us, we are to do everything we can to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and care for those who are in physical need. However, the principal form of charity, which is nothing less than a miraculous means of spreading the faith, is the interior charity of selfless love for others. No one has improved on the description of charity of Pope Clement I, writing in 90 AD. Charity, he says, bears all things. Charity is longsuffering in all things. There is nothing mean in charity, nothing arrogant. Charity knows no schism, does not rebel, does all things in concord. In charity, all the elect of God have been made perfect.
Is it any wonder that by the end of the first century of Christianity, over one hundred dioceses were established along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea? Without exception, the Church spread because Christians were confirmed by the Holy Spirit to love others with heroic charity. They loved those who hated them. They loved those who persecuted them. Like Jesus, they even loved those who crucified them.
We are talking about spreading the Faith as one of the gifts of the sacrament of Confirmation. It is especially by our love of others that we communicate our Faith to them. This spreading of the Faith is not only evangelizing unbelievers or converting sinners estranged from God. Confirmation so deepens the faith of a sincerely believing Catholic that he is the conduit for deepening and strengthening the faith of others in the measure of his own practice of self-sacrificing love.
How misguided we can be! We see all around us millions who either do not believe in Christ at all, or whose Christianity is confused, or whose faith in the Churchs teaching is shallow at best and make?believe at worst.
How to bring to this ocean of souls the fullness of the true faith? Surely, our understanding of the faith is important. Our ability to prove the truth of our faith is imperative. But, the infallible talisman for spreading the faith, far beyond our wildest dreams, is living a life of loving surrender to the will of God and of selfless generosity in our dealings with everyone who enters our lives.
In one sentence, the key to putting the gift of our Confirmation into practice is to share with others the treasure of our Catholic Faith.
Defend the Faith:
Here we could begin all over again. The Sacrament of Confirmation provides us with nothing less than miraculous power to defend the faith that we profess.
We cannot defend what we do not understand. Nor can we defend what we are not ourselves convinced is true. On this basic level of defending the Catholic Faith, there is no substitute for knowing what we believe.
But, to know what we believe means more than just understanding what God has revealed. Strange to say, we must also know how to cope with the prevalence of so much erroneous teaching that pervades our society like the air we breathe.
In an age like our own, when heresy is so pervasive and error has been elevated as master of human thought, we confirmed Catholics had better know why God permits heresy in the first place and how we are to benefit from the prevalent errors in faith and morals.
There are two statements of St. Cyprian, bishop and martyr of the third century, that deserve to be memorized. The first statement is his description of heretics. Says Cyprian: Whoever has been separated from the Church is yoked with an adulteress, is separated from the promises made to the Church. Nor shall he who leaves Christs Church arrive at Christs rewards. He is a stranger, he is sacrilegious, he is an enemy. He who has not the Church for mother can no longer have God for his Father.
But then Cyprian goes on. Nevertheless, he explains, the Lord allows and suffers these (errors and evils) to be, while each .mans will remains free. Why? So that while our minds and hearts are tested in the crucible of truth, the sound faith of those who are approved may shine forth more clear and undimmed (On the Unity of the Catholic Church, 6, 10).
What are we being told? We are being told that heretics and enemies of the Church, dare I say it, are necessary. Strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are enabled to become more convinced of the truth of our faith, because we have to defend what we believe against the errors among which we live.
Once again, what are we being told? We are being told that hostility to our faith convictions is Gods mysterious way of making us more firm in holding on to what we believe, even though this perseverance may cost us our blood.
Confirmation is the Saviors great blessing for both our minds and wills. Our minds become more convinced that what we believe is really true. And our wills become more courageous in protecting this truth, even with our bodily lives.
The Churchs literature is filled with statements that might be called aphorisms. In every language since the dawn of Christianity, believing Catholics are encouraged to imitate the saints whom we honor as martyrs. Let me just mention a few of these mottos: The ashes of martyrs drive away demons. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. Heaven is opened to martyrs. All times are the age of martyrs. The martyrs were bound, imprisoned, scourged, burnt, rent, butchered and they multiplied. The death of the martyrs blossoms in the faith of the living. The Lord has willed that we should rejoice even over persecutions because, when persecutions occur, then the faith is crowned.
So the litany of these proverbs could go on. They teach us one thing, the most important thing we need to believe in this valley of tears. Christ instituted the sacrament of spiritual strengthening so that His followers might follow Him on the road to Calvary. The Savior is now glorified, but only because He had been crucified. Our own glorious eternity depends on the courageous witness of our faith, made possible by our Confirmation by the Holy Spirit.