Sacrament of Confirmation. This Thursday evening, May 25, Archbishop Timothy Broglio (Archdiocese for the Military Services) will administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to our 8th graders and a few others. Congratulations to them all! The sacrament, however is not a “graduation.” Rather, it is the beginning of a new stage in the Christian life, as they receive the strengthening of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, along with His seven-fold gifts, to participate more fully in the Church’s mission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
Many people are confused about this sacrament. The key, it seems to me, to understanding this sacrament is to understand the word “confirm.” Webster’s gives two basic definitions for the word: “1: to give approval to: ratify … 2 : to make firm or firmer: strengthen…” It is the second definition that defines our sacramental use of the word: Confirmation is about the Holy Spirit strengthening us.
Some think, for example, that the word “confirmation” means that the sacrament is the opportunity for the young person to publicly “ratify” their faith in Christ and His Catholic Church (i.e., the first definition of the word in Webster’s), which they couldn’t do when they were baptized as babies. But that is not the case, and anyway, they do that every Sunday when they proclaim the Creed (I believe in God…). Remember, a sacrament is something God does, not something we do. As the Catechism (1308) teaches: “we must not…forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need “ratification” to become effective…”
Others think the sacrament is when the child “becomes an adult.” Again, a misunderstanding. As the Catechism tells us: “Although Confirmation is sometimes called the “sacrament of Christian maturity,” we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth…” Confirmation does give us the grace we need to live out our faith as adults, but the grace does not make someone who is a child into an adult—it only gives a child who is growing into an adult about to face difficult adult decisions etc. with the fullness of grace they will need.
Still others think that because Confirmation is usually the last of the “Sacraments of Initiation” (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) to be received that it therefore makes us “full members of the Church.” To be absolutely clear: we become full members of the Church at Baptism. However, Confirmation and the Eucharist strengthen our bond with Christ and His Church, and enable us to live out our part in the Church’s mission more perfectly. So, Confirmation, “renders our bond with the Church more perfect” (CCC 1303).
A much more appropriate short description of the sacrament is that, “it makes us soldiers for Christ.” However incomplete it is, it still communicates the strength of the sacrament and the gifts given for determined (though peaceful) proclamation of the Gospel and defense of the Church.
But let’s consider the more full and comprehensive description given by the Catechism:
1303 …. Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
– it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation [sonship] which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”;
– it unites us more firmly to Christ;
– it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
– it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
– it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross: “Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence…” [St. Ambrose].
1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.
1305 This “character” perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and “the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi Ex officio).”
The Ascension. Next Sunday is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. As you know, most of the Church throughout the world celebrates this feast on Thursday as a Holy Day of Obligation— “Ascension Thursday”—since Scripture (Acts 1:3) tells us that Jesus ascended to heaven on the 40th day of the Resurrection. However, since many Catholics are unable to attend Mass in the middle of the week, our Bishop, and the Bishops of the neighboring Dioceses, think it best to move the celebration of the Solemnity/feast to Sunday so that all Catholics would be more able to celebrate this very important mystery of our Faith. So, to be clear: this Thursday is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation. However, I am delighted that this year our 8th graders will be Confirmed on the day (this Thursday) when most of the Church celebrates the Lord’s Ascension into Heaven—and the beginning of the 9 days the Apostles, Mary and the rest of the early Church prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (the first Confirmation).
Welcome Back College Students and Grads. It’s been great to see all the familiar faces coming home from college for the summer in the last few weeks. I hope you will all have productive and restful summers—either working, studying, or vacationing. I also hope to see you all at Mass and in the confessional! Also, I extend a special “congratulations” to all the new college graduates in our midst. I pray that your futures will be bright and successful, and that you continue to be close to the Lord and follow His will for your lives—that is where your true happiness lies. God bless you.
Washington: Confusion, but Some Good News. I don’t trust the press at all, the political parties are a mess, and I’ve never been a big fan of Donald Trump. But Mr. Trump is our President, so we need to pray for him, and our nation. And in spite of all the troubles, confusion and acrimony we hear about, there has been some great news in the last few weeks, with the President making important moves to protect religious liberty and the right to life. Just last week the Associated Press reported: “President Donald Trump is moving forward with a plan to massively expand a ban on federal dollars going to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information…To receive funding, health organizations must pledge not to provide abortions or abortion information or provide support to any groups that do.…Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, welcomed the news, saying in a statement that ‘…we have officially ceased exporting abortion to foreign nations.’”
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles