Confirmation in the Catholic Church

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The Seven Sacraments Altarpiece, by Rogier van der Weyden, depicting a Latin Church bishop administering confirmation in the 14th century Confirmation VanderWeyden.png
The Seven Sacraments Altarpiece , by Rogier van der Weyden, depicting a Latin Church bishop administering confirmation in the 14th century

Confirmation, in the Catholic Church, is one of the seven sacraments. [1] It is also one of the three sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church, the other two being Baptism and Holy Communion. [2]

Contents

Description

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost... 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. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts. [3]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church sees the account in the Acts of the Apostles 8:14–17 as a scriptural basis for Confirmation as a sacrament distinct from Baptism:

Now when the apostles, who were in Jerusalem, had heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John. Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For he was not as 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 Spirit. [4]

Latin Church

In the Latin Church, the sacrament is to be conferred on the faithful above the age of discretion (generally taken to be about 7), unless the Episcopal Conference has decided on a different age, or there is danger of death or, in the judgment of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise. [5] Even in those countries where the episcopal conference has set a later age as normal, a bishop may not refuse to confer the sacrament on younger children who request it, provided they are baptized, have the use of reason, are suitably instructed and are properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises. [6]

The sacrament is customarily conferred only on people old enough to understand it, and the ordinary minister of Confirmation is a bishop. Only for a serious reason may the diocesan bishop delegate a priest to administer the sacrament (canon 884 of the Code of Canon Law). However, a priest may confer the sacrament when he baptizes someone who is no longer an infant or admits a person already baptized to full communion with the Catholic Church, or if the person (adult or child) to be confirmed is in danger of death (canon 883). Priests typically administer the sacrament during the Easter Vigil Mass to adults becoming members of the Catholic Church. It is the conclusion of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program.

Age

Bishop anoints young adult by using oil of chrism Confirmation in Mostar 2013b.jpg
Bishop anoints young adult by using oil of chrism

In the early Church, through the Middle Ages, confirmation was closely linked with baptism and it was often performed on infants before their first birthday, but in some churches, the minimal age of 10 years comes into play. [7] Like baptism, confirmation was an act for which the parents were held responsible. Two synods held in England during the thirteenth century differed over whether confirmation had to be administered within one year after birth, or within three years. [8] Confirmation became a much more important rite when concerns about understanding and faith grew, in particular following the Reformation. [9]

After the Fourth Lateran Council, Communion, which continued to be given only after Confirmation, was to be administered only on reaching the age of reason. Some time after the 13th century, the age of Confirmation and Communion began to be delayed further, from seven, to twelve and to fifteen. [10] The 1917 Code of Canon Law, while recommending that Confirmation be delayed until about seven years of age, allowed it be given at an earlier age. [11] Only on 30 June 1932 was official permission given to change the traditional order of the three sacraments of Christian initiation: the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments then allowed, where necessary, that Confirmation be administered after first Holy Communion. This novelty, originally seen as exceptional, became more and more the accepted practice. Thus, in the mid-20th century, Confirmation began to be seen as an occasion for professing personal commitment to the faith on the part of someone approaching adulthood.

However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1308 warns: "Although Confirmation is sometimes called the 'sacrament of Christian maturity,' we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need 'ratification' to become effective." [12]

On the canonical age for confirmation in the Latin or Western Catholic Church, the present (1983) Code of Canon Law, which maintains unaltered the rule in the 1917 Code, specifies that the sacrament is to be conferred on the faithful at about 7-18, unless the episcopal conference has decided on a different age, or there is a danger of death or, in the judgement of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise (canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law). The Code prescribes the age of discretion also for the sacraments of Penance [13] and first Holy Communion. [14]

Since the Second Vatican Council, the setting of a later age, e.g. mid-teens in the United States, early teens in Ireland and Britain, has been abandoned in some places in favour of restoring the traditional order of the three sacraments of Christian initiation. [15] [16] [17] [18] Even where a later age has been set, a bishop may not refuse to confer the sacrament on younger children who request it, provided they are baptized, have the use of reason, are suitably instructed and are properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises (letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published in the 1999 volume of its journal, Notitiae, pages 537–540).

Imagery

Although Confirmation is sometimes called the "sacrament of Christian maturity," we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need "ratification" to become effective. St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us of this: Age of body does not determine age of soul. Even in childhood man can attain spiritual maturity: as the book of Wisdom says: For old age is not honored for length of time, or measured by number of years. Many children, through the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received, have bravely fought for Christ even to the shedding of their blood. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1308)

The "soldier of Christ" imagery, which remains valid [19] but is downplayed if seen as part of the once common idea of Confirmation as a "sacrament of maturity", [20] was used as far back as 350, by St Cyril of Jerusalem. [21] In this connection, the touch on the cheek that the bishop gave while saying "Pax tecum" (Peace be with you) to the person he had just confirmed was interpreted in the Roman Pontifical as a slap, a reminder to be brave in spreading and defending the faith: "Deinde leviter eum in maxilla caedit, dicens: Pax tecum" (Then he strikes him lightly on the cheek, saying: Peace be with you) (cf. the knightly custom of the accolade). When, in application of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, [22] the Confirmation rite was revised in 1971, mention of this gesture was omitted. However, the French and Italian translations, indication that the bishop should accompany the words "Peace be with you" with "a friendly gesture" (French text) or "the sign of peace" (Italian text), explicitly allow a gesture such as the touch on the cheek, to which they restore its original meaning. This is in accord with the Introduction to the Rite of Confirmation, 17, which indicates that the episcopal conference may decide "to introduce a different manner for the minister to give the sign of peace after the anointing, either to each individual or to all the newly confirmed together."

See also

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References

  1. Oregon Catholic Press What is Confirmation?
  2. The Holy See. "Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church", Part 2, Section 2. The Seven Sacraments of the Church. 2005.
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1302–1303
  4. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1315
  5. canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law Archived 18 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine canon 891
  6. letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published in its 1999 bulletin, pages 537–540
  7. Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society; Catholicism: Early Church; accessed 17 January 2011.
  8. Councils and Synods with other Documents relating to the English Church: II. Part 1 (1205–1265), Part II (1265–1313); edited by F.M. Powicke and C.R. Cheny (Oxford, 1964)
  9. Brewer, Holly. By Birth or Consent: Children, Law, & the Anglo-American Revolution in Authority; Univ. of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, 2005); pp 65-68; accessed 16 January 2011.
  10. Kay Lynn Isca, Catholic Etiquette (Our Sunday Visitor 1997 ISBN   0-87973-590-2), p. 91
  11. canon 788 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law
  12. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1308
  13. canon 989
  14. canons 913–914
  15. The Restored Order of Sacraments of Initiation
  16. Confirmation before communion, Liverpool decides Archived 11 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  17. Interchurch Families Archived 3 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  18. Why Confirmation should be before the age of ten
  19. Confirmation Preparation Archived 4 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  20. link not working Archived 19 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  21. SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION (WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?)
  22. CONSTITUTION ON THE SACRED LITURGY Archived 21 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine