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

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Baptism Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water

Baptism is a Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. The synoptic gospels recount that John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Baptism is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. Baptism is also called christening, although some reserve the word "christening" for the baptism of infants. It has also given its name to the Baptist churches and denominations.

Contents

Description

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: [3]

Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding and courage, 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 our Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your heart. [4]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church sees as a scriptural basis for Confirmation as a sacrament distinct from Baptism the account in the Acts of the Apostles 8:14-17: [5] [6]

Acts of the Apostles Book of the New Testament

Acts of the Apostles, often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; it tells of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message to the Roman Empire.

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.

Western Church

In the Latin Church (i.e. Western Catholic 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. [7] 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. [8]

Latin Church automonous particular church making up of most of the Western world Catholics

The Latin Church is the largest particular church of the Catholic Church, employing the Latin liturgical rites. It is one of 24 sui iuris churches, the 23 other forming the Eastern Catholic Churches. It is headed by the Bishop of Rome - the pope, traditionally called the Patriarch of the West - with headquarters in the Vatican City, enclaved within Rome, Italy. The Latin Church traces its history to the earliest days of Christianity, according to Catholic tradition, through its direct leadership under the Holy See.

Sacraments of the Catholic Church seven visible rituals that Catholics see as signs of Gods presence, consisting of those of initiation (baptism, confirmation, eucharist), of healing (reconciliation, anointing of the sick), and of service (holy orders, matrimony)

There are seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, which according to Catholic theology were instituted by Jesus and entrusted to the Church. Sacraments are visible rites seen as signs and efficacious channels of the grace of God to all those who receive them with the proper disposition. The sevenfold list of sacraments is often organized into three categories: the sacraments of initiation, consisting of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist; the sacraments of healing, consisting of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick; and the sacraments of service: Holy Orders and Matrimony.

An episcopal conference, sometimes called a conference of bishops, is an official assembly of the bishops of the Catholic Church in a given territory. Episcopal conferences have long existed as informal entities. The first assembly of bishops to meet regularly, with its own legal structure and ecclesial leadership function, is the Swiss Bishops' Conference, which was founded in 1863. More than forty episcopal conferences existed before the Second Vatican Council. Their status was confirmed by the Second Vatican Council and further defined by Pope Paul VI's 1966 motu proprio, Ecclesiae sanctae.

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. Priests customarily ask for and are granted permission for this occasion. [9]

Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil, also called the Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter, is a service held in traditional Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Historically, it is during this service that people are baptized and that adult catechumens are received into full communion with the Church. It is held in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day – most commonly in the evening of Holy Saturday or midnight – and is the first celebration of Easter, days traditionally being considered to begin at sunset.

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process for conversion of adolescents and adults to Catholic Church

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), or Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum (OICA) is a process developed by the Catholic Church for prospective converts to Catholicism who are above the age of infant baptism. Candidates are gradually introduced to aspects of Catholic beliefs and practices. The basic process applies to adults and older children, with younger children initiated through an adapted version sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children (RCIC).

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. [10] 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. [11] Confirmation became a much more important rite when concerns about understanding and faith grew, in particular following the Reformation. [12]

Synods of Westminster Wikimedia list article

Synods of Westminster were certain of the more important ecclesiastical councils held within the present bounds of London. Though the precise locality is occasionally uncertain, the majority of the medieval synods assembled in the chapter-house of old St Pauls, or the former chapel of St Catherine within the precincts of Westminster Abbey or at Lambeth. The councils were of various types, each with a constitutional history of its own. Before the reign of Edward I, when convocation assumed substantially its present form, there were convened in London various diocesan, provincial, national and legatine synods; during the past six centuries, however, the chief ecclesiastical assemblies held there have been convocations of the province of Canterbury.

Reformation Schism within the Christian Church in the 16th-century

The Reformation was a movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Roman Catholic church – and papal authority in particular. Although the Reformation is usually considered to have started with the publication of the Ninety-five Theses by Martin Luther in 1517, there was no schism between the Catholics and the nascent Lutheran branch until the 1521 Edict of Worms. The edict condemned Luther and officially banned citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas. The end of the Reformation era is disputed: it could be considered to end with the enactment of the confessions of faith which began the Age of Orthodoxy. Other suggested ending years relate to the Counter-Reformation, the Peace of Westphalia, or that it never ended since there are still Protestants today.

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. [13] 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. [14] 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." [15]

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 the age of discretion (generally taken to be about 7), 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 [16] and first Holy Communion. [17]

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. [18] [19] [20] [21] 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 its 1999 bulletin, 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, remains valid [22] but is downplayed if seen as part of the once common idea of Confirmation as a "sacrament of maturity", [23] was used as far back as 350, by St Cyril of Jerusalem. [24] 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, [25] 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

Related Research Articles

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Infant baptism Christian baptism of infants or young children

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Chrismation

Chrismation consists of the sacrament or mystery in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, as well as in the Assyrian Church of the East initiation rites. The sacrament is more commonly known in the West as confirmation, although Italian normally uses cresima ("chrismation") rather than confermazione ("confirmation").

According to Roman Catholic Church teaching, a sacramental character is an indelible spiritual mark imprinted by three of the seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders.

Confirmation rite where baptism is confirmed in several Christian denominations

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Infant communion

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Canon 844 is a Catholic Church canon law contained within the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which defines the licit administration and reception of certain sacraments of the Catholic Church in normative and in particular exceptional circumstances, known in canonical theory as communicatio in sacris.

References

  1. Oregon Catholic Press What is Confirmation?
  2. The Holy See. [http://www.vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html
  3. It is evident from its celebration cb.org/catechism/text/pt2sect2chpt1art2.htm Catechism of the Catholic Church 1302-1303
  4. St. Ambrose, De myst. 7, 42: PL 16, 402-403.
  5. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1315
  6. RCIA Catechetical Resources, Confirmation, Nature of the Sacrament
  7. canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law Archived 18 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine canon 891
  8. letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published in its 1999 bulletin, pages 537–540
  9. Canon 882-888
  10. Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society; Catholicism: Early Church; accessed 17. January 2011.
  11. 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)
  12. 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.
  13. Kay Lynn Isca, Catholic Etiquette (Our Sunday Visitor 1997 ISBN   0-87973-590-2), p. 91
  14. canon 788 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law
  15. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1308
  16. canon 989
  17. canons 913–914
  18. The Restored Order of Sacraments of Initiation
  19. Confirmation before communion, Liverpool decides Archived 11 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  20. Interchurch Families Archived 3 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  21. Why Confirmation should be before the age of ten
  22. Confirmation Preparation Archived 4 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  23. link not working Archived 19 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  24. SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION (WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?)
  25. CONSTITUTION ON THE SACRED LITURGY Archived 21 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine