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Confirmation (Catholic Church)

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Confirmation VanderWeyden

A Latin Rite bishop administering confirmation in the 14th century. Painting by Rogier Van der Weyden.

Confirmation, also known as Chrismation, is one of the seven sacraments through which Catholics pass in the process of their religious upbringing. In this sacrament they receive the Holy Spirit.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

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 heart. [2]

Catholics believe that Confirmation is based on Biblical precedent such as Acts of the Apostles 8:14-17:

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Western Church

In the Latin-Rite (i.e., Western) Catholic Church, 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 danger of death or, in the judgement of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise [3]. The number of Episcopal Conferences that have set a later age has diminished in recent decades, and even in those countries 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).

In the Latin-Rite (i.e., Western) Catholic Church, 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 by law confer the sacrament, if he baptizes someone who is no longer an infant or admits a person already baptized to full communion, or if the person (adult or child) to be confirmed is in danger of death (canon 883).

Eastern Church

In Eastern Catholic Churches, the usual minister of this sacrament is the parish priest, using olive oil consecrated by a bishop (i.e., chrism), and administering the sacrament immediately after Baptism.

The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ's Church. [4].


Reserving administration of the sacrament to a bishop, who cannot be present at every infant Baptism, means that large groups of older children and young adults are confirmed together, making the occasion something of a rite of passage and an opportunity to profess personal commitment to the faith. 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.

In the early twentieth century, Pope Pius X encouraged the admission of children to reception of the Eucharist as soon as they reached the age of reason, in contrast to the later age at which they had been admitted for some centuries. Since the age for Confirmation remained as before, those being confirmed generally received the Eucharist several years earlier. However, the three sacraments of Christian initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, are increasingly conferred, within the Latin-Rite Catholic Church, in the traditional order, which is obligatory when an adult is baptized.

The Catholic Church teaches that, like Baptism, Confirmation marks the recipient permanently, making it impossible to receive the sacrament twice. It accepts as valid a Confirmation conferred within Churches, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, whose Holy Orders it sees as valid through the apostolic succession of their bishops. But it considers it necessary to administer the sacrament of Confirmation, in its view for the only time, to Protestants who are admitted to full communion with the Catholic Church.

One of the effects of the sacrament is that "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". [5] This effect has been described as making the confirmed person "a soldier of Christ". [6]

The same passage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church also mentions, as an effect of Confirmation, that "it renders our bond with the Church more perfect". This mention stresses the importance of participation in the Christian community.


The "soldier of Christ" imagery, which remains valid [7] but is downplayed if seen as part of the once common idea of Confirmation as a "sacrament of maturity" [8], was used as far back as 350, by St Cyril of Jerusalem.[9] 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, [10] the Confirmation rite was revised in 1971, mention of this gesture was omitted. However, the French and Italian translations, indicating 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."

External links


  1. It is evident from its celebration Catechism of the Catholic Church 1302-1303]
  2. St. Ambrose, De myst. 7, 42: PL 16, 402-403.
  3. canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law canon 891
  4. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1292
  5. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1303
  7. Confirmation Preparation
  8. link not working

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