First, we need to remember that to receive any sacrament, one must have been validly baptized because “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life ... the door which gives access to the other sacraments.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1213) So, having looked at baptism last week, the next sacrament of initiation is Confirmation.
“The reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For ‘by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.’” (CCC, 1285)
The proper order of initiation sacraments is in fact, baptism, confirmation, and then eucharist. In the early days of the Church, confirmation usually was combined with baptism. However, the increasing number of infant baptisms throughout the year, increase in parish numbers, and growth of dioceses prevented the bishop from being present at all celebrations to confirm the members of his flock. In order to reserve the Confirmation to the bishop, the sacraments were separated. That aside, there still is an anointing with Chrism in the infant baptismal rite to show the newly baptized’s participation in the prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices of Christ. In Confirmation, the main symbol is the Chrism oil.
“Anointing, in Biblical and other ancient symbolism, is rich in meaning: oil is a sign of abundance and joy; it cleanses (anointing before and after a bath) and limbers (the anointing of athletes and wrestlers); oil is a sign of healing, since it is soothing to bruises and wounds; and it makes radiant with beauty, health, and strength. Anointing with sacred chrism in Confirmation and ordination is the sign of consecration. By Confirmation, Christians, that is, those who are anointed, share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which he is filled, so that their lives may give off ‘the aroma of Christ.’” (CCC, 1293-1294).
Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace by uniting us more firmly to Christ, increasing the gifts of the Holy Spirit within us, rendering our bond with Christ more perfect, and giving us special strength to defend the faith.
Who can be confirmed? Any baptized Catholic. In the Latin Church, it is usually in the junior high years that confirmation is received. However, younger children (even infants) can and should be confirmed in danger of death.
Form, Matter, and Minister
Form: “[Name], be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 1300)
Matter: Sacred Chrism being applied to the head of the candidate; and, the laying on of hands (consecratory prayer) (CCC 1288, 1294, 1300)
Minister: As a successor to the apostles, the ordinary minister is the Bishop because he has the fullness of Holy Orders. By conferring it himself, he demonstrates the unity of the Church and unites those who receive it more closely to her apostolic origins. However, the bishop may delegate other priests to confer Confirmation, if necessary. At the Easter Vigil, all pastors of parishes who baptize any Elect or bring Candidates for Full Communion into the Church, has the authority (and duty) to confer Confirmation immediately. And finally, when someone is in danger of death, any priest is permitted and encouraged to give Confirmation so that the person can leave this world perfected by the Holy Spirit. (CCC 1312-1314)