What is Confirmation?
There is an ancient axiom that liturgists and theologians employ to help articulate the nature of our belief as a Church, it reads as follows, “Lex orandi, lex credeni”. The axiom basically means that as a church we believe what we pray. In order to discover what we believe as a Church with regard to the sacraments all we have to do is look at the prayers used in the liturgical rites (a rite is simply a public prayer ritual). For instance, if we want to know about the theology of Confirmation all we need to do is look at the Rite of Confirmation, which states the following,
“All powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.” - Rite of Confirmation No. 25
From Canon Law we read the following description of Confirmation,
“The sacrament of confirmation strengthens the baptized and obliges them more firmly to be witnesses of Christ by word and deed and to spread and defend the faith. It imprints a character, enriches by the gift of the Holy Spirit the baptized continuing on the path of Christian initiation, and binds them more perfectly to the Church.” Can. 879
Notice in the description from canon law and from the Rite of Confirmation there is no mention of adulthood or maturity.
The order of the sacraments of initiation is: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. For a variety of historical reasons Confirmation was moved to around 8th grade or high school for those baptized into the Church as infants.
For those that are baptized after the age of seven through the RCIA all of the sacraments of initiation are conferred at the same time, in the following order, “Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.” The important thing to be aware of is that regardless of the age that the sacrament of Confirmation is conferred it is a source of strength and grace for all that receive it.
How is Confirmation conferred?
The sacrament of Confirmation is conferred through the anointing with Chrism on the forehead, which is done by the laying on of the hand, and through the words: Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Apostolic Constitution on the Sacrament of Confirmation
Confirmation Preparation for 8th Graders
During the 8th grade school year a variety of opportunities are provided for the formation of youth preparing for Confirmation. In addition to regular instruction provided in the classroom, youth complete a series of projects to help prepare them for Confirmation. To prepare our youth we provide opportunities for learning, service, prayer, and worship. The parent is responsible for helping the child to meeting the program attendance and service objectives. The candidates are asked to enter the journey with an open mind and willing heart.
Components of 8th grade Confirmation Formation
Regular classroom instruction either through our school our school or parish religious education program (P.R.E.P.) is an integral part of the Confirmation preparation process.
As Christians we serve others not so that we can check off a box on a stewardship form, or complete hours in preparation for a sacrament. Rather, we serve because Jesus served. We serve because providing for others is an integral part of the Christian life. From the gospel of John we read,
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (Jn 13:12-17)
Candidates are asked to perform twenty (20) service hours spread over three areas:
Candidates write a letter to the Archbishop expressing their desire to be confirmed/
Sponsors are asked to write a letter of readiness/ preparation to the pastor about their candidates.
Confirmation Liturgy Attire
Parish liturgies are similar to any other public activity where reverence and attention to our attire is required. We dress modestly and respectfully for liturgies not because of some dress code. We observe modesty because we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves or cause distraction. We are participating in a communal act of worship, not an individual display of style or uniqueness. In short, liturgy is not about individual preferences or tastes; it is about a community of believers worshiping God as one body. Part of worshipping with one another means setting aside things that might divide us or highlight our individuality. We read from the letter to the Galatians, “for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
It is the custom at St. Margaret Mary that the candidates wear robes. Dress for under the robes is as follows:
Boys: Are asked to wear dress pants, dress shoes, shirt and tie.
Girls: May wear dress, skirt or dress pants. If their dress has spaghetti straps please wear a jacket, sweater, or shrug.
Every Confirmation Candidate must have a sponsor who is:
• A practicing Catholic
• Over 16 Years of age
• In good Standing
The sponsor must be willing to share his/her faith story with the candidate, support the candidate during his journey, pray for and with the candidate model the commitment to personal prayer, community, worship. The sponsor presents the candidate to the Archbishop. The sponsor must be willing to continue to guide the newly confirmed in the future. A parent cannot be a sponsor for his/her own child.
Choosing a Confirmation Name?
By Dennis C. Smolarski
Liturgy Training Publications
Liturgy 90, April 1999
Before looking at the pros and cons of choosing “confirmation names”, it would be helpful to reflect on names in a more general human and religious context, particularly in the context of the name used at baptism.
Personal names are often taken for granted, yet parents often spend many hours deliberating when choosing a name for a newborn. Sometimes a child is named to honor a relative, and sometimes a child is named after a saint held in high esteem by the family. Sometimes a person has a special “nickname” used only by close relatives. Whatever the origin of our names, they become part of our history and our identity.
Names are important in our religious tradition as well. The prophet Isaiah, speaking in God’s name, proclaims to King Cyrus, “it is I, the Lord . . . who call you by your name” (Isaiah 45:3-4). After the resurrection, it was only when Jesus called Mary Magdalene by name that she recognized him (John 20:16).
Our names are used at our baptism and become part of our religious history. For many centuries it was customary to use only the names of saints at baptism, but the baptismal rite now permits other names as long as they are not incompatible with Christian faith, and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults provides a rite for the catechumen to receive a “Christian” name for baptism (RCIA, #202).
Since confirmation is now seen in relationship to baptism, any discussion of a “confirmation name” must be placed in the context of the relationship of confirmation to baptism. Confirmation is seen as a “seal” of the faith and grace given in baptism. The current rite of confirmation tries to link the celebration of this sacrament of initiation to baptism, and thus, for example, recommends that the “sponsor” for confirmation be the baptismal godparent when possible (Introduction to the Rite of Confirmation, #5) and includes a formal renewal of baptismal promises after the homily.
Since the rite contains no specific directive otherwise, it presumes that those to be confirmed will be addressed by the name at their baptism.
Choosing a separate confirmation name has been a centuries-old custom for those baptized as infants but confirmed later. But this practice emphasizes a separation between the two sacraments that is at variance with our renewed understanding of the inter-relationship of baptism, confirmation and eucharist as the three sacraments of Christian initiation. And although popular in many places, a “confirmation name” is nowhere mentioned in either the former rite or the current rite; neither is it mentioned in either the old or new Code of Canon Law.
Thus there is no obligation to use a name at confirmation that is different from the name given at baptism, although the local bishop may find the older custom appropriate for education and inspirational purposes.
We do find references to the “confirmation names” in the history of the church. For example, Saint Adalbert (tenth century) actually received the name “Adalbert” at his confirmation. Under the guidance of Saint Charles Borromeo (sixteenth century), a diocesan council in Milan recommended that someone whose name was “unbecoming for a Christian” should receive another at confirmation. But this good advice was never an absolute requirement and does not address the situation of someone’s baptismal name being that of a canonized saint.
Taking a new name can be symbolic of a new stage in life, and we must remember that there is a biblical history of individuals whose names changed: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, and Saul to Paul. This precedent was one reason members of many religious orders chose “religious” names when pronouncing vows. But the celebration of confirmation is a time to reaffirm one’s baptism and thus should not be seen so much as a new stage of Christian life but as an opportunity to deepen the graces of baptism.
Celebrating the sacrament of confirmation can be an opportunity for candidates to reflect on what baptism and union with Christ should mean in their lives. It can also be an occasion for the candidates to reflect on how they should live out their baptismal commitment in the future, imitating the holy men and women of previous ages.
There may, however, be appropriate and pastoral reasons for someone to choose another patron saint and use this saint’s name when being confirmed. This name, freely chosen and reflecting the candidate’s devotion to a saint, can be a sign of commitment to living as a Christian in today’s world under the patronage of someone they admire. Ideally, such a confirmation name would be used in addition to the baptismal name, not in place of it, and would be the name of a saint to whom the person being confirmed has a particular devotion. On the other hand, for most individuals, using the baptismal name alone can be a powerful reaffirmation of who they are as Christians.
The decision to choose a special patron (and name) at confirmation or to honor the name received at baptism should always be considered a secondary aspect of the celebration. What is ultimately being celebrated is God’s commitment to each baptized Christian through the gift of the Holy Spirit, a reality that should never be overshadowed, no matter what name is used!