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What is the Sacrament of Confirmation? - Definition & Symbols

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  • 0:03 Confirmation
  • 1:10 Who Can Receive Confirmation?
  • 2:16 The Rite of Confirmation
  • 4:05 Symbols of Confirmation
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

This lesson will cover the Catholic sacrament of Confirmation, taking a close look at the definition and effects of the sacrament, its recipients, its celebration, and its symbols.

Confirmation: Its Definition and Its Effects

Confirmation is the sacrament by which Catholics receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Through Confirmation, the Holy Spirit gives them the increased ability to practice their Catholic faith in every aspect of their lives and to witness Christ in every situation.

The effects of Confirmation are as follows:

  • An increased portion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, knowledge, right judgment, understanding, courage, piety, and fear of the Lord
  • A deepening and strengthening of the grace received at Baptism, which is considered the presence of God in the soul
  • A more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ
  • A closer bond with the Catholic Church
  • The ability to take a greater, more mature role in the Church's mission of living the Christian faith daily and witnessing to Christ everywhere
  • A special mark, or character, on the soul that can never be erased

Each person's ability to embrace these effects depends on his or her openness to the sacrament and willingness to accept it as God's personal gift.

The Holy Spirit symbolized by a dove
The Holy Spirit symbolized by a dove

Who Can Receive Confirmation?

In the Roman Catholic Church, Confirmation is usually administered to young people in tenth, eleventh, or twelfth grade who are ready to take on a more adult role in the Church. These candidates for Confirmation, or confirmands, as they are called, were usually baptized as infants and must now accept the Catholic faith as their own and make a commitment to live it out with God's help. Most confirmands participate in one or two years of preparation classes before receiving the sacrament. As part of that preparation, each confirmand chooses a 'Confirmation name' (usually that of a favorite saint), which indicates that he or she is ready to assume a new position in the community.

Adults joining the Catholic Church also receive the sacrament of Confirmation after baptism and a period of instruction. They, too, must freely accept the Catholic faith and commit to practicing it at all times.

Any baptized person, even an infant, may receive Confirmation, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that it provides, if he or she is in danger of death.

The Rite of Confirmation

Confirmation is typically administered by a bishop although priests can also give this sacrament in certain circumstances, especially to adults entering the Church.

The rite of Confirmation, which often takes place during Mass, begins when the bishop extends his hands over the confirmands and prays, '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. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.'

Each confirmand then comes forward individually to receive the sacrament from the bishop. The confirmand is accompanied by his or her sponsor, an adult Catholic who serves as a mentor and provides an example of a faith-filled life. As the sponsor places his or her hand on the confirmand's shoulder, the bishop first anoints the confirmand on the forehead with chrism (holy oil that has been blessed by the bishop). Then he lays his hands on the confirmand. Finally, calling the confirmand by his or her Confirmation name, the bishop says, 'Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.' This is the essential rite of the sacrament.

A confirmand being anointed by the bishop
A confirmand being anointed by the bishop

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