Confirmation as the Perfection of Baptism

In Scotland confirmation is usually received as a teenager, several years after making First Communion. The Catholic Church considers it the second of the three Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism being the first and Communion the third). Confirmation is regarded as the perfection of Baptism, because, as the introduction to the Rite of Confirmation states:

“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”.

The Form of the Sacrament of Confirmation

Many people think of the laying on of hands, which signifies the descent of the Holy Spirit, as the central act in the Sacrament of Confirmation. The essential element, however, is the anointing of the confirmand (the person being confirmed) with chrism (an aromatic oil that has been consecrated by a bishop), accompanied by the words “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit” (or, in the Eastern Catholic Churches, “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”). This seal is a consecration, representing the safeguarding by the Holy Spirit of the graces conferred on the Christian at Baptism.

The Minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, “The original minister of Confirmation is the bishop.” Each bishop is a successor to the apostles, upon whom the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost—the first Confirmation. The Acts of the Apostles mentions the apostles imparting the Holy Spirit to believers by the laying on of hands (see, for example, Acts 8:15-17 and 19:6).

The Church has always stressed this connection of confirmation, through the bishop, to the ministry of the apostles, but She has developed two different ways of doing so.

In St. Augustine’s our young pupils receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in either Primary 6 or Primary 7 of schooling. Sacramental preparation is carried-out during RE lessons at St. Augustine’s Primary, together with input from the priests of the parish.