"They laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit."
The Sacrament of Confirmation is one of three Sacraments of Initiation in the Catholic Church the other two being Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. The Sacrament of Confirmation confers special graces of the Holy Spirit upon the person being confirmed; just as such graces were granted to the Apostles on Pentecost. Like Baptism, therefore, it can only be performed once. Confirmation increases and deepens all of the graces granted at Baptism. (cf. Acts 8:14-17)
We receive seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation:
It is usual for the Bishop to confirm candidates for Confirmation; however for practical reasons, permission may be given to the parish priest to carry out the Sacrament. After renewing baptismal promises, the Bishop will stretch his hands out over the heads of the candidates as he prays that God will send His Holy Spirit to be "helper and guide." This also signifies that the candidate is given the special job of living in keeping with the Gospel values.
- Right Judgment (Counsel)
- Courage (Fortitude)
- Reverence (Piety)
- Wonder And Awe In God's Presence (Fear of the Lord)
After this, candidates are anointed with the sign of the cross using the Oil of Chrism. This is an ancient sign of being chosen by God. The oil symbolizes becoming a full member of the Church and a true child of God. It is a sign strength and healing.
There are five effects of Confirmation given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1303):
Normally received by young adults, the Sacrament of Confirmation is often wrongly viewed as a Sacrament of "graduation." While the contrary is true; Confirmation is only a beginning. Many of the recently-confirmed struggle to explain the exact effect the Sacrament has on their lives. It is important to remember that Confirmation marks a new stage on their path to salvation. Recipients of the Sacrament are given the graces to go forth from Confirmation empowered for service, anointed like royalty, signed with Christ's cross and gifted with peace.
- It roots us more deeply in the divine filiation [as sons of God] which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!"
- It unites us more firmly to Christ.
- It increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.
- It renders our bond with the Church more perfect.
- 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.
In Hebrews 6:2, we read: "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment".
We must walk through the successive stages of our Christian journey to salvation-repentance, faith, baptism, confirmation, resurrection, and judgment. Confirmation is the stage of the journey where grace is given so that the Christian is ready to start listening to the call of the Holy Spirit in his life. Confirmation normally comes at a time when a young adult needs guidance. Our world is one in which materialism is widely embraced, but through Confirmation, the candidates are give the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to guide them in resisting the call of our materialistic age.
In some respects, these spiritual gifts imparted through Confirmation can be likened to a gift card. There is a monetary value associated with the gift card, but if it remains in your wallet, you will not receive the benefits of the gift card. Likewise, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given so that they can be used. But, unlike a gift card which can be used up, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are inexhaustible in their ability to strengthen the Catholic to live the true Christian life and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
"..and this is how we know that He LIVES in us; we know it by the Spirit He gave us." [1 John 3:24]