(From the Catechism of the Catholic Church)
In the early Church the sacraments of baptism and confirmation were seen as two moments in a single process of reception into the one Church. The sacrament of Confirmation perfects baptismal grace; it gives the Holy Spirit so that we may be placed more firmly in a relationship of sonship to the Father, bringing us deeper into Christ the Son and strenghtening our bond with the Church. Thus we are given the grace to associate more closely with her mission in the world, bearing witness to our faith in both words and deeds. The essential rite of Confirmation is the anointing of the forehead of the baptised person with sacred chrism (scented oil blessed and made holy by the Bishop), with the laying on of hands by the minister (a priest or usually, a Bishop) and the words:
"Accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti" ("Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit").
Confirmation, like baptism, leaves a permanent spiritual mark on a person's soul - a "sealing" of the Holy Spirit - and is thus only received once in a lifetime. A candidate for Confirmation must profess the Catholic faith, be in state of grace (i.e. without unconfessed mortal sins) and have a true intention of receiving the sacrament. He or she must be willing to be a disciple and witness of Christ, not just within the church community but also to the world at large.
In Eastern Catholic Churches the sacrament is given to children by a priest, immediately after baptism, followed by the Eucharist; showing the unity of the three sacraments in Christian initiation. In Latin-rite churches such as St Mary's Dunstable, this sacrament is given when the 'age of reason' has been attained, normally after first Confession and Holy Communion (Eucharist). It is also usually given by the bishop of a diocese, in our case the Bishop of Northampton. In the Latin tradition, this shows the strengthening of the bond with the Church - same sacrament, only a different order. For unbaptised adults in the Latin-rite, Confirmation and reception of Eucharist are usually given on the same day, like in the Eastern Churches for children. When Confirmation is celebrated seperately from Baptism, the connection between the two is expressed in other ways, for example the renewing of baptismal vows.
Preparation for Confirmation
Adults are prepared for this Sacrament by participation in the Rite of Christian Initiation For Adults (RCIA) programme. More information can be found by telephoning the presbytery and speaking with one oft he parish priests or the parish secretary. In this Deanery young people who are in school Year 9 or older and who wish to be prepared for this Sacrament are invited to participate in a Preparation Programme with regular meetings spread over several months. They must have been baptised and should be regularly participate in the celebration of the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. The commencement date of the Preparation Course is dependent upon the date set by the Bishop of Northampton for the actual Confirmation. Candidates must attend all the sessions and show evidence of the earnestness of their disposition for them to be presented for Confirmation. It will usually take place in the period after Easter and around the Feast of Pentecost.
Forty days after the Resurrection of Jesus - during the Jewish festival of Pentecost - Christ's Apostles, his
mother the Blessed Viirgin Mary and the other disciples gathered where the God the Holy Spirit, came down
upon them.They were given many amazing gifts, such as speaking foreign languages and working other
miracles. On this day God's One Holy Catholic ("Universal") and Apostolic Church was truly established.
"And when they had entered [Jerusalem], they went up to the upper room, where they were staying... All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." - Acts 1:13-14, 2:2-4
The Apostles, gathered with them Mary the mother of God incarnate and the other disciples, and were filled with zeal by the Holy Spirit. Ordained by Christ, they had the power to 'confirm', or seal others with the same gift of God the Holy Spirit himself. Christ's Twelve Apostles, with Peter as their earthly head, were given the mission to enlarge God's kingdom on earth to include all people until the end of time.
"When Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied" - Acts 19:6 "It is God who confirms us with you in Christ, and has anointed us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a pledge." - 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
The sacramental act of Confirmation has existed since the earliest days of Christianity, bringing the baptismal graces to their fulness. The sacrament is mentioned in these passages as performed by, or spoken of, by St Paul, who was ordained by Christ's Apostles. He was responsible for making many converts to Christianity and building up the Catholic Church throughout the Roman Empire. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not limited to extraordinary miracles, but extend to visible signs that mark a true Christian life: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control".