The Easter season continues for 50 days after Easter Sunday, concluding on the feast of Pentecost. In the Diocese of Orange, this time is often referred to as “Confirmation Season.” This is a particular time of grace in which our local bishops administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to the high school age youth in our Diocese.
All the faithful are encouraged to participate in this sacramental reality by praying for these teens who are being confirmed and our bishops who are sealing them with the Holy Spirit. If you have already received the Sacrament of Confirmation, this is a good opportunity to pray to Holy Spirit, asking that the gifts of the Holy Spirit be unleashed more fully in your life. Perhaps you were confirmed a long time ago and you have not given much thought of the graces that you received through this sacrament. Maybe you are an adult who never had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation when you were younger.
Regardless of your situation, this is a good opportunity to review: what is the Sacrament of Confirmation and how does it affect our life and faith?
The Sacrament of Confirmation is not a “rite of passage” or the graduation from catechetical training. Rather, it is the completion of the sacraments of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation) and
equips us to be Christ’s disciples who share in the Church’s mission of evangelization. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1265, explains that Baptism not only purifies us from sin, but also establishes our relationship with the Holy Trinity, making us adopted children of God, members of Christ and of His Church, and temples of the Holy Spirit.
Through the laying on of the bishop’s hands, the words of the bishop, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit,” and the anointing of the baptized person’s forehead with sacred chrism oil, the Sacrament of Confirmation is bestowed. Confirmation spiritually marks our soul with an unrepeatable and unchangeable sign.
This spiritual seal signifies our Christian identity as Christ’s witnesses in the world expressed through our words and actions.
Essentially, the Sacrament of Confirmation strengthens the grace of our baptism with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1303, offers five effects from this outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a soul. 1) It affirms our identity as children of God; 2) unites us closer to Christ; 3) increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit; 4) strengthens our relationship with the Church; 5) equips us to spread the Faith and not be afraid to be Christ’s witnesses.
The activity of the Holy Spirit is identified in us through the spiritual gifts He bestows. In the Rite of Confirmation, the bishop prays that the confirmandi receive the spirit of wisdom, understanding, right judgement, courage, knowledge, reverence and fear of the Lord. These gifts are seven different ways in which the Holy Spirit can work in our soul, helping us to see as God sees, make choices in union with God, and follow the way of Christ.
The story of Pentecost is the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to send His Holy Spirit after He ascended to Heaven. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles gathered in the upper room had immediate effects. They were no longer afraid to preach the Gospel, even at the cost of their life. They were set free from fear so that they could be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.
This is our missionary call as well. Do we live what we profess in the Creed? Do we defend what is revealed as the truth through our Church? Do we share and invite others to receive the gift of faith and salvation? It’s not always easy, but the deepening of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our soul draws us closer to our Heavenly Father as His children and unites us more to Christ and His Church.