In the upcoming weeks and months, parishes around Orange County will be celebrating many Confirmation Masses. It is a peak spiritual moment for Catholics.
“Through the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit—wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord—we are strengthened to live our universal call to holiness and sent on a mission,” said Catherine Ord, Youth Ministry Programs Coordinator in the Diocese of Orange. Most often it is teenagers who are confirmed, though adults may be confirmed too.
Confirmation Masses are both solemn and joyful—they mark the day, after two years of preparation, when those being confirmed complete the Sacraments of Initiation and are sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit that they first received at baptism, explained Ord.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops describes it this way: “Confirmation deepens our baptismal life that calls us to be missionary witnesses of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, society, and the world. We receive the message of faith in a deeper and more intensive manner with great emphasis given to the person of Jesus Christ, who asked the Father to give the Holy Spirit to the Church for building up the community in loving service.”
Is there is a best age to be confirmed? Not according to Ord. “I think Confirmation is equally as important for adults as it is for children,” she said. “In our Diocese, Confirmation begins in high school and is a two-year journey. I love to read letters young people write to the bishop describing how God is working in their lives. I do not think I can generalize that the experience is more powerful by age group, but I do think that solid formation that allows space for questioning, and encounter does play a role in the Confirmation journey.”
This formation process can have an effect on the whole family of the person being confirmed. At Saint Philip Benizi Church in Fullerton, parents and siblings are brought into gatherings leading up to the Confirmation Mass so they can be part of the process. Each teen chooses a person to be his or her sponsor, said Nohemi Gutierrez, Confirmation coordinator and youth minister at Saint Philip Benizi Church. This is someone who will accompany the teen through his or her faith journey. The Confirmation Mass for Saint Philip Benizi Church will be held on May 11.
Confirmation has the most impact when it is approached with thoughtfulness and an open mind, said Ord.
“When teens are pushed through a program that does not consider where they are in their faith journey and they are not accompanied well, the sacrament can turn into a box they checked for their family,” she said.
This pitfall is one that adults should beware of also.
“In the same way, an adult who is not given opportunities for personal encounters with Christ may leave the Confirmation process with head knowledge
without the heart knowledge to fall in love with the Church and her teachings,” said Ord. “I believe the Confirmation journey helps people to: understand their identity in Christ, feel part of the body of Christ and feel called to be witness to their faith.”
Confirmations are typically springtime events for a reason. “The preferred time to celebrate Confirmation Mass is during the Easter Season, the 50 days that begin at Easter and end with Pentecost—the coming of the Holy Spirit,” said Ord. At Christ Cathedral, the sacrament of Confirmation follows the same liturgy of Confirmation as all the other parishes. Each parish is allowed to have the liturgies in the language that best serves its communities. To accommodate the large numbers of the confirmands, parishes can also request to perform multiple Confirmation Masses, explained Ord.
For instance, at Saint Cecilia Church in Tustin, Confirmation Masses are performed in three languages: English, Spanish and Vietnamese — as are the classes leading up to the Confirmation Mass.
“Confirmations have always been geared to our youth,” said Deacon Bill Weeks. For two years, he said, teens at his church have been meeting monthly or weekly depending on the need. Before COVID, the parish of Saint Cecilia consisted of about 4,000 people. Now it’s about 3,000, with eight in-person Masses performed each weekend.
Ord has strong hopes for everyone who is being confirmed in the Diocese this year.
“I want to echo the Pope Francis sentiment for the young people when he says, ‘Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!’ My hope for those being confirmed as an adult or a young person is that the Holy Spirit will set their hearts on fire so that they can go and share the Gospel with others.”