“The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.’ After saying this, he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:20-22
Baptism and Confirmation work together to perfect us in faith – to make us “useful” for Christ and the Christian community. Baptism permanently changes us. The water of Baptism cleanses us of original sin, welcomes us into the Christian community, and marks us with the sign of faith forever. Confirmation, seals the mark of Baptism, perfecting the grace we have received, making us ready to withstand the challenges of living the Christian life.
Some people see Confirmation as a Sacrament of “maturity,” and while that’s true to some extent, the danger of that view is that often Confirmation becomes a Sacrament of “completion.” In other words, Confirmation signifies the end of their religious education and formation. But the Christian life is meant for living. And so, Confirmation is not so much an end, but rather a beginning. The seal of Confirmation makes us ready to lives our lives as fully committed Christians.
The Holy Spirit often works quietly in our lives, and so sometimes we don’t see the effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation until we reflect back on our lives years afterward. With the benefit of hindsight we can see the Holy Spirit at work; influencing our decisions, shaping and sharpening our moral convictions, and affecting the choices we make about ho
w we use our talents and spend our time and money. The key, of course, is how much we have opened our lives and our hearts to the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that we receive at Confirmation are just that – gifts. And like any gift, they must be unwrapped to be enjoyed. The Holy Spirit blesses us with Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Reverence, Courage, Right Judgment and Wonder and Awe, but we must accept those gifts for them to take effect. The effects of accepting those amazing gifts are what we often call the Fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. These are the things we find in our lives as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work.
Confirmation, then, perfects the seal of faith first received at Baptism. It increases the gifts of the Spirit in order prepare us for a life marked by faithfulness to God. Far from being the end of our religious education, it is the beginning of a life closely united with Jesus Christ.
If you are a baptized Catholic who seeks to complete your initiation through the sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation, and Eucharist, or if you have been baptized in another Christian tradition and seek full-communion in the Catholic Church, you can take part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RICA).
Read more about the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.