Next week is the Feast of Pentecost and we enter the season of Confirmations. Most of us are confirmed, but if you are at all like me, you probably have no real understanding of the meaning of the Sacrament. You think that it has to do something with being of age and “confirming” that you indeed want to be Catholic.
But is that what Confirmation is?
The age for Confirmation varies from place to place. For many years in Ontario Confirmations were done at the end of Grade 8, when the kids are about 13 years old. A few years ago, it was changed to Grade 7. In other provinces they do it at the same time the children make their First Communion, in Grade 2! When I was confirmed in Panama, traditionally it was done at age 16. However, I was allowed to make my Confirmation at age 12.
Too young, I think.
At some level I do think I knew what I was doing. I knew that I wanted to follow Jesus Christ and I was OK with being Catholic. Still, I think there should be a second confirmation, when you’re in your 30’s, when you really, really know you want to be Catholic. Then again, Confirmation is not all about deciding that you want to be Catholic.
Let’s go back to basics.
The word for sacrament in Greek is mysterion
and so we can say that Sacraments have something to do with mystery. But it’s not a mystery like a murder mystery that we need to solve. Rather, we call it a mystery because it is so awesome, so amazing that we cannot fully understand it. Our Faith is full of these “mysteries”: The Mystery of the Eucharist, the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of the Incarnation… We also have call each segment of the Rosary a mystery.
We may not be able to say completely that every Sacrament is a mystery, we can definitely say that every Sacrament points to a mystery.
Another way to see this is as what I call a “metaphysical occurrence”. Each Sacrament effects an actual physical change in us(I will explain all this better in a general post about Sacraments). In the case of Confirmation, we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and we also receive God’s strength and the ability to witness and act as mature Christians.
The Gifts of the Spirit?
It is Isaiah who talks about the gifts of the spirit. In speaking about the coming Messiah, he says:
“The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the lord.” (Isaiah 11:2-3)
Isaiah was writing about qualities of the personality of Christ: He would have wisdom and understanding. He would have knowledge and fear of the Lord.
We’ve been promised the same gifts. How awesome!
Let’s review the Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
UNDERSTANDING: listen and know the heart of another; get to the bottom of things; work at a problem until we have grasped it.
KNOWLEDGE: be willing to search for the truth; be open to the truth when we find it, especially when it is in strange places; see what is important and what is not.
COURAGE or FORTITUDE: live the right way, even though it may be scary to do so; know that God will lead and take care of us; live by our convictions; follow our heart.
RIGHT JUDGEMENT or COUNSEL: make good choices; know what is right and wrong; see the whole picture; give and receive good advice.
WONDER AND AWE / FEAR OF THE LORD: be very aware of the wonder of the creation around us; be very aware of the wonder of the people with whom we live; recognise the miraculous in the everyday; nurture quiet time in our lives so that life doesn't pass us by.
WISDOM: learn from our mistakes; see what is good and what is not; put things into perspective; look to the future, see the big picture, the long-term plan; see things with the eyes of God; apply your knowledge in a particular time and place.
PIETY, REVERENCE or RESPECT: be prayerful; have a listening heart; be attentive to the messages that God is sending us; see the presence of God in all people and creation; have the virtues of honour, courtesy and politeness.
Let’s continue next week
and see what Confirmation has to do with our Baptism.
This post is part 1 of a 5-part series on Confirmation. Read all of them:
Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: email@example.com