Sacraments of Initiation
Part 3 The Rite for Adults and Children

Chapter i37 Confirmation

Preliminary Questions



A Few Notes on History

Second Vatican Council and Confirmation



Structure and Elements

Theological Considerations

The Minister of Confirmation


Confirmation by a Priest

Teaching Confirmation Today


Catholic Update Video

FDLC Workshop October 19 2002

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

How old were you when you were Confirmed? What do you remember most about the celebration? Were you confirmed before or after your First Holy Communion? Who was you sponsor at Confirmation? Why did you select this person? Did you choose a new "Confirmation Name? Why or why not?

Is Confirmation a sacrament? A separate sacrament? What is the relation between Baptism and Confirmation? What are the effects of Confirmation? At what age should it be celebrated? What is the proper order of the sacraments of initiation? How much preparation is necessary for Confirmation? Why? Who is the proper minister of Confirmation? Why? Is Confirmation necessary for salvation? Can Confirmation be repeated? Why or why not? What is necessary for valid Confirmation?

What is your understanding of Confirmation? What are the effects of the sacrament? How is the Holy Spirit received at Confirmation different from the Holy Spirit received at Baptism? At what age do you think a person should receive Confirmation? Is it better to receive First Holy Communion before receiving Confirmation?

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The Rite of Confirmation. Any official edition; for example: The Rites of the Catholic Church, Volume I (Third edition). Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. A Pueblo Book, 1990. ISBN 0-916134-15-6, pp 469-515.

Kenan B. Osborne, O.F.M. The Christian Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. New York: Paulist Press, 1987, pp 107-139.

Joseph Martos. Doors to the Sacred. Liguori, MO: Triumph Books, Expanded edition 1991, pp 179-202.

Code of Canon Law cc 866, 879-896. Commentary pp 625, 631-642.

Paul VI. "Divinae consortium naturae." Constitutio Apostolica. August 15, 1971.

Sacra Congregatio pro Cultu Divino. Ordo Confirmationis. August 22, 1971. A. Bugnini, secretary.

"The Rite of the Blessing of Oils. Rite of Consecrating the Chrism." The Rites pp 535-547. 

Bernard Botte, "Confirmation" in From Silence to Participation, Washington, DC: The Pastoral Press, 1988.

Gerard Austin, O.P.  Anointing with the Spirit:  The Rite of Confirmation.  The Use of Oil and Chrism.  Volume III:  Studies in the Reformed Rites of the Catholic Church.  New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1985. Paper, $9.95.  ISBN: 0-916134-70-9 [Austin's book contains a very fine bibliography of works on confirmation. See pp 157-168.]

Gerard Austin, O.P.  "The Confirmation Debate Continues," Catechumenate, January 1990, 7-13. ["Austin provides a helpful historical survey of the practice of confirmation in the West and discusses the problem of delaying confirmation and turning it into a Christian bar mitzvah. He believes we are making more out of (and requiring more for) confirmation than for baptism and Eucharist. His hunch is that more and more parishes will elect for confirmation on the occasion of first Eucharist." (Steve Jarrell Liturgy Forum May 1990)]

Aidan Kavanagh. Confirmation: Origins and Reform. New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1988. Paper, $12.95.  ISBN: 0-916134-88-1

Daniel B. Stevick. Baptismal Moments; Baptismal Meanings, New Your: The Church Hymnal Corporation [800 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017] 1987, especially p 56.

Paul Turner. The Meaning and Practice of Confirmation: Perspectives from a Sixteenth-Century Controversy. American University Studies, Series VII: Theology and Religion, Vol. 31. New York: Peter Lang. 1987.

Paul Turner.  Confirmation: The Baby in Solomon's Court.  Paulist Press, New York. 1993.

Paul Turner. Sources of Confirmation from the Fathers through the Reformers. The Liturgical Press: Collegeville. This book presents an overview of the many significant texts from Hippolytus to Robert Bellarmine which gradually shaped the practice of confirmation in the Church. A brief introductory note is given for each text. The excerpts from primary sources offer an excellent perspective on the divergent theological understandings of confirmation in the Catholic Church and in the writings and practices of the reformers.

John M. Huels. "Age for Confirmation," Disputed Questions in the Liturgy Today. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988, pp 9-16.

Joan McKamey.  Experience God's Spirit, Program Planner for the Catholic Update Video Confirmation Series Sealed with God's Spirit.  Saint Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, Ohio. 2001.

James A. Wilde (Editor). When Should We Confirm? Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1989. $5.95. ISBN 0-930467-84-1.

Bernard J. Lee (Editor). Alternative Futures for Worship Volume 2, Baptism and Confirmation. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, 1987.

"Confirmation and Music" Pastoral Music. December-January 1981.

"Confirmation" Hosanna: A Journal of Pastoral Liturgy. 1:2.

Michael J. Henchal.  Celebrating Confirmation Before First Communion: A Resource Kit for Restoring the Order on the Initiation Sacraments.  (Available from

James A. Wilde (Editor). When Should We Confirm? Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1989. $5.95. ISBN 0-930467-84-1.

Turner, Paul. "Benedict XVI and the Sequence of the Sacraments of Initiation", Worship, March 2008, (82:2), pp 132-140.  [This is a very important article;  see my notes below on the Sequence of Initiation Sacraments.]

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A Few Notes on the History of Confirmation

1. Apostolic [0-399]   By about the year 80 C.E. the Church is rather uniformly receiving new members through a water rite (Baptism) which is frequently accompanied by other ceremonies: the laying on of hands, one or two anointings before or after the water rite, sometimes both.

Confirmation is a sacrament is unknown. In the Scholastic period, authors will try to find the origin of each of the 7 sacraments in the Gospels. For example, Jesus instituted the sacrament of marriage at the wedding feast of Cana. This is not exegesis but proof texting.

We are uncertain whether children were initiated at this time but we hear of entire households being initiated together and the presumption is that children (perhaps even infants) would have been included in that ritual.

The overseer/Bishop/pastor presides at all community gatherings (that is, the bishop is the original minister of all the sacraments).
2. Patristic [400-799] About the fourth century a variety of liturgical traditions develop (which we now call Rites). 

As the church begins to be centered in Rome with the death of Peter and Paul, Roman customs strongly influence Roman liturgical practice--for example our current liturgical vestments develop from Roman secular clothing. A formal bath in Rome was followed by an anointing with oil. This custom is adopted for baptism. The water bath and the post baptismal anointing are seen as one act. 

Original Sin fades in / Catechumenate fades out.

Baptism of Infants "quam primum" [as soon as possible] -- Lost the "Easter" connection

Confirmation all but disappears.  Many of the baptized are never confirmed. [Jesus never said that you had to be confirmed. "Unless you are born again...." "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man...." No similar statement about Confirmation!]

3. Early Medieval [800-1199]  Due to the separation and time of the post baptismal anointing by the Bishop from the water right performed by the presbyter initiation of infants begins to be thought of in terms of two sacraments: baptism and confirmation. 

In medieval Europe, when the Bishop would write through the countryside, often at the head of his army going into battle, mothers would present their baptized infants and the Bishop would confirm them from horseback.

For your imagination:  consider these two scenarios:

Scenario one:   (Fourth century Italy)  The Church is expanding rapidly and there is a shortage of pastors.  The Church tries several experiments (e.g. Chorbishops) and finally decides to authorize selected members of the parish council to preside at the Eucharist when the pastor is not there.  This works well; the question then arises, what else might this presbyter (= elder / advisor to the pastor, parish council member) do?  Receive new members?  Ok, but let's have him do it with oil previously blessed (consecrated) by the Pastor (Overseer, Bishop) and when the Pastor (Bishop) comes through the village he can confirm the initiation rites celebrated by the presbyter with a second anointing. After experiencing this for many years, people think of Baptism as two sacraments: one initiation sacrament only with water performed by the presbyter and another initiation sacrament done with water and oil by the Pastor (bishop). 

Scenario two: (Twenty-second century Italy) The Church is expanding rapidly and there is a shortage of pastors (presbyters, priests).  The Church tries several experiments (e.g. Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest) and finally decides to authorize selected members of the parish council to preside at the Eucharist when the pastor is not there.  However the decision is made that they will only consecrate the wine at Mass and use hosts previously blessed (consecrated) by the Pastor.  After experiencing this for many years, people think of the Eucharist as two sacraments:  one eucharist sacrament only with wine and previously consecrated bread; and one sacrament with bread and wine consecrated by the Pastor (presbyter).

4. Medieval [1200-1299]  Peter Lombard names Confirmation is one of the 7 sacraments and his list is canonized by St. Thomas Aquinas. Confirmation is understood as a sacrament agreement separate from Baptism and given in early adulthood before First Communion. 
5. Late Medieval [1300-1499] We have no statistics regarding this time, but most probably Confirmation was seldom administered or received. Bishops were busy with other things. Pastors were concerned with saving infants from original sin. 
6. Reformation [1500-1699]   The reformers cannot find Confirmation in sacred Scripture.  Trent insists it is one of the 7 sacraments.  Catholic Confirmation becomes "Adult Baptism" e.g. involves "faith" and commitment on the part of the recipient.
7. After Trent [1700-1899]  The practice of the late medieval period continues. 
8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959]  Pope St. Pius X (1835-1914) in 1905 encourages frequent Communion and in 1910 lowers the age for First Communion.  First Communion at "age of reason" (5 or 6?) preceded by First Confession. Now Confirmation is "regularly" celebrated after Eucharist and this becomes common practice which then shapes the "theology" of Confirmation (soldiers for Christ; completion of Eucharist, completion of initiation, further gift of the Spirit, adult Christians, etc.)  NOTE: THIS IS THE FIRST TIME ANYONE RECEIVED EUCHARIST WITHOUT HAVING FIRST RECEIVED CONFIRMATION!!!!

USA - normal practice: Infants baptized, go to Catholic School, at the end of First Grade (e.g. Mother's Day) child goes to confession (Saturday) and makes First Communion (Sunday morning). The child is then confirmed when the bishop comes to the parish (once ever 2 or 3 or 4 years) and the child is in the 2nd to the 4th grade.

In the United States Catholics who were baptized as infants and who received First Holy Communion towards the end of the first grade, were confirmed in second third or fourth grade depending on when the Bishop made his rounds of the parishes in his diocese. Confirmation was added evening service, usually with no mention of baptism or Eucharist. Adult Catholics who for some reason had not been confirmed were usually confirmed with the children at the service. The children were slapped and made soldiers for Christ. gma, Mariology.  Sequence: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation

FROM THE 1964 RITUAL: CONFERRING THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION.. (Having dipped the tip of his right thumb in the chrism, he confirms the candidate, saying:) N., I sign you with the sign of the cross + (While he is saying this, his right hand is imposed on the head of the candidate, and with his thumb he makes the sign of the cross on the candidate's forehead. He then continues:) and I confirm you with the Chrism of salvation. In the name of the Father,+ and of the Son,+ and of the Holy + Spirit. R.\ Amen.

9. Vatican II [1960-1975]   Constitution on the Litury #71. The rite of confirmation is to be revised and the intimate connection which this sacrament has with the whole of Christian initiation is to be more clearly set forth; for this reason it is fitting for candidates to renew their baptismal promises just before they are confirmed.

Confirmation may be given within the Mass when convenient; when it is given outside the Mass, the rite that is used should be introduced by a formula to be drawn up for this purpose.

Constitution on the Church  LG #11. It is through the sacraments and the exercise of the virtues that the sacred nature and organic structure of the priestly community is brought into operation. Incorporated in the Church through baptism, the faithful are destined by the baptismal character for the worship of the Christian religion; reborn as sons of God they must confess before men the faith which they have received from God through the Church (4*). They are more perfectly bound to the Church by the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ (5*). Taking part in the eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It.(6*) Thus both by reason of the offering and through Holy Communion all take part in this liturgical service, not indeed, all in the same way but each in that way which is proper to himself. Strengthened in Holy Communion by the Body of Christ, they then manifest in a concrete way that unity of the people of God which is suitably signified and wondrously brought about by this most august sacrament.

Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion. By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of her priests the whole Church commends the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord, asking that He may lighten their suffering and save them;(106) she exhorts them, moreover, to contribute to the welfare of the whole people of God by associating themselves freely with the passion and death of Christ.(107) Those of the faithful who are consecrated by Holy Orders are appointed to feed the Church in Christ's name with the word and the grace of God. Finally, Christian spouses, in virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, whereby they signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and His Church,(108) help each other to attain to holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children. By reason of their state and rank in life they have their own special gift among the people of God.(109) (7*) From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.

Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect.

1969 MAY 15 Rite of Baptism for Children.

1971 AUG 15 Apostolic Constitution promulgating the Rite of Confirmation.
Changes the "matter" of the sacrament from Olive oil to any plant oil
Changes the "form" of the sacrament to the more ancient Byzantine formula.
"Ordinary Minister" becomes "Original Minister."

1971 AUG 22 Rite of Confirmation -- Note that the introduction to the Rite and the Rite itself were written by scholars who had never seen, experience, or even heard of the RCIA which had not yet been published. Consequently these documents would no doubt be formulated differently were they re-written today. 

1972 JAN 06 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults  -- The RCIA becomes the norm for understanding the theology of Western Confirmation and Initiation in general. The order Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist is restored as normative.

10. After Vatican II [1975-2050]   The experience of the RCIA causes pastors and catechists to rethink the meaning of Confirmation. If it is to be a sacrament of Christian maturity, it must be administered later than fourth grade; and if it is to be the completion of baptism leading to Eucharist it must be administered earlier.

With the catechetical studies and development and newer understandings of faith formation together with psychological studies on the faith development of children and adolescents, Confirmation becomes a "rite of passage".

 Confirmation takes the place of "Believer Baptism" and becomes "Adult Baptism" (age moved up gradually from grade school to middle school to high school, age 12-18). Confirmation is delayed until Sophomore year of high school where it becomes the sacrament of Adult Commitment.

June 29, 1992 from CLSA Newsletter June 1992, p 4, "Visit to the Dicasteries of the Apostolic See" --- When asked about what other nations do about the age for confirmation, the officials stated that Italy and France, for instance, have set ages at about 7 to 16 as the range for confirmation. If the American bishops proposed such a range, it would be approved. While no episcopal conference has requested confirmation at the time of baptism, one bishop was given permission to confirm a year before first Eucharist.

Rethinking everything:  1980  Pope Benedict XVI has invited the curia and the conferences of Catholic Bishops to examine the relative effectiveness of the two sequences of confirmation and first communion. Confirmation precedes first communion throughout the Eastern rites and in the cases when the three sacraments of initiation are administered together in the West, for example, when a priest baptizes catechumens at the Easter Vigil. Although there are instances in the Roman Rite when children baptized in infancy receive confirmation prior to their first communion, the reverse order more commonly prevails. Benedict writes, "Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the center, as the goal of the whole process of initiation."   

In 1984 the Bishop of Spokane, Washington gave permission to restore the sequence of the Sacraments of Initiation in his diocese. A report of this pastoral practice was given by Don McKenzie in "Restoring the Sequence of the Sacraments of Initiation with Children: Confirmation and First Eucharist as a Unified Celebration," in FDLC Newsletter, April-May 1996 (23:2) pp 9-12.

"Looking at all three Sacraments of Initiation together we began to realize that the natural culmination of the initiation process is the full, conscious and active participation in the Eucharist, where the mystery of the dialogue between God's invitation to us and our response is most clearly manifest. Since conversion is on-going and life-long, it became clear as the study progressed that Eucharist is the more appropriate sacramental celebration within which we are renewed in our commitment to Christian discipleship and it should appear that way."

[Regarding the important role of the bishop] "Developmentally, children between the ages of seven and ten relate very positively to adults and authority figures. Children at this age naturally seek the approval of adults and want to be around them. The Bishop's presence at the completion of the initiation process at this very impressionable age is significant. It takes an event which most Catholics remember for the rest of their lives and adds the additional dimension of universal church to that memory.

Fully initiating children means incorporating them into the fullness of the Christian identity at an early age so they grow up in that identity. Their Christian identity grows with them and ultimately becomes a very real part of who they are.

An increasing number of Diocese in the United Sates (and throughout the world) are restoring the order of the sacrament of initiation (that is: Baptism, Confirmation, [before First] Eucharist). As of June 2005, I am aware that the following have restored the order: Amarillo, TX; Cleveland, OH; Corpus Christi, TX; Dallas, TX; Fargo, ND; Fort Worth, TX; Gaylord, MI; Great Falls/Billings, MT; Greensburg, PA; Las Vegas, NV;  Marquette MI; Newark, DE  (in process); Peoria, IL;  Portland, ME (in process); Rochester, NY; Sacramento, Ca; Saginaw, MI; Salt Lake City, UT; San Angelo, TX; San Antonio, TX; San Jose, TX;  Spokane, WA; Toledo, OH; Tucson, AZ; Tyler, TX; Venice, FL.

In Canada, the dioceses of Ottawa, Ontario, Saskatoon, Grand Falls, Newfoundland  and Alexandria-Cornwall Ontario.

The diocese of Salford in England.

About one third of the Australian diocese.

Archdiocese of Cebu, Philippines.

In contemporary American Catholic parishes there are several "obstacles" to restoring the historical sequence of the sacraments of initiation. 

A solid program of ongoing faith formation needs to be in place for adolescents in the parish before "Confirmation Preparation" is taken from the adolescents and given to first graders, or the adolescents are left with nothing!

The celebration of Confirmation before First Communion causes several catechetical issues:  How is catechesis to be given if the sacrament is already celebrated?  What motivates the children to come to the lessons if the sacrament has already been received? 

In this regard see the letter of William S. Skylstad Bishop of Spokane introducing the diocesan policy restoring the order Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist.   

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Second Vatican Council and Confirmation


"Matter" of the Sacrament = 1)  anointing with oil  together with 2)  THE IMPOSITION OF HAND

"Matter" of the Sacrament --- Oil / olive oil or other plant oil

Chrism = oil and perfumes or other sweet smelling matter.

Oil in Scripture / Experience of Jesus / Early Church [look up "oil" in a Bible Concordance]  / Your experience / anthropological / symbolic

Liturgical Oils

O C Oleum catechumenorum (Oil of the Catechumens)
S C Sacra chrisma (Sacred Chrism)
O I Oleum infirmorum (Oil of the Sick)

Note: S C is sometimes marked O S Oleum Sacrum (Holy Oil).  Do not mistake O C to mean Oil of Chrism.

BRK = Thanksgiving over the oil.  BRK gives meaning to the oil.  Designates the oil. Sacrament = Worded sign

Blessing over the Oil of the Sick

(Bishop's prayer during the Chrism Mass) Lord God, loving Father, you bring healing to the sick through your Son Jesus Christ. Hear us as we pray to you in faith, and send the Holy Spirit, our Helper and Friend, upon this oil which nature has provided to serve our needs. May your + blessing come upon all who are anointed with this oil, that they may be freed from pain and illness and made well again in body, mind, and soul. Father, may this oil be blessed for our use in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

(Priest's prayer when the oil is blessed during the celebration of the Anointing of the Sick) God of all consolation, you chose and sent your Son to heal the world. Graciously listen to our prayer of faith: send the power of your Holy Spirit, the Consoler, into this precious oil, this soothing ointment, this rich gift, this fruit of the earth.

Bless this oil + and sanctify it for our use. Make this oil a remedy for all who are anointed with it; heal them in body, in soul, and in spirit, and deliver them from every affliction. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Blessing over the Oil of Catechumens

(Bishop's prayer during the Chrism Mass) Lord God, protector of all who believe in you, bless + this oil and give wisdom and strength to all who are anointed with it in preparation for their baptism. Bring them to a deeper understanding of the gospel, help them to accept the challenge of Christian living, and lead them to the joy of new birth in the family of your Church. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Consecration of the Chrism: Consecratory Prayer (A)

[BRK / naming]  God our maker, source of all growth in holiness, accept the joyful thanks and praise we offer in the name of your Church.

[anamnesis / remembering]  In the beginning, at your command, the earth produced fruit-bearing trees. From the fruit of the olive tree you have provided us with oil for holy chrism. The prophet David sang of the life and joy that the oil would bring us in the sacraments of your love.

After the avenging flood, the dove returning to Noah with an olive branch announced your gift of peace. This was a sign of a greater gift to come. Now the waters of baptism wash away our sins and by the anointing with olive oil you make us radiant with your joy.

At your command, Aaron was washed with water, and your servant Moses, his brother, anointed him priest. This too foreshadowed greater things to come. After your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, asked John for baptism in the waters of the Jordan, you sent the Spirit upon him in the form of a dove and by the witness of your own voice you declared him to be your only, well-beloved Son. In this you clearly fulfilled the prophecy of David, that Christ would be anointed with the oil of gladness beyond all others.

[epiclesis/petition] And so, Father, we ask you to bless + this oil you have created. Fill it with the power of your Holy Spirit through Christ your Son. It is from him that chrism takes its name and with chrism you have anointed for yourself priests and kings, prophets and martyrs.

Make this chrism a sign of life and salvation for those who are to be born again in the waters of baptism. Wash away the evil they have inherited from sinful Adam, and when they are anointed with this holy oil make them temples of your glory, radiant with the goodness of life, that has its source in you.

Through this sign of chrism grant them royal, priestly, and prophetic honor, and clothe them with incorruption. Let this be indeed the chrism of salvation for those who will be born again of water and the Holy Spirit. May they come to share eternal life in the glory of your kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Consecratory Prayer (B)

[BRK / naming]  Father, we thank you for the gifts you have given us in your love: we thank you for the life itself and for the sacraments that strengthen it and give it fuller meaning.

[anamnesis / remembering]  In the Old Covenant you gave your people a glimpse of the power of this holy oil and when the fullness of time had come you brought that mystery to perfection in the life of our lord Jesus Christ, your son.

By his suffering, dying, and rising to life he saved the human race. He sent your Spirit to fill the Church with every gift needed to complete your saving work.

From that time forward, through the sign of holy chrism, you dispense your life and love to the human family. By anointing them with the Spirit, you strengthen all who have been reborn in baptism. Through that anointing you transform them into the likeness of Christ your Son and give them a share in his royal, priestly, and prophetic work.

[epiclesis/petition]   And so, Father, by the power of your love, make this mixture of oil and perfume a sign and source + of your blessing. Pour out the gifts of your Holy Spirit on our brothers and sisters who will be anointed with it. Let the splendor of holiness shine on the world from every place and thing signed with this oil.

Above all, Father, we pray that through this sign of your anointing you will grant increase to your Church until it reaches the eternal glory where you, Father, will be the all in all, together with Christ your Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.


How to get more blessed oil in case you run out: 

Adding more oil to blessed oil:  BCL Newsletter (Aug/Sept 1994, Vol. XXX) that says, "The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has stated that unblessed oil may be added to blessed oil only in the case of necessity. This would exclude diluting the oils merely in order to increase the volume of oils for display. This is permitted as long as the unblessed oil makes up less than 50% of the resulting mixture."

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Official Latin Text
N., accipe     signaculum   doni         Spiritus      Sancti.
[N., receive   the seal         of the gift  of the Spirit    Holy.]

Original ICEL:                  N., receive the seal of the Holy Spirit, the Gift of the Father. 
ICEL changed in Rome:    N., be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

A) "be sealed" is a passive imperative verb form (a rare form in English usage) ;
B) the seal is the Gift. The Gift is the Holy Spirit [
not the gifts of the Holy Spirit]
Greek: sphragis, seal, pledge. Hippolytus uses sphragis to mean the Spirit. God's pledge to us is God's Spirit, sphragis.

Current French Text
N., recois la marque de l'Esprit Saint qui t'est donne.
N., receive the mark of the Holy Spirit which is given to you.]

Current Spanish Text
N., recibe por esta senal el don del Espiritu Sancto.
[N., receive, by this sign, the gift of the Holy Spirit.]

In class Jounel told us that Dom Bernard Botte demonstrated that the formula used in the Byzantine liturgy for chrismation was used as early as the 4th century whereas the formula in use in the Roman Rite is much more modern (13th century).  "I sign you with the sign of the cross + and I confirm you with the Chrism of salvation.  In the name of the Father, + and of the Son, + and of the Holy + Spirit.  Amen."

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Structure and Elements

Every rite consists of structure and elements.  Confirmation, of course, has the same structure as the Eucharist, which is the model of all of the sacraments.

1.  Gathering.  Recall Baptism

2.  Story Telling 

3.  Sealing --- Confirmation

3a.  Prayer 7 fold gift
3b   Imposition of Hand
3c   Anointing + essential formula [N. be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit]

4.  Meal Sharing --- Eucharist, the culmination and completion of Christian Initiation

5.  Commissioning

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Theological Considerations

1. "Sacramental questions often involve a practice seeking a theology. That is not necessarily unhealthy, as long as we critically evaluate the practice as it has developed and is developing. Because they are pastoral, sacraments continually change, in our practice and in our theological perception of them. History bears witness to this." (John H. McKenna, "Infant Baptism: Theological Reflections," Worship, May 1996 (70:3), p 210.)

2. Theology of the Sacrament --- two strains: conjunction with baptism and reaffirmation after catechesis.

3. Two clusters of meaning (Stevick, Baptismal Moments, p 56.)

One rite is sacramental, a part of the Church's faithful custody of the redemptive life. The other is catechetical, speaking of an individual's responsibility and competence.

One is initiatory, an action derived from the liturgy of becoming a Christian. The other is within Christian life --- an act of a baptized Christian at a certain stage of maturation.

One signifies the Holy Spirit and God's action; the other expresses the renewal for oneself of promises made earlier on one's behalf by others --- obviously a human action.

One would probably be considered unrepeatable, for it is a separated bit of the baptismal ritual. The other, the renewal of the promises of one's Baptism, is something that it is desirable to do and in fact is done repeatedly.  (NOTE:  regarding the "ir-repeat-ability" of the sacrament, see "Sacramental Character

One came from the early church; the other from the late Middle Ages and the 16th century.

4. The question "What does it mean?" is not a question which we can answer with merely metaphysical or even biblical terms. This is a question of experience. It is a question for the experience which these symbols should contain, celebrate and promote. . . . the dominating master-symbol, the word "G-o-d." (Joseph M. Powers. "Confirmation: The Problem of Meaning," Worship 46:1 (1972) pp 22-29.)

5. The celebration of confirmation, as the words of the form tell us, has to do with the "gift of the Holy Spirit." In this reflection I would like to ask questions of meaning regarding each of the three elements of this celebration, the meaning of "spirit," the meaning of "the Holy Spirit," and the meaning of "gift of the Holy Spirit." (Ibid, p 24.)

In the theology and liturgy of Western Christianity, the active role of the Holy Spirit is underappreciated. Some of the problem, no doubt, is that, for those Christians whose Sacrament of Confirmation took place years after their baptism into the church, there is an inclination to regard the presence of the Holy Spirit as an "add-on," as not necessary to the life of God as experienced in Christian life. Yet the readings proclaimed in Advent alert believers to the role of the Holy Spirit in the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth and in the life of the church today. ... The theological tradition is constant in teachings that -- as the Holy Spirit worked in the incarnation of the Son, in the Son taking on flesh -- so does the Holy Spirit work in the body of Christ of the church and its sacraments, knitting together sinful individuals and raising from them the sinless people of God. The community of faith wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit, as was the body of Jesus knit together in Mary's womb two millennia ago.

I believe the point is this: Does speaking of Confirmation as the "Sacrament of the Holy Spirit" lead people to think that Confirmation is the ONLY "Sacrament of the Holy Spirit" and cause them to overlook the fact that it is only by the Holy Spirit received in Baptism that we become members of Christ's Body, the Church; and it is only by the Holy Spirit, received at every Eucharist that enables us who "eat the one Bread to become Christ's Body" -- the principal petition at every Eucharist?  Martin Connell. "Eternity Today" (page 75)

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The Minister of Confirmation

The question "Who is the minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation?" is not a simple as it may seem at first.

Many contemporary Catholics -- who see the adolescents in their parish each year being Confirmed by the Bishop of the diocese, and who have been formed by 1917 Code of Canon Law [the former code, which has been replaced by our current 1983 code] and the catechetical documents which followed from it, would simply answer "The Bishop is the ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation."  In the 1917 Code the presbyter and the deacon are listed as ordinary ministers of Baptism and a lay person can be an extraordinary minister (e.g. when the un-baptized person is in danger of death).  In the 1917 Code the bishop is listed as the ordinary minister of Confirmation and the presbyter can be an extraordinary minister (e.g. when the un-confirmed person is in danger of death).  But this is a rather recent interpretation and as C. S. Lewis wrote, "The un-historical are, usually without knowing it, enslaved to a fairly recent past."

In order to answer the question in a larger liturgical and theological context, we must take account of the insights of the Liturgical Movement.   The Liturgical Movement studied the history of ministry in the Church led the theologians of the Second Vatican Council to remind us that the bishop was the original minister of all the sacraments -- the "overseer" [Greek:  Episcopus] who managed and "oversaw" the total life of the community, including all its liturgical celebrations:  Eucharist, Initiation, Anointing, etc. 

In the light of this renewed vision of ministry and episcopal ministry the Council stated: 

41. The bishop is to be considered as the high priest of his flock, from whom the life in Christ of his faithful is in some way derived and dependent.

Therefore all should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his cathedral church; they must be convinced that the pre-eminent manifestation of the Church consists in the full active participation of all God's holy people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the same eucharist, in a single prayer, at one altar, at which there presides the bishop surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers.

42. But because it is impossible for the bishop always and everywhere to preside over the whole flock in his Church, he cannot do other than establish lesser groupings of the faithful. Among these the parishes, set up locally under a pastor who takes the place of the bishop, are the most important: for in some manner they represent the visible Church constituted throughout the world.

And therefore the liturgical life of the parish and its relationship to the bishop must be fostered theoretically and practically among the faithful and clergy; efforts also must be made to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all in the common celebration of the Sunday Mass.  (Constitution on the Liturgy, 41-42.)

It is in this context that the Rite of Confirmation (August 22, 1971) in (Introduction, #7) states:  "The original minister of confirmation is the bishop." (Confirmationis minister originarius est Episcopus.)  This change from "ordinary minister" to "original minister" is, I believe, an example of one of those changes at the tip of the pistol which, while seemingly insignificant, is in reality, very significant, especially in its practical ramifications and consequences. This change opens the door to speaking of the priest, especially the Pastor, as being an "ordinary" minister of Confirmation (for example, as witnessed by an increasing number of Catholics during the Easter Vigil and in those dioceses where Confirmation is celebrated at First Communion). 

I have absolutely no idea why The Rites translates "minister originarius"  as "ordinary minister" rather than "original minister" (e.g. Introduction to the Rite of Confirmation, #7) when the official Latin text and the Pontifical for the Bishop (his official liturgical book) both translate "minister originarius" as "original minister"!  (e.g. see The Rites, page 480, #7, second word)  --  Perhaps this explains why no one has made a note of this important change in assigned essays.

However, the canon lawyers did not use this opening (for whatever reason) in the 1983 Code.  The authors of the 1983 Code of Cannon Law (our current law) returned to the "minister ordinarius" language. Most probably because the code is not so much concerned with history as with law!  Church Law (e.g. the Code of Canon Law) makes the distinction between ordinary ministers who have ordinary power and others who are extraordinary ministers.  "Ordinary minister" has a specific meaning:  the ordinary minister is the one who can validly and licitly celebrate the sacrament and, within the parameters of the law, delegate this authority to others.  In the current Code of Cannon Law, cannons 882-888 treat the minister for Confirmation. Note that the law itself states that presbyters who are provided with this faculty in virtue of universal law can confirm validly (for example, when celebrating the rites of initiation at the Easter Vigil).

The earliest reference we know of which speaks of "Confirmation" as being "reserved" to the "Bishop" is the Epistola Innocentii Papae I ad Decentium Episcopum Eugubinum [Letter of Pope Innocent I to Decentius, Bishop of Gubbio], Cap. III, 6. Innocent was pope 402 to 417; the letter is dated 416.

"Concerning the consignation of infants, it is clear that this should not be done by any but the bishops [ab episcopo]. For presbyters, although they are priests [sacerdotes], have not attained the highest rank of the pontificate. The right of bishops alone to seal (sign) and to deliver the Spirit the Paraclete is proved not only by the custom of the Church, but also by that reading in the Acts of the Apostles [see Acts 8] which tells how Peter and John were directed to deliver the Holy Spirit to people who were already baptized. For it is permissible for presbyters, either in the absence of the bishop, or when they baptize in his presence to anoint the baptized with chrism, but only with such [chrism] as has been consecrated by the bishop; and even then they are not to sign the brow with that oil, for this is reserved to bishops alone when they deliver the Holy Spirit."  (Pope Innocent I. Letter to Decentius, Bishop of Gubbio], Cap. III, 6. (Translation by Massey H. Shepherd, "Confirmation: The Early Church." Worship 46:1 (1972) pp 15-21.)

If you wish to speak today of the bishop as the "preferred" minister of Confirmation, do so in the historical / theological context where the bishop is the preferred minister of all of the sacraments:  Baptism, Eucharist, etc. (See SC #41-42 quoted above).

We see that the "minister of initiation" has gone through a four stage development"

Stage One: the Church (the Assembly) is the Minister of Initiation and all the sacraments. The overseer (Episcopus) leads (oversees) the celebration.

Stage Two: Church expansion; daughter Churches; presbyters (elders) are authorized for Eucharist. Presbyters preside at water rite at initiation but not the consignation in the West -- which is reserved to the Bishop. The East authorizes the presbyter to preside at the entire initiation rite.

Stage Three:  Only the Bishop is the "ordinary minister" of Confirmation in the West

Stage Four:  Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults  -- Pastors confirm

Note that in Introductions to each of the rites revised by the Second Vatican Council, the primary minister of every sacrament is the People of God.  For example in the introduction to the Rite of Confirmation when speaking of "Offices and Ministries in the Celebration of Confirmation" the first one mentioned is not the bishop but the People of God (#3).  This has important implications for us, I believe, especially under the iceberg regarding how we think about sacraments and the Church.

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Confirmation by a Priest

After establishing that the bishop is the "original" Minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation, the ritual texts themselves go on to establish that the priest who is presiding at the celebration of  the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults has, by law, the faculty to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation with the person or persons being initiated [Baptized].  The Rite gives the same faculty to the priest who is receiving a baptized non-Catholic into Full Communion with the Catholic Church. 

But what about the case of a person who was baptized Roman Catholic as an infant, but was never catechized or "brought up Catholic" and who now wishes to be an active Catholic and to be Confirmed and receive First Communion -- does the priest have the faculty validly Confirm in this situation?  RCIA Part 5 "The Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church" states that: 

481.  It is the office of the Bishop to receive baptized Christians into the full communion of the Catholic Church.  But a priest to whom the Bishop entrust the celebration of the rite has the faculty of confirming the candidate within the rite of reception, unless the person received has already been validly confirmed.

 However this applies only for "a person born and baptized in a separated ecclesial Community" as stated in the opening paragraph: 

473.  This is the liturgical rite by which a person born and baptized in a separated ecclesial Community is received, according to the Latin rite, into the full communion of the Catholic Church.  The rite is so arranged that no greater burden than necessary (see Acts 15:28) is required for the establishment of communion and unity.

I discussed this issue some years ago with Aidan Kavanagh and apparently this is simply a lacuna in the law.  They "forgot" about this case and would have mentioned it in the "Rite for Reception of Baptized Persons into Full Communion with the Catholic Church" if they had thought of it.   Consequently, to validly Confirm a Roman Catholic who was Baptized as an infant, but was never catechized or "brought up Catholic" and who now wishes to be an active Catholic and to be Confirmed, the priest needs faculties from the Bishop for the Confirmation to be valid.  (Not everybody knows this.)

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History of Ministry in the Church

The Christian Assembly