The Sacrament of Confirmation is the second of the three Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism being the first and Communion the third). Confirmation is regarded as the perfection of Baptism, because, as the introduction to the Rite of Confirmation states:
by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.
Service is an integral part of the mission of the Church, which includes Word, worship, and service. We live the mission of service as we serve one another and the world. We can celebrate the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and recognize that each of us is blessed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation preparation is a crucial time to help young people discern how they might put their gifts to use in serving their parish, their community, and the world.
In the Book of Isaiah we read, “I have called you by name: you are mine”. Your name was spoken aloud on the day of your Baptism and it became part of your identity as God’s child and a member of the Catholic Church. A great deal of thought went into your parents’ choice in naming you. You may be named after a relative, a special family friend, or a saint your parents greatly admire. Now that you have decided to become confirmed, you have the opportunity to think in a new way about your name and how it relates to your decision to be confirmed.
Reaffirming Your Baptismal Name
Although it is traditional to take a new name at Confirmation, it is not required. Instead, you may want to reaffirm your baptismal name since the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are so closely related. Confirmation seals and strengthens the faith and grace you received at Baptism. It completes your Baptism. Reaffirming your baptismal name is a sign of your commitment to live out the promises your parents and godparents made for you at Baptism.
Adding A New Name
You may also choose to add a new name at Confirmation. This decision indicates your new awareness of how Confirmation will help you live as a disciple of Christ. The name you choose must be a Christian name — the name of a saint or one of the great men or women from the Bible who have gone before us in faith. You may also choose the Christian name of your Confirmation sponsor because this individual is an example for you of how to live the Catholic life. Spend time prayerfully reflecting about your choice as this is an important decision.
Researching Your Name
Whether you reaffirm your baptismal name or add a new name at Confirmation, you are required to research the life of your Christian namesake and write a report about that Saint. Find out how they serve as an example for your faith journey. Before you are confirmed, you will be asked to give reasons for your choice. The research you do will help you focus on the reasons for your decision.
A sponsor can make an enormous difference in the preparation of a candidate for the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is important, therefore, that the candidates are encouraged to choose sponsors who are well suited to the role and who will be integral to the preparation process.
The Church’s tradition of involving a sponsor in the preparation of candidates for the Sacraments of Christian Initiation is one of our most ancient approaches to faith formation. In the early centuries, when the catechumenate was the entry point for anyone seeking to become a Christian, the sponsor played an extremely vital role.
The Role of Sponsors
The sponsor was a living witness and mentor who represented the Christian community (its values, beliefs, behaviors, and so on) to the catechumen. The sponsor would, in turn, witness to the community on behalf of the catechumen’s readiness for the initiatory sacraments. The role of a sponsor was not over with the celebration of the sacraments, however. It was seen as a lifetime commitment, a relationship that would last throughout the individual’s journey of faith. In the early Church the three Sacraments of Christian Initiation were always celebrated at one time; therefore, there was never a different sponsor at Baptism and Confirmation. In subsequent centuries, however, with the separation of Confirmation from Baptism, it became more common to have different persons act as sponsor for those two sacraments.
Both the Code of Canon Law (Canon 893.2) and the introduction to the Rite of Confirmation (5) suggest that in view of contemporary pastoral circumstances, it is desirable to have one’s baptismal sponsor act as sponsor at Confirmation. While this remains the ideal, it seems much more important that the sponsor chosen be available and involved with the candidate in a significant way, and be able to offer an authentic example of lived Christian faith.
As a bare minimum, the Code of Canon Law specifies that the requirements for acting as a sponsor at Confirmation (Canon 893) are the same as those for godparents at Baptism (Canon 874). Briefly, that canon directs that the person must have completed their sixteenth year, be fully initiated, live a life of faith, not be the parent, and not be bound by any other canonical restrictions. Further, at St. Charles Borromeo, we suggest the Sponsor be at least 21 years of age and not be a sibling of the candidate.
One of the challenges that might exist occurs when sponsors live at a distance and cannot interact in person with their candidate. However, in this day of instantaneous Internet and cell phone communication, only a little extra effort is required to maintain regular contact between sponsor and candidate. It is important that interaction occurs on a consistent basis and that sponsors are informed about meetings or information they may have missed because of their distance.
- Are the primary educators of their children
- Are responsible for initiating their children into the sacramental life
- Serve as Christian models for their children
- Witness to their children by sharing their time, treasure and talent as gifts to the Church
- Actively participate in Sunday Mass every week
- Encourage their child to reflect on and consider the decision to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation
- Assist their child with the immediate preparation for this sacrament through prayer, study, Christian service, and completing all assignments, including sponsor related assignments
- Emphasize the initiation aspect of the sacrament by encouraging their child to continue learning more about the Catholic faith
- Help their child in understanding that the Confirmation Catholic Service Action projects are the beginning of a life committed to Christian service
- Participate in meetings, programs and prayer services that are planned to help their child prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
- Choose to be confirmed and make their desire known
- Are willing to participate in the Confirmation Program of study, prayer, retreat, liturgy, and service
- Attend the mandatory Confirmation retreat
- Actively participate in Confirmation Connection events
- Have celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation within one month of Confirmation
- Have participated in the required learning sessions, as reflected on assignments and tests
- Practice their faith by participating in Sunday Mass weekly and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Will complete all required class work, homework, Catholic Action Service projects, and sponsor related activities
- Are aware of the initiation aspect of the sacrament of Confirmation and are committed to continuing the faithful practice and study of the Catholic faith the rest of their lives.
- May not be the parent of the candidate
- Will support the student to be confirmed and his/her parents in guiding the student to know God and to belong to his Church in the fullest way possible
- Know the candidate and be willing to serve as a strong and long-lasting Christian influence on the candidate
- Are registered and active in a Catholic parish and be fully initiated themselves, having received Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation; and if married, the Sacrament of Matrimony.
- Assist the candidate in choosing and performing Catholic Action Service projects
- Participate with the candidate at special liturgies and preparation events
- Grow in a faith relationship with the Candidate, being a model of Christian living through the practice of daily prayer, weekly participation in Mass, and full participation in the life of the parish
- Need to complete the Together With Your Sponsor activities with the candidate
- Are informed on current church teachings
Here are some suggestions concerning things you can do with and for the candidate during the time of preparation:
- Pray for your candidate daily.
- Invite your candidate to accompany you to Sunday Mass.
- Invite your candidate to assist you in some service you perform in your parish.
- Take the candidate out for a meal and share with him/her your gratefulness for being chosen his/her sponsor. Let him/her know of your support.
What does the Church ask of parents in sacrament preparation?
The church views the role of parents in religious formation of children as both a privilege and an obligation. When you presented your child to the Church for Baptism, you were distinctly reminded that you have the responsibility to “bring [your child] up in the practice of the faith” (Rite of Baptism 56). This privilege and obligation extends to all sacrament preparation.
What is the appropriate age for the Sacrament of Confirmation?
According to the official documents of the Church, the age for Confirmation and First Eucharist is the same. The Code of Canon Law states “Confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful about the age of discretion.” On August 31, 2001, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decreed the age of conferring the sacrament of Confirmation in the United States to be between “the age of discretion (about age 7) and about 16 years of age.” What this means is that within the age parameters set forth, each local bishop may determine his own diocesan policy regarding age for Confirmation. For this reason, we see a variety of practices in place from diocese to diocese and parish to parish.
How do I know if my child is ready for Confirmation?
If a baptized child of catechetical age is growing up in a home where the faith of the parents is expressed in personal prayer, regular worship with a parish community, and in a life lived in accordance with Gospel values, then that child is ready. The purpose of the sacrament preparation program is to help the children and parents prepare for these initiation events. A child's readiness for initiation is not a matter of religious instruction. When a child is confirmed, they are celebrating another stage in their full initiation into the Church community. It is a beginning.
With guidance, participation in age-appropriate programs, and celebrating the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, they continue to grow in faith. Therefore ongoing participation in faith formation programs and/or Catholic school is essential. Preparation for and celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation in no way imply Christian maturity or “completion,” but rather they celebrate an individual’s full membership in the Church. Continued catechesis and spiritual growth are integral to the life-long process of coming to Christian maturity and faith.
My child is reluctant about participating in the Confirmation preparation program and being confirmed. What can I do?
First of all, you need to talk with your child about why they are feeling reluctant. Are they uncomfortable with another person in the youth group or are they questioning their faith? If the issue is programmatic, talk with the confirmation coordinator. If your child is questioning their faith, don’t panic—this is normal. Most young people are confirmed, just as they were baptized, into their parents’ religious tradition. However, before a person can truly own their faith, they need to question it. A good confirmation program will not only respect your child’s questions, but welcome his/her critical thinking. As a parent, help your child see the difference that faith makes in your own life. Talk about your own faith journey and what belonging to the Catholic Church or your parish has meant to you. Introduce him/her to faithful role models, both the famous and the infamous. Help your child to see how faith comes to life when we live it out in service to others. Perhaps they may discover that belonging to the Church is meaningful and exciting!