The Sacrament of Confirmation is probably the most misunderstood and undervalued of all the sacraments of the Church. Catholics do not question the necessity of Baptism, and most parents insist that their children have First Holy Communion, but sadly, for many people, Confirmation seems to be optional or just not very important. Then, later, when they want to be married in the Church, Confirmation seems to be ‘just one more requirement’ that they have to go through before they can have a Catholic wedding.
But in fact, Confirmation is just as important and just as life-changing as any of the other sacraments. It is a vital help in living out our lives as successful Christians and reaching our goal of heaven.
What is Confirmation?
One way to think of the Sacrament of Confirmation is as your own personal Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit will come down upon you in power, the way the Spirit came down and empowered the Apostles on the first Pentecost, the ‘birthday’ of the Church. When they received the Holy Spirit, the Apostles went from hiding out in a locked room, fearful of attack, to boldly proclaiming the Gospel – miraculously speaking in tongues – and converting three thousand people to Christianity in one day, through the power of one speech:
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?”….
Those who accepted [Peter’s] message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day (Acts 2:1-12; 41).
In short, the Apostles received the power, courage and wisdom they needed to fulfill the mission Jesus had given them to go out into the world and preach the Gospel.
Why do you need Confirmation?
Not many of us will be called to convert people through preaching. But we all need supernatural help in making good decisions, doing the work that we are called to do, and living out our vocations. Matrimony and Holy Orders have special graces for people who are living in those vocations. But the grace of Matrimony isn’t meant to help you make a good decision about where to study, how to conduct your business affairs with justice, how to be a good neighbor or vote in a socially responsible way. In short, for every duty or problem or situation that comes up in our adult lives as Christians, we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us judge correctly, do right and live good lives.
But there’s more to the Sacrament of Confirmation than just helping us with practical decisions and problems in this world. Our ultimate goal is heaven, and Confirmation offers us gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable us to see the things of this world from God’s perspective, to have a deeper penetration into and understanding of how everything that happens in this life either leads us closer to God or further away from Him.
What are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?
When you are confirmed, you receive the following Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Wisdom is knowledge and judgment about divine things, so you are better able to judge and direct your worldly affairs according to divine truth.
Understanding allows you to penetrate to the heart of things, to see things in their true value, especially as they relate to your eternal salvation.
Counsel helps us to be directed by God in matters necessary for our salvation, so we are not so easily led astray by the attractions of this world.
Fortitude is the strength we need to do good and avoid evil, especially when it might be difficult or even dangerous to choose good. Fortitude is what allows martyrs to lay down their lives rather than deny their faith.
Knowledge is the ability to judge correctly about matters of faith, so that we make the right choices and act in justice.
Piety is reverence for God based in love for God, so that we honor God above all things, and we honor our fellow men because they are made in the image of the God whom we love.
Fear of God is not the kind of fear we feel toward dangerous or powerful men who might hurt us; this kind of fear is based in love: the ‘fear’ of hurting someone we love – God – through our sins against him or other people.
Why do we need these gifts?
Many people, reading about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, might think that such things are ‘overly religious’ or that their lives are just fine without those gifts.
But imagine a person who is filled with those gifts — who is empowered to act in wisdom, to be strong and calm in all challenges, to keep his eyes on the goal of heaven, and so to live among others in charity and justice, making the best decisions for himself and the people who depend on him.
Can you imagine a better life than a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit?
Now imagine a world filled with people living their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the kind of world God wants for us. He’s ready to give us the power to make that world a reality – through the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation. It begins with each one of us accepting the gifts.
What do I do if I want to be confirmed?
If you are an English-speaking adult, and you have not been confirmed, make your situation known to the priest either through our contact form, in the sacristy after Sunday Mass or at one of our social hours after Mass. We can offer you instruction and help you arrange the Sacrament of Confirmation either in Poland or in your own country. The length of the instruction period will depend on your schedule, your level of understanding of your Catholic faith, and possibly your level of English.