Sacraments : Confirmation

In this series of essays Father Manny considers the nature of The Sacraments and reflects upon their meaning in our lives.

The Sacrament of Confirmation

At eight years of age I was confirmed in Belfast during a time when there was great sectarian hatred between the Catholic and Protestant communities. Just a few days after my Confirmation my brother and I strayed into the Protestant district of the town and very quickly a gang of older local lads approached us menacingly and demanded to know if we were Protestant or Catholics. Here was my big chance! My opportunity to bear witness to Christ. After all, during my Confirmation preparation I had been told I was now a ‘Soldier of Christ’. I looked the lads in the eye, thought for a moment and then turned and ran as fast as I could back to my own neighbourhood.

So much for ‘Soldiers of Christ’ – had the grace of the sacrament deserted me? I don’t think so. Perhaps the spirit of wisdom and right judgement were at work. A good general knows that it is often necessary to retreat and re-group in order to advance.

The key scriptural texts relating to the sacrament of Confirmation are; the descent of the Holy Spirit after Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, and the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost. In both cases the Holy Spirit appears at the beginning of public ministry. Christ rises out of the waters of the Jordan and the Spirit leads Him into the wilderness from which He emerges proclaiming the Goodness of the Kingdom. At Pentecost, inspired by the Spirit, the Apostles throw open the doors and proclaim the Risen Christ to all the nations.

At Confirmation we receive that same gift of the Spirit to strengthen and enable us to bear public witness to Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“Confirmation gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread
and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ,
to confess the name of Christ boldly and never to be ashamed of the
Cross”. (c.c.2044)

Sometimes it is said that Confirmation is “a sacrament in search of a theology”. That is a sacrament whose purpose is unclear. I would argue that if ever there was a clear and present need for the sacrament of Confirmation, it is today. At the present time there is a concerted attempt to eradicate Christianity from the public domain. To take Christ and the Gospel out of the workplace, out of society and indeed out of contemporary culture.

We need the grace of confirmation so that we can throw open wide the doors of Christianity upon the world and proclaim fearlessly Christ, Crucified and Risen. We need the wisdom and courage that comes from this sacrament so as to stand up to the bullies who would drive the Church out of public life.

Now is the time to pray for the renewal of the grace of Confirmation in our lives and what better prayer is there than the great hymn to the Holy Spirit:-

“Come Holy Ghost Creator come from thy bright heavenly throne…
guide our minds with thy blest light, with love our hearts inflame,
and with thy strength which ne’er decays, confirm our mortal frame.”

Rev. Emmanuel Gribben

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