Catechism of the Catholic Church: Confirmation
ARTICLE 2 - THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
1285 Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together
constitute the "sacraments of Christian initiation," whose unity must be
safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of
the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal
grace. For "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."
- Confirmation in the Economy of Salvation
- The Signs and the Rite of Confirmation
- The effects of Confirmation
- Who can receive this Sacrament?
- The Minister of Confirmation
I. Confirmation in the Economy of Salvation
1286 In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the
Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission. The
descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign
that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God. He was
conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are
carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives
him "without measure."
1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah's,
but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. On several
occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise
which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at
Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim
"the mighty works of God," and Peter declared this outpouring of the
Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age. Those who believed in the
apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit
in their turn.
1288 "From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ's will,
imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the
Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter
to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands
is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The
imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the
origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way
perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church."
1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an
anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands.
This anointing highlights the name "Christian," which means "anointed" and
derives from that of Christ himself whom God "anointed with the Holy
Spirit." This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East
and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament
Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means "chrism." In the
West, Confirmation suggests both the ratification of Baptism, thus
completing Christian initiation, and the strengthening of baptismal grace
- both fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Two traditions: East and West
1290 In the first centuries Confirmation generally comprised one single
celebration with Baptism, forming with it a "double sacrament," according
to the expression of St. Cyprian. Among other reasons, the multiplication
of infant baptisms all through the year, the increase of rural parishes,
and the growth of dioceses often prevented the bishop from being present
at all baptismal celebrations. In the West the desire to reserve the
completion of Baptism to the bishop caused the temporal separation of the
two sacraments. The East has kept them united, so that Confirmation is
conferred by the priest who baptizes. But he can do so only with the
"myron" consecrated by a bishop.
1291 A custom of the Roman Church facilitated the development of the
Western practice: a double anointing with sacred chrism after Baptism. The
first anointing of the neophyte on coming out of the baptismal bath was
performed by the priest; it was completed by a second anointing on the
forehead of the newly baptized by the bishop. The first anointing
with sacred chrism, by the priest, has remained attached to the baptismal
rite; it signifies the participation of the one baptized in the prophetic,
priestly, and kingly offices of Christ. If Baptism is conferred on an
adult, there is only one post-baptismal anointing, that of Confirmation.
1292 The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the
unity of Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly
expresses the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor
and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and
hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ's Church.
II. The Signs and the Rite of Confirmation
1293 In treating the rite of Confirmation, it is fitting to consider the
sign of anointing and what it signifies and imprints: a spiritual seal.
Anointing, in Biblical and other ancient symbolism, is rich in meaning:
oil is a sign of abundance and joy; it cleanses (anointing before and
after a bath) and limbers (the anointing of athletes and wrestlers); oil
is a sign of healing, since it is soothing to bruises and wounds; and
it makes radiant with beauty, health, and strength.
1294 Anointing with oil has all these meanings in the sacramental life.
The pre- baptismal anointing with the oil of catechumens signifies
cleansing and strengthening; the anointing of the sick expresses healing
and comfort. The post- baptismal anointing with sacred chrism in
Confirmation and ordination is the sign of consecration. By Confirmation
Christians, that is, those who are anointed, share more completely in the
mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which he
is filled, so that their lives may give off "the aroma of Christ."
1295 By this anointing the confirmand receives the "mark," the seal of the
Holy Spirit. A seal is a symbol of a person, a sign of personal authority,
or ownership of an oblect. Hence soldiers were marked with their
leader's seal and slaves with their master's. A seal authenticates a
juridical act or document and occasionally makes it secret.
1296 Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father's
seal. Christians are also marked with a seal: "It is God who
establishes us with you in Christ and has commissioned us; he has put his
seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee."
This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our
enrollment in his service for ever, as well as the promise of divine
protection in the great eschatological trial.
The celebration of Confirmation
1297 The consecration of the sacred chrism is an important action that
precedes the celebration of Confirmation, but is in a certain way a part
of it. It is the bishop who, in the course of the Chrism Mass of Holy
Thursday, consecrates the sacred chrism for his whole diocese. In some
Eastern Churches this consecration is even reserved to the patriarch:
The Syriac liturgy of Antioch expresses the epiclesis for the consecration
of the sacred chrism (myron) in this way: "[Father . . . send your Holy
Spirit] on us and on this oil which is before us and consecrate it, so
that it may be for all who are anointed and marked with it holy myron,
priestly myron, royal myron, anointing with gladness, clothing with light,
a cloak of salvation, a spiritual gift, the sanctification of souls and
bodies, imperishable happiness, the indelible seal, a buckler of faith,
and a fearsome helmet against all the works of the adversary."
1298 When Confirmation is celebrated separately from Baptism, as is the
case in the Roman Rite, the Liturgy of Confirmation begins with the
renewal of baptismal promises and the profession of faith by the
confirmands. This clearly shows that Confirmation follows Baptism.
When adults are baptized, they immediately receive Confirmation and
participate in the Eucharist.
1299 In the Roman Rite the bishop extends his hands over the whole group
of the confirmands. Since the time of the apostles this gesture has
signified the gift of the Spirit. The bishop invokes the outpouring of the
Spirit in these words:
All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy
Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life.
Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them
the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and
courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit
of wonder and awe in your presence. We ask this through Christ our
1300 The essential rite of the sacrament follows. In the Latin rite, "the
sacrament of Confirmation is conferred through the anointing with chrism
on the forehead, which is done by the laying on of the hand, and through
the words: 'Accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti' [Be sealed with the
Gift of the Holy Spirit.]." In the Eastern Churches, after a prayer
of epiclesis the more significant parts of the body are anointed with
myron: forehead, eyes, nose, ears, lips, breast, back, hands, and feet.
Each anointing is accompanied by the formula: "The seal of the gift that
is the Holy Spirit."
1301 The sign of peace that concludes the rite of the sacrament signifies
and demonstrates ecclesial communion with the bishop and with all the
III. The effects of Confirmation
1302 It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament
of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted
to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
1303 From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of
- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry,
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
- it 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:
Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of
wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the
spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's
presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with
his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the
Spirit, in your hearts.
1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for
it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the "character,"
which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal
of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be
1305 This "character" perfects the common priesthood of the faithful,
received in Baptism, and "the confirmed person receives the power to
profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi ex
IV. Who can receive this Sacrament?
1306 Every baptized person not yet confirmed can and should receive the
sacrament of Confirmation. Since Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist
form a unity, it follows that "the faithful are obliged to receive this
sacrament at the appropriate time," for without Confirmation and
Eucharist, Baptism is certainly valid and efficacious, but Christian
initiation remains incomplete.
1307 The Latin tradition gives "the age of discretion" as the reference
point for receiving Confirmation. But in danger of death children should
be confirmed even if they have not yet attained the age of
1308 Although Confirmation is sometimes called the "sacrament of Christian
maturity," we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural
growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited
election and does not need "ratification" to become effective. St. Thomas
reminds us of this:
Age of body does not determine age of soul. Even in childhood man can
attain spiritual maturity: as the book of Wisdom says: "For old age is not
honored for length of time, or measured by number of years. "Many
children, through the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received, have
bravely fought for Christ even to the shedding of their blood.
1309 Preparation for Confirmation should aim at leading the Christian
toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity
with the Holy Spirit - his actions, his gifts, and his biddings - in order
to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian
life. To this end catechesis for Confirmation should strive to awaken a
sense of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ, the universal Church as
well as the parish community. The latter bears special responsibility for
the preparation of confirmands.
1310 To receive Confirmation one must be in a state of grace. One should
receive the sacrament of Penance in order to be cleansed for the gift of
the Holy Spirit. More intense prayer should prepare one to receive the
strength and graces of the Holy Spirit with docility and readiness to
1311 Candidates for Confirmation, as for Baptism, fittingly seek the
spiritual help of a sponsor. To emphasize the unity of the two sacraments,
it is appropriate that this be one of the baptismal godparents.
V. The Minister of Confirmation
1312 The original minister of Confirmation is the bishop. In the
East, ordinarily the priest who baptizes also immediately confers
Confirmation in one and the same celebration. But he does so with sacred
chrism consecrated by the patriarch or the bishop, thus expressing the
apostolic unity of the Church whose bonds are strengthened by the
sacrament of Confirmation. In the Latin Church, the same discipline
applies to the Baptism of adults or to the reception into full communion
with the Church of a person baptized in another Christian community that
does not have valid Confirmation.
1313 In the Latin Rite, the ordinary minister of Confirmation is the
bishop. Although the bishop may for grave reasons concede to priests
the faculty of administering Confirmation, it is appropriate from the
very meaning of the sacrament that he should confer it himself, mindful
that the celebration of Confirmation has been temporally separated from
Baptism for this reason. Bishops are the successors of the apostles. They
have received the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The
administration of this sacrament by them demonstrates clearly that its
effect is to unite those who receive it more closely to the Church, to her
apostolic origins, and to her mission of bearing witness to Christ.
1314 If a Christian is in danger of death, any priest should give him
Confirmation. Indeed the Church desires that none of her children,
even the youngest, should depart this world without having been perfected
by the Holy Spirit with the gift of Christ's fullness.
1315 "Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received
the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and
prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not
yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of
the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the
Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:14-17).
1316 Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which
gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine
filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond
with the Church, associate us more closely with her mission, and help us
bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds.
1317 Confirmation, like Baptism, imprints a spiritual mark or indelible
character on the Christian's soul; for this reason one can receive this
sacrament only once in one's life.
1318 In the East this sacrament is administered immediately after Baptism
and is followed by participation in the Eucharist; this tradition
highlights the unity of the three sacraments of Christian initiation. In
the Latin Church this sacrament is administered when the age of reason has
been reached, and its celebration is ordinarily reserved to the bishop,
thus signifying that this sacrament strengthens the ecclesial bond.
1319 A candidate for Confirmation who has attained the age of reason must
profess the faith, be in the state of grace, have the intention of
receiving the sacrament, and be prepared to assume the role of disciple
and witness to Christ, both within the ecclesial community and in temporal
1320 The essential rite of Confirmation is anointing the forehead of the
baptized with sacred chrism (in the East other sense-organs as well),
together with the laying on of the minister's hand and the words: "Accipe
signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti" (Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy
Spirit.) in the Roman Rite, or "The seal of the gift that is the Holy
Spirit" in the Byzantine rite.
1321 When Confirmation is celebrated separately from Baptism, its
connection with Baptism is expressed, among other ways, by the renewal of
baptismal promises. The celebration of Confirmation during the Eucharist
helps underline the unity of the sacraments of Christian initiation.
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