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Throughout Church history one of the primary tools for teaching and expressing the Christian belief has been liturgy and sacraments. Over the years liturgy has changed and developed based on new theological understandings and pastoral concerns. Arguably the most important sacraments in terms of teaching and expressing the Christian belief have been the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.
From very early on in Church tradition there has been a strong emphasis on initiating potential members in the proper way. Different liturgical practices sprang up in various places, all with their own unique understanding of what Christian initiation meant. Very early on baptism, anointing (what happens at Confirmation), and Eucharist are seen within these practices. However, the method of doing these things varied, sometimes widely, in the ancient Christian world. Some of the rites of these areas seemed to baptize with oil instead of water, some intertwined baptism with a profession of faith, while others simply used the Trinitarian formula (in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) found in the Gospels. Some traditions accompanied their Eucharistic celebrations with entire meals, where others may have simply had the bread and wine.
These early traditions eventually encountered one another, shared ideas, and slowly overlapped and became more and more similar. The overall initiation sacrament, which encompassed all baptism, anointing, and Eucharist slowly disintegrated into three distinct sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. It was by liturgical accident that Confirmation was moved away from its rightful place between Baptism and Eucharist.
Even with the proper order of the sacraments being misplaced, Church teaching is very clear about the sacrament of Confirmation. It is the sacrament that bestows upon us the fullness of the Holy Spirit that was given to us at Baptism. This is the same Spirit that filled the Apostles with the zeal and courage needed by all who are to be public witnesses to Christ. Confirmation celebrates God’s presence in our lives as the Holy Spirit continues to guide, strengthen, and empower us to live and witness the Good News of Jesus Christ. Christians, on the day of their Confirmation, become public witnesses to Christ and his saving works. Confirmation is not our first encounter with the Holy Spirit. The first encounter takes place at Baptism. The Trinity comes to dwell in the newly baptized as they are born again in water and the Spirit. Baptism brings people into a personal union with God. Thus introduced to the ways of God and the Spirit, the sacrament of Confirmation continues the process by having the Holy Spirit strengthened within us. Confirmation completes and perfects Baptism.
Sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, Christians more perfectly become the image of their Lord and are filled with the Holy Spirit. They bear witness to Him before the world and eagerly work for the building up of the body of Christ. Confirmed Christians bear witness of Christ through both their actions and their words. They get involved in community service, volunteering both their time and talent. They respond more deeply to the gift of the Spirit as an outward sign of desiring to live more aware of Christ and more committed to His mission of serving others. Confirmation is not an end to church involvement and faith development. On the contrary, Confirmation is part of the bigger picture of what it means to be Christian.
Cleansed in the waters of Baptism and strengthened with the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, we come to the “source and summit” of our Christian faith: the Eucharist. It is fitting that the last sacrament of initiation is the Eucharist, as it is the only repeatable sacrament of initiation. Every week we come to the table of Christ to be nourished and strengthened by the Eucharist in order to better live out our Confirmed Baptismal responsibilities. It is Eucharist that is the “end” of our initiation, an initiation that reminds us to keep growing in our faith.
The Confirmation program at St. Luke’s is a two year process following Diocesan guidelines and uses the RCIA as a model. The first phase of the two years is the “remote” phase where youth get involved in the youth group; experience pre-catechesis followed by general catechesis, and build a relationship with Jesus. This phase takes up the bulk of the Confirmation program.
Towards the end of the two year “remote” phase, youth begin the “proximate” phase which is specifically sacramental preparation. Youth learn about the history of the sacrament, its symbols, its theology, the role of the Holy Spirit, and about the liturgy itself.
- All youth in preparation for Confirmation are required to attend high school youth group (Vita Nova).
- Youth in their remote preparation are only allowed to miss three (3) Sunday night youth group sessions.
- Youth in their proximate preparation must also go to Vita Nova in addition to a Confirmation specific class on a separate evening. Youth in the proximate phase are only allowed to miss one (1) Confirmation class.
- Each year includes a mandatory retreat.
- Each youth needs a sponsor in their second year of remote preparation and for the proximate phase. The sponsor walks with them on this journey: they help them understand the sacrament, answer questions, provide insight, recall their own stories, and just be there for the candidate. Candidates should meet face-to-face with their sponsors once a week.
The Confirmation program at St. Luke’s is tied into the faith formation done at youth group which uses the LifeTeen curriculum. Additionally, the proximate phase uses resources from “Anointed in the Spirit” by Saint Mary’s Press. and the Chosen program from Ascension Press. These resources are used during the Confirmation class sessions. Each student will receive a folder with material to reinforce these lessons.
Un-Baptized Adults entering the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation after their baptism on the Easter Vigil celebration.
Baptized Adults entering the Church through the RCIA will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation alongside those being baptized and confirmed.
If you are a baptized Catholic who needs the Sacrament of Confirmation, you will also attend the RCIA classes. You will receive the sacrament at the Adult Confirmation celebration, usually on Pentecost.