by Anne Marie Kaufmann, Pastoral Associate of Faith Formation
On May 7 one hundred young people will respond “Amen” as Cardinal Wilton Gregory anoints them with sacred chrism and speaks the words, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, these teens and all of us who have been confirmed experience the “completion of baptismal grace” (CCC 1285). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit that began with our baptism gains strength. Our souls are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit to signify that our total beings belong to Jesus Christ. An exterior sign of oil, scented and blessed, provides us a tangible way to know that this is truly happening; this increase of baptismal grace and presence of the Holy Spirit are real!
In the early Church, confirmation followed immediately after baptism, as it does today for unbaptized adults and children of catechetical age at the Easter Vigil. The Eastern rites also maintain this close link between baptism and confirmation, with a chrismation or anointing with sacred chrism of infants following their baptism. With the separation of confirmation from baptism for those baptized as infants in the Roman Catholic Rite, it is important that we think about our own understanding of confirmation. Rather than being a sacrament of becoming an adult in the church or making our own decision about whether we want to be Catholic, confirmation deepens the grace received at baptism. It allows us to live out more fully the priestly, prophetic, and royal missions of our baptism. We are empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Before his crucifixion, Jesus promised that God would send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate or Helper, “to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, … you know it because it remains with you and will be in you.” The Holy Spirit “will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (Jn 14:16-17; 26) Following his resurrection and right before his ascension, Christ again spoke about the promise of the Father – a baptism with the Holy Spirit. The subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost transformed the apostles from fearful followers to bold proclaimers of the Good News even when facing death.
As it did with the early disciples, this profound presence of the Holy Spirit is meant to transform our own lives. It enables us to be Christ in our world – to speak words of healing and peace to those who suffer, to be understanding of those who view the world differently than we do, and to accompany those who are poor or cast out by our society. It allows us to do so even if we experience discomfort, ridicule, or persecution. The Holy Spirit increases our desire to know Christ – to be like Christ, and we begin to recognize and respond to his presence within us and in others.
To all young people, both those who have been confirmed and those who will be confirmed, in the words of Pope Francis: “Ask the Holy Spirit each day to help you experience anew the great message – God loves you; Christ is your Savior; he is alive (Christus Vivit, 130)…The Lord loves you, dear young people, and you are the means by which he can spread his light and hope” (CV, 177).
To all of us, let us pray for the young people in our parish who are recently confirmed. May we come to recognize their gifts, grow in understanding of their experiences of God, and be willing to listen to their needs and desires. Through this, may we journey with youth, walking alongside them as they grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, and welcome them into fuller participation in the ministries of our parish.