Understanding Confirmation

By  Dylan Robertson, Youth Speak News
  • August 6, 2008

Cheers erupted from the Sydney, Australia field as each name was read. Twenty-four Catholics from across Australia and the world were announced one by one as they approached the stage to be Confirmed. Giant screens and loudspeakers broadcasted the venue to the crowd of 400,000 pilgrims at Randwick Racecourse.

The theme for World Youth Day 2008 was Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses.”

For that week last week, young Catholics had been celebrating and learning more about the Holy Spirit. It all came full-circle at the closing Mass with the sacrament of Confirmation.

Everyone joined in prayer as the Holy Father lay his hands on the first in line, his voice echoing: “be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

This made me think about the sacrament itself. According to paragraphs 1302-1303 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.”

Seven gifts are bestowed upon the person as they become an adult spiritually: namely wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

My Confirmation was a rather unpleasant experience which took place in Grade 8. Being a Catholic school student, it was generally expected that I would be joining the group up at the altar in May.

Family and friends tried to help but I remember feeling pushed into this rite of passage feeling confused and frustrated. I felt too young to know if I wanted to be Catholic and didn’t see the point of Confirmation.

I remember the lessons we had in religion class, none of which seemed relevant. There I was up at the front of the church with scores of other eighth graders. The priest asked me for my Confirmation name and next thing I knew it was over.

Many other students seemed glad to have it done and over with, anticipating the gifts, parties and family celebrations to soon follow. I decided not to worry about it, but was always a tad jealous of people who were confirmed later in life; it seemed they had time to think things through first.

To be confirmed is to be anointed by the Holy Spirit. Just as Baptism clears us of original sin, Confirmation gives us what we need to live our lives for Christ.

Sin is taken away and then replaced by gifts of grace. Some refer to this rite as becoming a “soldier of Christ,” but put in modern terms we grow strong in virtue, ready to receive the Eucharist and be spiritually whole.

At World Youth Day, I felt a bit out of place knowing that I was already confirmed without having known much about it. But it’s not for me to say whether we ought to change Confirmation procedure. Instead I resolved to learn more about the sacrament when I got back home.

In order to become closer to God I have chosen to go on my own Confirmation journey — to learn about these gifts and to reflect on them one by one. With time I’m sure I will learn to understand and appreciate these gifts, so I can “receive the power” from the Holy Spirit.

(Robertson, 17, is a graduate of All Saints Catholic Secondary School in Whitby, Ont.)

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