Over the past few days, through a variety of different avenues at the parish, I have either overseen or directly taught on the Sacrament of Confirmation. On Monday night, Fr. Chris Axline, Chaplain and Theology Teacher as Seton Catholic Preparatory, taught RCIA Mystagogy about the Rites of Baptism and Confirmation that happened at the Easter Vigil. Yesterday morning during our Tuesday morning adult faith formation book study, I taught on the writings of St. Cyril of Jerusalem and what he said about Baptism and Confirmation in the 4th century.
During both sessions that were taught about Confirmation, we both spoke briefly on the “slap” that once was given to those receiving the sacrament on the cheek from the Bishop. This light “slap” was to remind those receiving Confirmation that you are now a solider for Christ, and with that, will come combat and battles (read CCC 1303 – effects of the Confirmation). In my morning session from yesterday, there were numerous parishioners that remember receiving this from the Bishop when they received Confirmation. Many of the participants realize the importance of spiritual warfare and are prepared to combat Satan and his minions. Read Ephesians 6:10-18.
I know for my generation (I was confirmed nearly 25 years ago at the age of 17), Confirmation was seen as a “graduation” of sorts from the Church. The overall general attitude among those receiving the sacrament, mostly cultural Catholics at the time, was – now that I am confirmed, I don’t have to go to church anymore and be involved. If I had to take a guess of where this disposition began it would have to be that we (members of the Church here in the USA) turned the sacrament of Confirmation into a sacrament of choice and not the final sacrament of full initiation into the Church. The sacrament of Confirmation was never meant to be a choice. The sacrament assists us in making good choices and should be given at the age of reason.
Before I descend to deep into this rabbit hole that I enjoy speaking about, let’s focus our attention to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the Sacrament of Confirmation –
“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). [#1315]
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. [#1316]
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. [#1317]
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. [#1318]
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 affairs. [#1319]
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: Signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti [the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit] in the Byzantine rite. [#1320]
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. [#1321]
For a deeper understanding of this sacrament, I also suggest you read paragraphs 1285-1314 in the Catechism. To read more about the Restored Order of the Sacraments, I would read this article from Our Sunday Visitor as well as a 2005 article from The National Catholic Register. Below is also a video explanation from Bishop Robert Barron.