This video from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly examines the religious practice of confirmation in the Roman Catholic Church. During this sacrament, adolescents accept full membership into the Catholic Church, proclaiming loyalty to the faith and their transformation into morally responsible adults. The rite is executed after participants complete a lengthy period of religious instruction. In the U.S., they also may be required to complete some community service. At the time of confirmation, young people take the name of a saint who represents a spiritual model for their adult lives as followers of Jesus Christ.
Christianity Glossary (Document)
Confirmation is a highly symbolic ritual in Christianity representing a Christian's faith and commitment to God. The ceremony is typically celebrated on Pentecost Sunday, seven weeks after Easter, when it is believed that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles following the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Confirmation commemorates God delivering the gift of salvation through the Holy Spirit, as described in Luke 11:13.
The age a person is confirmed varies, depending on the denomination. Eastern Orthodox Christians complete the ritual as part of the baptism ceremony, known as chrismation, when the worshiper is still an infant. They believe confirmation to be a sacrament, or a direct means of receiving God's grace. Baptized Catholics and Anglicans also view confirmation as a sacrament, but observe the ceremony in adolescence. In their view, confirmation reaffirms the vows made at baptism. In other Protestant churches, confirmation is seen more as a symbolic act of accepting Christian life. Among Baptists, baptism is routinely practiced in older childhood or adolescence, and replaces confirmation.
The ceremonial leaders of the rite of confirmation differ from one denomination to another, but their roles are the same: to deliver the Holy Spirit to the recipient and strengthen the bond with Jesus Christ. Bishops confirm Catholics and Protestants, but priests and ministers can also do so when permitted. In Eastern Orthodoxy, where the distribution of power is less hierarchical, confirmation is always administered by priests.
The confirmation ceremony also varies, depending on the denomination. During the Protestant service, bishops lay their hands on the heads of worshippers to symbolize participation in the community and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Catholic bishops anoint recipients on their foreheads with chrism oil, in the sign of the cross, symbolizing strength and commitment to Jesus. They then pray for recipients to gain the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: reverence, understanding, courage, knowledge, wisdom, awe and wonder, and right judgment.
No matter the denomination, confirmation is an essential rite of passage, often into adulthood, where the recipient assumes full responsibility as a member of the church and follower of Jesus Christ. Recipients are considered true "moral agents," spiritually responsible for their thoughts and actions.
The coming-of-age ritual is not unique to Christianity. Judaism celebrates the bar/bat mitzvah; Thai Buddhists practice nen ordination; Latin Americans celebrate the quinceañera, and some Native Americans practice what is known as the vision quest. Other rites of passage include the traditions of russ in Norway and Jugendweihe in Germany.
BISHOP GERALD KICANAS (Chicago Archdiocese): The students being confirmed and their sponsors march in, usually two by two.
The sponsor's role is to be kind of a mentor, a support. Someone who will encourage the life of faith for this particular child.
The young people being confirmed also take part in service projects where they are involved in doing for others.
After the gospel, usually the pastor of the parish reads the names of each of those who will be confirmed.
(at Confirmation ceremony) Teresa Esposito ... Mallory Falco ... Bridgid Flood ...
The bishop gives his homily, in which he tries to explain to those being confirmed what the sacrament is about and what it means in their lives.
We look to you young people as the ones now who will stand up and witness to Christ.
After the homily of the mass, the bishop goes in front of those being confirmed and leads them in the renewal of their baptismal promises.
Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises?
CONFIRMATION PARTICIPANTS: I do.
Then I would read a prayer, holding my hands over the young people, calling the spirit down upon them.
Send forth your holy spirit upon them, to be their helper and guide.
Those being confirmed usually have gone through a period of learning where they come to study more about the church, and they're all nervous about being asked. I could ask you to recite for me the 10 Commandments. And without even a moment's hesitation, Teresa would start with the first and go to the fifth; start at the sixth and go to the tenth, without even taking a breath in between. So I'm not even going to ask you tonight.
Each of the young people will come forward and I will talk with them a little bit.
Hello Joseph. Joseph was the great father of the Lord. A man of great integrity and honesty.
How are you, Mary? The great mother of the Lord. And who's your proud sponsor back here -- is this grandma? All right, I'm sure she's proud."
Those being confirmed will take a name at confirmation.
CONFIRMATION PARTICIPANT: I chose Felicity. St. Felicity was a servant and died for Christ. She was beheaded and I admire her courage.
Then the real rite of confirmation takes place, when I will put my hand on the child's head and with my thumb, sign them with the perfumed oil, welcoming them as a full member now of the church.
Felicity, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. And peace be with you. Congratulations.
We only receive the gift of the spirit once in our life, at confirmation. So it's a very special moment. And let's show our young people our support for them.
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