What is Confirmation?
Confirmation is a sacrament of initiation that is closely connected to Baptism and Eucharist, even though it is often celebrated years later. It “perfects baptismal grace” and incorporates us more firmly into Christ and strengthens our bond with the whole Church and the mission of Christ. At Confirmation, one is strengthened in the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us live more fully as disciples of Jesus Christ.
What are the pre-requisites to entering Confirmation preparation? An individual must be baptized and minimally in Grade 11 or 16 years old to enter Confirmation preparation. S/he should have been in a faith formation program for at least one year prior to entering Confirmation preparation, and be willing and able to participate fully in the immediate preparation for Confirmation.
What does Confirmation preparation entail?
For adolescents, there is usually a parent or parent/candidate session so that everyone is aware of the details of the preparation, and is ready to enter the process. There may be a series of gatherings for catechesis on the sacrament, prayer and worship experiences, a retreat, meetings with sponsors, and other activities that vary from parish to parish. The preparation period often culminates in a personal conversation with the pastor, parish life director or catechetical/youth ministry leader to discern where the candidate is in his/her journey to being a disciple of Jesus.
What is a retreat and why is it necessary?
To “retreat” usually means to step away. A Confirmation retreat is just that ---a time to step away from our everyday activity and spend some concentrated time to reflect on our relationship with Jesus Christ and what that means for our life. A retreat may be held at the parish site or off-site; it may be a day, an overnight or a weekend experience. It may involve large group activities, small group process, media, music, talks by peers or adults, prayer experiences, or even the Eucharist or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Anytime one is taking a major step in one’s faith journey, having some time apart to prayerfully discern what that means for one’s life, is an important and necessary activity.
What about “service hours”?
Service is an essential component of Christian discipleship. By the time a person enters preparation for Confirmation, s/he should have had many opportunities and experiences of serving others – both in the parish and in the wider community. The idea of accumulating a certain number of “service hours” in order to be confirmed is discouraged for a number of reasons: 1) it gives the appearance of merely “fulfilling a requirement” in order to “earn” Confirmation, similar to a person doing community service hours in order to fulfill a parole requirement! 2) Service hours are often done as a task to be completed rather than an experience where one can encounter the living Christ. It is, however, important for the Confirmation candidate to reflect on their overall experience of serving others as a way of living their lives as a Catholic Christian and encountering Christ in those whom we serve. Sometimes a particular service experience is built into the preparation for Confirmation, so that the candidates can both participate and reflect upon the same experience together.
Do I have to have a “Confirmation name”?
When the Rite of Confirmation was revised after the Second Vatican Council, there was a renewed emphasis on the relationship between Baptism and Confirmation. This is reflected today in many practices around Confirmation: the preference for the baptismal godparent as the Confirmation sponsor, if possible; the renewal of the baptismal promises at the Confirmation liturgy; and the preference for the baptismal name. So the name you were given at your baptism is the preferred name to use at your Confirmation ----which is your real, given name! The practice of choosing another name has been a time-honored tradition in many places. In the Bible, the giving of a “new name” signified a change of status or an inner conversion. So the practice of choosing the name of a saint signified a candidate’s intention to model the holiness of this person and become more Christ-like. So you have an option --- you still may choose the name of a saint whose holiness you admire and want to emulate. But the preferred option is your very own name – as YOU were baptized and called to holiness!
Who can be a Confirmation sponsor?
A person is eligible to be a sponsor for a Confirmation candidate if s/he
* Is at least 16 years of age
* Is a Catholic who has been fully initiated (baptized, confirmed and received Eucharist)
* Lives a live in harmony with the Catholic faith
* Is designated by the candidate and willing to take the role of sponsor
* Is neither the father or the mother of the candidate ( or someone in the parental role)
The role of sponsor is not merely an honorary role just for the ceremony only. The sponsor role is very specific – s/he is a representative of the Catholic community and pledges to support the faith journey of the candidate in the Catholic community. This is why a person who is not a Catholic (even though s/he has had a positive influence through faith and witness), is not eligible to have this role. A Catholic who does not go to Mass or practice his/her faith should also not be considered for this responsibility. Sometimes a parish will require a sponsor to provide a letter from his/her parish church affirming their membership and participation in that community. If the sponsor meets all the above criteria, then he/she may be a relative, but not a parent (or not someone who acts in the parental role – e.g., a stepparent or a grandparent raising the candidate). The sponsor does not have to be the same gender as the candidate. Even though the minimum age of the sponsor can be 16, it is advisable that s/he be someone with more life experience who can act as a faith guide, not a peer. If the candidate’s baptismal godparent meets the criteria for sponsor, s/he is actually the ideal sponsor, since Baptism and Confirmation are closely related sacraments.
For more information, please call or email Glen and Michelle Killion: firstname.lastname@example.org or the Parish Office: email@example.com (308) 754-4002.