In a recent essay, I asked the question: “Where is the passion and fire within the Church? Where is the passion and fire within me?
In this essay, I desire to explore the potential answer: The Supernatural Power of Confirmation.
What is Confirmation?
If I were to ask you that question how might you answer?
Growing up in the Catholic Church, going to Mass every Sunday and attending Catholic grade school and High School, I obviously had the answer to this question. Right?
I joke. Unfortunately, I was one of those kids who didn’t pay close enough attention in Religious Education to adequately answer. I apologize to all the dedicated teachers out there. I now appreciate your efforts.
Thankfully I have put a few years between me and my adolescent self, so I have a different outlook on life these days. That understood, I wonder how I might have answered that question had someone asked: What is Confirmation? I would have been able to report that I was baptized. I would have noted that I had received my first Communion. I would have also acknowledged that I need to fulfill the next sacrament called Confirmation. I may have said that Confirmation has something to do with making my own decision about being Catholic… I recall viewing it as some sort of right of passage into young adulthood.
Take into consideration that I skipped most of my CCD classes (religious education), and I didn’t pay much attention at school either, so I may not be a reliable source. Again, I apologize to all the dedicated teachers out there. I see things differently today.
However, when statistics point out that 80-85% of young people who have been confirmed Catholic leave the Church by the time they are 24 years old, there is a problem that goes beyond my own immaturity as an adolescent. I too left the Church by the time I was 24 (actually 19)… Based on these statistics, I have a feeling I am not the only Catholic kid who didn’t understand what Confirmation was really all about.
I found this online, which speaks succinctly to the point: “For too long we have watched young people walk away from the faith. The tragedy is, most of them have never had the genius of Catholicism presented to them in a compelling way. So they have walked away, completely unaware of what they were turning their backs on…. Let’s be honest—the old way isn’t working. Eighty-five percent of young Catholics stop practicing their faith within ten years of their Confirmation. ”
That’s alarming. I think it is fair to say that many of us, who grew up Catholic, lacked the deeper understanding of what Confirmation is really all about.
So, let’s take a fresh approach and see what the Church has to say about Confirmation.
USCCB on Confirmation:
“Confirmation deepens our baptismal life that calls us to be missionary witnesses of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, society, and the world. . . . We receive the message of faith in a deeper and more intensive manner with great emphasis given to the person of Jesus Christ, who asked the Father to give the Holy Spirit to the Church for building up the community in loving service.” United States Council of Catholic Bishops
Catechism on Confirmation:
CCC 1302 “It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.”
What happened on the day of Pentecost?
Scripture on Confirmation:
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:2-4
Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit descended upon the followers of Christ. That is what the Church says we are to experience at Confirmation.
Supernatural Graces of Confirmation:
God intended for the Church to be set on Fire with His Spirit. We are His church:
CCC 696 “Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions…. the fire of the Holy Spirit…transforms what he touches….”
As Scripture and the Church teaches, we receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at our Confirmation. This is the same Spirit the Apostles received on Pentecost. The Fire and Passion has been deposited within us through our Baptism and Confirmation.
Our Catholic Experience:
Was this your experience during Confirmation? Did you experience Pentecost?
When I present this question to hundreds of people at a conference, typically 3 to 5 people acknowledge that they experienced Pentecost at their Confirmation. What does that say about the rest of us?
While we have received this supernatural grace through the Sacrament of Confirmation, our experience may not have matched up with the accounts of Pentecost. That doesn’t change the reality of what was deposited when the Priest or Bishop laid their hands upon our head.
Millions in the bank:
I like to use this analogy to describe my experience: What if someone informed me that they had placed $10 million dollars in a bank account with my name on it? How might I react? Wow.
Let’s say I need to buy a house for my family that will cost $400,000. No problem. I will just go to the bank and make a withdrawal. When I get to the bank the teller informs me that I need the account number. Oops. I don’t have access to the account. She politely turns me away. The money is mine. It is in the bank, but I don’t have access to it. Bummer.
This is how I perceive my experience of Confirmation. When the Bishop anointed my head with Oil, and blessed me in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I received the fullness of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Yet I had little to no idea what I had actually received. It was like having millions within the account of my heart and spirit with no access to the wealth deposited. It wasn’t until many years later, that I received access to the fullness of this supernatural grace that was deposited within me through the sacrament of Confirmation.
I had no idea of the power I had received when the Bishop laid his hands upon my head at Confirmation. It was only when I had cried out in hungry desperation for God to show Himself real to me (when I was 24 years of age) that I received a greater release of the Holy Spirit within my life. This simple faith led to an encounter in the Father’s love and an immersion within the grace, love and power of the Holy Spirit. This encounter opened the “account” of my heart and spirit to receive Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit more fully. I received more fully what was deposited at my Confirmation.
This release of the Holy Spirit is for all of us who have been baptized and confirmed: “…The sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.” CCC 1302
We received the Holy Spirit within the sacramental graces of our baptism and confirmation. All we need to do now is ask for greater release of what was already deposited.
Simple Prayer to receive the Fullness of the Supernatural graces that we received in Confirmation:
CCC 671 “…the simplest and most direct prayer is also traditional, “Come, Holy Spirit,” and every liturgical tradition has developed it in antiphons and hymns. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love….”
Bonus of Living in a New Era:
CCC 1076 “The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the “dispensation of the mystery” the age of the Church… In this age of the Church Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to this new age….”
CCC 1091 “…The desire and work of the Spirit in the heart of the Church is that we may live from the life of the risen Christ. When the Spirit encounters in us the response of faith which he has aroused in us, he brings about genuine cooperation….”