The Supernatural Power of Confirmation

Birgit - holy spirit

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.

Did you?

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 1302It 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.

My experience: 

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.

The Gift:

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….”



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8 thoughts on “The Supernatural Power of Confirmation”

  1. Barbara A. Peterson

    God has to be made REAL for ANY of this to even start to take hold and sink in. Hence, thank God for Marian apparitions, Eucharistic miracles, etc. People need to get the underlying premise that heaven and hell are REAL. Without that critical
    understanding, all of it is theoretical bs. You have to have that “Aha!!!” Moment. That what you do matters. What a perfect plan for Satan to trick so many into yawning unbelief. Tragic.

  2. This was so me. I am an adult convert. And I thought Confirmation is a lame thing that doesn’t do much for non-cradle Catholics but God proved me wrong.
    I precisely felt the Holy Spirit (nothing like “possessed” or anything) in my life. I used to “try to” be like Jesus. But after I changed, fight against sins became amazingly easier and I did not have to try too hard. (The Easy Yoke metaphor is totally right)
    I believe Confirmation was the pouring of oil, frequent Reconciliations were drying out sogginess, Scripture reading was the flint in my second conversion experience.

  3. I had the honor of being asked to be my 15 year-old Goddaughter’s sponsor for her Confirmation two years ago. She belongs to a different parish with far more children than mine, and I became acquainted with their way of handling things.
    The DRE went to a great deal of trouble to engage the 50+ teenagers and help them learn their responsibilities. She also encouraged us to be involved and present for the 6-8 months of preparation before the big day.
    We met monthly. We all went to Saturday vigil Mass, and then gathered for a simple supper – pizza or maybe soup and salad. Then we went over the Confirmation preparation homework the kids were assigned. My Nicole always took pains to be accurate and careful, asking me for help when she needed it. And then we had some kind of activity. Once, the DRE arranged for a scavenger hunt. She gave the kids a list of clues about the great and lesser-known saints, which pointed to various locations throughout the church, school, and social hall. At each point of contact, there was a poster of a saint, a short biography, the virtue he or she most exemplified, and the saint’s patronage. We had a lot of fun, and we all learned a lot.
    Nicole, who went to a different school from most of the other kids, made a lot of good friends in a wholesome atmosphere. She learned that being a Catholic is more than taking up space in a pew once a week, that there is joy in our Faith.
    For myself, I learned that many of the children had sponsors who were probably unsuitable. One of the girls had a sponsor, a very nice lady, who told me she hadn’t been to Mass in over a year. She looked on it as a social responsibility more than a spiritual responsibility, sadly.
    Many of the sponsors did not show up at all. We sat at a table with a few boys, who had no clue what saint they wanted for their Confirmation patron. We had a good discussion about possibilities. I told them there is always good St. Joseph, St. Damien, St. Francis, St. Peter, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and loads of other splendid male saints. These poor boys seemed to have no one to consult with about this very important decision.
    Sadly, after Confirmation, the parish seemed to lose interest in the newly-Confirmed teenagers. Nicole told me how much she missed her Confirmation friends, since she did not see them because they did not go to the same school. She and they really enjoyed the monthly classes and the fun they had. They had also learned a lot about being Catholics.
    It occurs to me that there is a wonderful opportunity to keep the momentum going for teenagers like these. Why can’t they continue to gather, perhaps under similar circumstances, go to Mass as a group, eat together, perhaps have a conversation led by a parish catechist about a current event affecting the Church or a saint of their own age, like Blessed Pier Giorgio? They can learn about their Church, and they can also learn how they can serve the Church in various ministries, such as helping at area soup kitchens, community food gardens, or the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Or visit neighboring parishes if their own does not provide these ministries.
    I am sure there are many reasons parishes can offer not to take an interest in the teenaged parishioners. In my experience, they want to feel the parish needs them, that they are missed if they are not present. If the teenaged kids are not encouraged to feel connected to the parish, it is no mystery why they abandon it.
    Susan, ofs

  4. Confirmation is a wonderful example of the old maxim “In theory, theory and practice are the same. But in practice, they are not.”

    In my diocese, Confirmation has been given simultaneously with first communion for over a decade. The theory being that the benefits and graces and etc. will kick in at an earlier age. That’s wonderful theory. But in practice, we all know that Confirmation is often where most people “graduate” from required Catholic education. With no further requirement, the overwhelming majority of children become young adults who leave the Church, because they can’t wait to get away from the small minority who continue attending “Youth Group” and “retreats” and the “on-fire” stuff that the author craves, but most of us really, really don’t.

    There’s a real lack of common sense in the Church today. We have forgotten the important social role that the Catholic parish used to play. When kids were required to continue in classes until Confirmation at high-school age, their families stayed more engaged in parish life. Activities and education had to appeal to everyone, not just to the charismatics which is what I see in my area parishes now. When the kids “graduate” at age eight, the families often disengage. That’s not “supernatural”, that’s just common sense.

    1. This sacrament has been abused for too long. Part of the problem is that for whatever bizarre reason it’s administered LAST among the Sacraments of initiation. The culmination of initiation isn’t confirmation, it’s Holy Eucharist (cf. CCC #1212). Yet typically the order is: Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation, where it should be Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist.

      If course even if the sacraments are administered that way, unless parents understand their responsibilities to educate their children in the faith, it won’t matter. Parents make a solemn promise to raise their children in the practices of the faith during the Rite of baptism, yet so many of them don’t go to Mass on a regular basis. Vatican Council II didn’t abrogate the third commandment. Or they simply “dump” their kids off to catechism classes and not really care what happens, or they don’t see that their children get educated at all. Pastors and DREs and teachers can only do so much, and they can only be responsible for so much. At some point mommy and daddy need to grow up and do their parts too.

    2. Andrew, you are just as confused as my bishop about the difference between “theory” and “practice”. Delaying confirmation until high-school age is the only carrot that the Church has to keep young people coming at all, instead of completely losing them at age 8 if first communion and confirmation are given simultaneously.

      I know it’s fashionable to blame Vatican-2 for all of today’s problems, but I found a notation in the records of my ancestral parish about parents not educating their children in the faith. The date of that notation was 1873. Some things never change.

    3. I’m not confused and I’m not blaming Vatican II. My comment re: Vatican II was that some people seem to think that the council somehow taught that going to Mass is optional. I’m pointing out that simply moving confirmation to HS isn’t going to solve the problem of “losing” them. I’ve taught Confirmation classes to HS students and many of them (not all of course) DON’T go to Mass on a regular basis. Just because the sacrament is “delayed” to HS won’t fix the problem if the faith, attending Mass and being educated isn’t part of the family’s priorities. If they are being lost at age 8, the question has to be asked: “why?” I highly doubt it’s because the bishop told the parents of the eight year old: “Well, congratulations! Your child is confirmed. You don’t have to do anything anymore! You don’t need any more classes and you don’t need to go to Mass ever again!” We’ll just see all of you little tykes 13 years from now when you want to get married.” The answer is that the parents can’t/won’t understand their responsibilities. We have to ask why they think they don’t have to do anything anymore (Mass attendance, catechism classes, etc.) just because the child is confirmed. There are many people involved here: priests, DREs, teachers, AND parents. The pastor doesn’t promise to raise the child in the practices of the faith at baptism – the parents make that promise. The pastor needs to ensure that there are opportunities for education, but again, unless the parents see to it that the family goes to Mass, I’m not sure what you expect other people to do.

    4. Obviously no one is saying “We’ll just see all of you little tykes 13 years from now when you want to get married.” because the Catholic marriage rate is practically zero. They’re leaving and they’re _not_ coming back. Why? My personal opinion is that most parishes are now dreadfully uninteresting places. They don’t act like “community”. When parishes sponsored their own community activities under various old-fashioned names like dinners and socials and mixers and etc., everyone had a role to play, which gave everyone a personal sense of ownership in their parish. And there was a “social network” that kept you coming to Church even when you didn’t feel like it.

      To answer your question, that’s what people used to be “expected” to do. That social framework crumbled and blew away during the last 20 to 30 years. It’s all gone, and nothing of any value has replaced it.

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