The word ‘FIRM’ comes from the Latin word “firmare” which means to strengthen. A ‘firm handshake’ is therefore a strong handshake, just as a ‘firm belief’ is a strongly held belief. The prefix ‘CON’ suggests intensity, so ‘con-firm’ suggests something very strong. So,we arrive at our word ’confirmation’ which is not only the name of an important Sacrament but which evokes the idea of being made very firm –in the this case, very firm in the faith.
The Sacrament of Confirmation –which is being celebrated in the parish today for 21 young parishioners- is part of the rites of initiation into the faith. The three Sacraments of initiation are Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. In the early days of the Church, Confirmation was closely identified with Baptism; it was celebrated immediately after baptism. This is still the case of adult converts to the faith at the end of their R.C.I.A. process.
In the case of infants, Confirmation was gradually separated from baptism and eventually it came to be celebrated when the child reached the “use of reason”, normally about 7 years of age. In those days it was still experienced as a Sacrament of Initiation and was celebrated before First Holy Communion. Slowly the gap between Baptism and Confirmation grew and First Holy Communion became the norm around the age of 7 but Confirmation came later. Today the age for Confirmation is often (as in our country) in the teenage years.
Whenever celebrated, Confirmation remains a Sacrament of initiation: it is part of becoming a fully mature Christian. Confirmation signals a vital stage in growth into the Body of Christ: the coming of the Spirit, not only with Gifts but also with Tasks. The newly Confirmed are empowered to work for the building up of the Body of Christ, so that what they experience in being Christian may be shared with others to the glory of God.
It is our prayer that our young 21 parishioners will not only enjoy this spiritual experience but be able to share it with others as they take up their responsibilities in the Body of Christ.
Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.