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Sunday, 2 June 2013

Blessed John Paul II on Confirmation--a long and serious preparation, please

The grace conferred by the sacrament of Confirmation is more specifically a gift of strength. The Council says that through "the sacrament of Confirmation...the Holy Spirit endows them [the baptized] with special strength" (LG 11). This gift corresponds to the need for greater zeal in facing the "spiritual battle" of faith and charity [4] , in order to resist temptation and give to the world the witness of Christian word and deed with courage, fervor and perseverance. In the sacrament, the Holy Spirit confers this zeal.
Jesus noted the danger of being ashamed to profess the faith: "Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (Lk 9:26; cf. Mk 8:38). Being ashamed of Christ is often expressed in those forms of "human respect" by which one hides one's own faith and agrees to compromises which are unacceptable for someone who wants to be Christ's true disciple. How many people, even Christians, make compromises today!
Through the sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit fills the individual with the courage to profess his faith in Christ. According to the Council text which we began with, professing this faith means "to spread the faith by word and deed" as consistent and faithful witnesses.
Since the Middle Ages, theology, which developed in a context of generous commitment of "spiritual combat" for Christ, has not hesitated to highlight the strength given by Confirmation to Christians who are called "to serve as soldiers for God." Theology continues to see in this sacrament the value of sacrifice and consecration which is included in its origin from the "fullness of Christ's grace" (cf. Summa Theol., III. q. 72, a. 1, ad 4). St. Thomas Aquinas explains the fact that Confirmation is distinguished from Baptism and comes after: "The sacrament of Confirmation is, as it were, the final completion of the sacrament of Baptism, in the sense that by Baptism (according to St. Paul) the Christian is built up into a spiritual dwelling (cf. 1 Cor 3:9), and is written like a spiritual letter (cf. 2 Cor 3:2-3); whereas by the sacrament of Confirmation, like a house already built, he is consecrated as a temple of the Holy Spirit, and as a letter already written, is signed with the sign of the cross" (Summa Theol., III, q. 72, a. 11).
As we know, there are pastoral problems regarding Confirmation, especially concerning the appropriate age for receiving this sacrament. There has been a recent tendency to delay the time of conferral until the age of fifteen to eighteen, so that the recipient's personality may be more mature and he can consciously make a more serious and stable commitment to Christian life and witness.
Others prefer a younger age. In any case, there must be hope that there will be a thorough preparation for this sacrament, which will allow those who receive it to renew their baptismal promises with full awareness of the gifts they are receiving and the obligations they are assuming. Without a long and serious preparation, they run the risk of reducing the sacrament to a mere formality or external ritual, or even losing sight of the essential sacramental aspect by insisting exclusively on the moral commitment involved.

Five meetings do not fall under the category of "long".