The Sacrament of Confirmation – A Church of Soldiers!

“Gospel” and “combat”; “apostle” and “soldier”; “Christian” and “militant”… These concepts may sound antagonistic to many people. However, the strong bond between them is sealed by a great Sacrament of our Faith.

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The crowd was astonished! Simple Galileans were being understood by all the foreigners in their own languages (cf. Acts 2:6-8)! And perhaps that was not what was most marvelous in the scene… It was clear that a supernatural force had taken over the words and actions of these men. Fifty days earlier, had they not shamefully fled while their Master was condemned to crucifixion? Was not the leader of the group, now proclaiming to the peoples the name of Jesus as Lord and Christ (cf. Acts 2:36), the very one who had denied Him three times at the questioning of a simple servant woman?

If panic had kept them confined before, from that day on courage drove them to confront the greatest powers and the most atrocious torments for the glory of the Risen Lord.

How can we explain this sudden change of character in Christ’s followers? The Acts of the Apostles tells us of the great moment when this transformation took place:

“And suddenly a sound came from Heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:2-4). From that moment on, they could not stop preaching Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4:20).

It was the first of many “Pentecosts” in salvation history!

Pentecost is perpetuated in the Church

The first? Yes, although today we do not see the miraculous manifestations that took place in the Upper Room, the descent of the Paraclete is perpetuated in a silent but continuous way in the Church. In fact, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches,1 in the Sacrament of Confirmation the Holy Spirit is given to the baptized to strengthen them, just as He was given to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.

When the forehead of the baptized person is anointed with holy chrism, accompanied by the laying on of the hand by the minister, and the proper formula is pronounced – “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit”2 – the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who already inhabited the Christian soul through Baptism, fills it with the fullness of His gifts. For this reason, Confirmation can well be called the “Sacrament of the fullness of grace.”3

In fact, if in Baptism we acquire spiritual life in Christ, through Confirmation this life becomes firmer, with a view to making us perfect Christians through the action of the Sanctifying Spirit.

Just as in natural life it is necessary for a person to grow from birth until reaching maturity, in the supernatural life the Church urges us to leave our spiritual infancy behind us so as to reach the perfect age, configuring us to the spirit of Our Lord through this Sacrament.

Such is the importance of Confirmation, often unknown even to many Catholics. For this reason, even though it is not strictly necessary for salvation, “the faithful are obliged to receive this Sacrament at the proper time.”4

Becoming conformed to Christ for the apostolate

In addition to perfecting the grace of Baptism, Confirmation imprints an indelible character on the soul: the seal of a soldier of Christ.

St. Thomas Aquinas5 explains that this mark distinguishes those who have reached spiritual maturity from those who have only begun the journey. One who has been confirmed now possess the necessary aids to sustain the hard battles proper to their state, against the world, the flesh and the devil.

In the personal sphere, the Christian, clothed in the Spirit of Fortitude, “advances towards the highest holiness with the courage which triumphs over all resistance. His limitations as a creature, his personal weakness, do not come into play.”6 God himself is his strength (cf. Ps 45:2)!

In the societal sphere, the Church expects the confirmed to place all their powers at the service and for the triumph of the Church Militant.7 To this end, sacramental grace sustains them so that they never fear “the penalties, the torments, the dangers of death, or the formidable denial of Christ by modern society. The Christian soul remains invincible like the Church in the face of the growing apostasy of the nations.”8

This Sacrament impels them to be “witnesses of Christ by word and deed, and to spread and defend the Faith.”9 Far from constituting mere proselytism, it becomes a duty “quasi ex officio10 to profess the Christian Faith.

Symbolisms of the sacramental rite

So many spiritual treasures are granted during this a rite full of symbolism, which is intended to marvelously signify the mission of apostle and militant with which the character of the Sacrament is invested.

Confirmation is conferred by anointing the forehead with chrism, which is done with the laying on of hands and the proclamation of the appropriate formula. The oil mixed with fragrant balsam symbolizes how the Catholic must exude the good odor of Christ in the midst of society. In addition, since ancient times, oil has been considered an element that imparts strength and vigor.

As St. Thomas explains,11 the anointing in the form of a cross marks the faithful like a soldier with the seal of his general; and for this reason it must be a manifest sign, conferred on a place of the body that is rarely covered, so that we show, without any human respect, our belonging to Our Lord. Furthermore, there are two attitudes that prevent the free confession of Christ’s name: fear and shame. And since both betray us especially in this area of the body, through pallor and blushing, we are marked there, so that neither by one nor by the other we may omit the confession of our faith.

Sponsors play a special role in this battle. In fact, according to the Angelic Doctor, he who is received for the fight needs a valiant instructor to train him. Similarly, the one who receives this Sacrament is held on the shoulder by his sponsor, who must, as it were, train him for combat.

Go into all the world!

In various ways, therefore, the Holy Church encourages us to remember our mission as apostles and militants, for which she has thirsted since her foundation. She herself, as a tender Mother, has already given us the means. The same Spirit who transformed the first princes of the Church comes to our aid in this precious Sacrament. “He invades souls to the extent that He finds them ready to receive Him”;12 let us not hinder Him.

May Our Lady, His most faithful Spouse, who succeeded in interceding for His first advent, obtain from Him our perfect fidelity to the divine call to preach the Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15). Whether in the pulpits of churches, in the workplace, in our studies or in our everyday activities, may we always do so as authentic soldiers of Christ. ◊


1 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. Summa Theologiæ. III, q.72, a.7.

2 CCC 1300

3 ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, op. cit., a.1, ad 2.

4 CIC, can. 890.

5 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, op. cit., a.5, ad 1.

6 PHILIPON, OP, Marie-Michel. Os Sacramentos na vida cristã. Rio de Janeiro: Agir, 1959, p.74.

7 Cf. Idem, p.84.

8 Idem, ibidem.

9 CIC, can. 879.

10 ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, op. cit., ad 2.

11 Idem, a.9-10.

12 PHILIPON, op. cit., p.64.

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