These are the Sacraments
as described by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
Ph.D., D.D., LL.D., Litt.D.
II. The Sacrament of Confirmation
In the Biological Order, a Creature must First (1st) be Born, then it must grow. In the
Supernatural Order of Grace, Divine Life is Born
in the Soul by Baptism; then it must Grow
"in Age and Grace and Wisdom, before God and Men". The Soul who Receives
the Sacraments of Baptism and
Confirmation is Born Spiritually, and Matures
Spiritually. It receives Citizenship in the Kingdom of God, and is inducted into
God's Spiritual Army and the Lay Priesthood of Believers. This Soul is
"Born of the Virgin Mary" -- the Church -- and begins its Apostolate as
Our Lord began His Preaching, after the Descent-of the
Holy Spirit at His Baptism in the Jordan.
First (1st) Baptism,
First (1st) Confirmation
Confirmation, like every other Sacrament, is Modeled-upon
Christ, and Reaffirms some Aid or Gesture in His Life. It is bound-up with
Our Lord's Baptism in the Jordan, when the Holy Spirit
descended-upon Him in the Form-of a Dove.
Our Lord had a Double (2) Priestly
Anointing, corresponding-to Two (2) aspects of His
Life: the First (1st), the Incarnation,
made Him capable of becoming a Victim for our
Sins, because He then had a
Body, with which He could Suffer. As
God, He could not Suffer; as
Man, He could. This First (1st) Aspect, culminated-in the
Passion and Resurrection, which One participates-in
But, the Sacrament of Confirmation, is particularly a participation-in the
Second (2nd) Anointing of Our
Lord, that of the Coming-of the Spirit in the Jordan, which Ordained
Him to the Mission of Preaching the Apostolate. This reached its culmination, on Pentecost,
when He filled His Church --
His Mystical Body -- with His Spirit.
Pentecost is to the New Testament, what the Gift of the Law is to
the Old Testament, only, it is more Perfect.
The Descent-of the Holy Spirit on Christ,
in the Jordan, had a Double (2) Effect on Our Lord. It prepared
Him for Combat:
"Jesus returned from the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and by the Spirit He was led on into the Wilderness,
where He remained Forty Days, Tempted by the Devil" (Luke 4:1).
It prepared Him for Preaching the Kingdom of God:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; He has Anointed Me, and sent Me out to Preach the Gospel to the Poor, to Restore the
Brokenhearted; to bid the Prisoners go Free, and the Blind to have Sight; to set the Oppressed at Liberty, to Proclaim a Year when Men may find
acceptance with the Lord" (Luke 4:18, 19)
About Three (3) Years Later, at the Last Supper,
Our Blessed Lord promised to send the Spirit to
His Apostles, Disciples, and Followers, which He did
Fifty (50) Days after the Resurrection, on
Pentecost. It would seem better if Our Lord had Remained-on Earth,
so that all Ages might have heard His Voice and Thrilled-to the Majesty of His
Person; but He said it was better that He
leave; otherwise the Spirit would not come. If He
remained-on Earth, He would have been only an Example, to be copied; but if
He sent the Holy Spirit, He
would be a Life to be Lived.
Though Our Lord knew on Holy Thursday, that His
Apostles were Distressed because He spoke-of
His approaching Death, He Consoled them with
the Advantages of His leaving this Earth, and yet remaining-in it, in another way:
"So full are your Hearts with Sorrow, at My telling you this. And yet I can say Truly, that it is better for you I should
go away; He, Who is to Befriend you, will not come to you unless I do go, but if only I make My Way there, I will send Him to you"
His Perpetual Presence, even in His Glorified State,
would have Limited His Moral and Spiritual Influence.
He might have, become-to Man, the Type-of Christ that Hollywood
presents -- a 'Celebrity'. Instead of being in our Hearts, He would only
have been in our Senses.
Would Men ever have thought-of Spiritual Fellowship with
Christ, when Physical Fellowship might be had; when
Good and Bad would have had Equal Perception-of Him;
when He would be 'External' to the Soul of Man, not
'Internal'? Where would Faith be, if we Saw? And would not the
World have tried to Re-Crucify Him, though that would have been impossible
after His Resurrection?
These Questions are in Vain; Divine Wisdom said it 'was-better'
that He depart-from the Globe, for once in Glory,
He would send His Spirit,
"the Truth-giving Spirit to Guide you in all Truth". Great Men influence the Earth, only from their
Funeral Urns; but He, Who gave the Earth the
only Serious Wound it ever received -- the Empty Tomb -- would Rule it at the
Right Hand of the Father, through His Spirit.
This Spirit, He sent-upon the
Church on Pentecost, like a Soul entering
a Fetus; Chemicals which are Disparate and Disconnected, became a Living Thing. So the Apostles, with their
Individual Whims and Ignorances, were, under the Pentecostal Fires, fused-into the Visible, Living,
Mystical Body of Christ. It is not to the Point, in a Book-on the
Sacraments, to describe this; but, it is to the Point, to say that Confirmation is a kind-of
Pentecost to a Baptized Soul. Christ,
dwelling-in the Flesh, would normally be in One (1) Place
only, at One (1) Time, but His
Spirit, unbound-by Fleshy Bonds, could cover the Earth,
working-on a Million Hearts, at-once. Nor would such
Hearts be without Comfort at His
Physical Absence, for the Spirit, He called
It is the Son, Christ Our Lord,
Who Reveals the Heavenly Father. We would never know the
Mercy and Love of the
Father, if He had not sent His Son to
Walk this Earth, and Pay our Debt for
Sin. But who Reveals the Son? It is the Holy
We know what goes on in other Minds because we, too, have
Minds, or Souls; we know what goes on in the Mind
of Christ, because we are given His
Spirit. The Natural or Un-baptized Man, cannot perceive the things of
God, for they are Spiritually 'Discerned'. As the Scientist knows Nature, so the
Christian, thanks to the Spirit, knows
"He will not Utter a Message of His Own; He will Utter the Message that has been given to Him; and He will make plain to you
what is still to come. And He will bring Honor to Me, because it is from Me that He will Derive what He makes plain to you. I say that He will Derive from
Me what He makes plain to you, because all that belongs to the Father, belongs to Me" (John 16:13-15).
It is through the Spirit, received in
Confirmation, that Christ Walks the Earth again, in each
Obedient Christian; it is through the Spirit, that we are
Sanctified, Comforted, and Taught-to Pray.
These and other Words-of Our Lord, about sending the Spirit
of Truth, Who will Enlarge our Knowledge-of Him, prove that the
Whole Truth is not available to us in Written Records. Pentecost
was not the Descent-of a Book, but of Living Tongues-of Fire. Confirmation gives the Lie to those who
say that "the Sermon on the Mount is enough for them". Our Lord's
Teaching, as Recorded-in the Gospels, was Implemented, Complemented,
and Revealed, in its Deeper Meaning, through the Spirit of Truth He gave to
His Church. We indeed Know Christ by Reading the
Gospels, but we see the Deeper Meaning-of the Words, and we Know Christ
more completely, when we have His Spirit. It is only through the Spirit,
that we Know He is the Divine Son of God and
Redeemer of Humanity:
"Those who Live the Life of Nature, cannot be acceptable to God; but you Live the Life of the Spirit, not the Life of Nature;
that is, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. A Man cannot belong to Christ unless he has the Spirit of Christ" (Romans 8:8,9).
Because an Added-measure of the Spirit is given in
Confirmation, it was Administered, even in the Early Church, not by Disciples,
but by Apostles, or by the Bishops who had the Fullness-of the Priesthood.
The Deacon Philip, went to a City of Samaria, and Preached Christ to them.
He Converted and Baptized many. But, in
order to "Lay Hands on them" or Confirm them, it was necessary for the
Church in Jerusalem, to send Peter and John (Acts 8:5-17). Later on, we read about
Confirmation at Ephesus, by the Apostle Paul: "When Paul Laid his Hands on them, the Holy Spirit came
upon them" (Acts 19:6).
Administration of the Sacrament
The Candidates kneel with hands joined, before the Bishop, who, Extending his Hands over the Ones to be Confirmed,
|"Almighty, Everlasting God, Who has deigned to beget New Life, in these thy Servants by Water and the Holy Spirit, and
has granted them Remission of all their Sins, send forth from Heaven upon them Thy Holy Spirit, with His Sevenfold Gifts:
The Spirit of Wisdom and
The Spirit of Counsel and
The Spirit of Knowledge and
Fill them with the Spirit of Fear of the Lord, and Seal them
with the Sign of Christ's Cross, Plenteous in Mercy unto Life Everlasting. Through the selfsame Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, Who Liveth and Reigneth
with Thee in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, God Eternally. Amen."
Dipping his Thumb in Holy Chrism, he Confirms the Person,
"[Name] I Confirm thee with the Chrism of Salvation. In the Name of the Father [making the Sign of the Cross], and of the
Son [making the Sign of the Cross], and of the Holy Spirit [making the Sign of the Cross]".
Confirmation - by CRESPI, Giuseppe Maria -
from Gemäldegalerie, Dresden
Then he gives the One Confirmed, a Slight Blow on the
Cheek, saying, "Peace be to you".
Other Prayers and a Penance follow, all of which
are destined to make the Christian a Witness, a Teacher to an Unbelieving
World, and even a Martyr, if need be, for the Church.
Two (2) of the Effects and Obligations of the Church, deserve
Special Consideration, and this follows.
The Sacrament of Combat
Every Sacrament is related-to the Death of
Christ, but Confirmation Intensifies that Resemblance.
Baptism gives the Christian a
Treasure; Confirmation urges him to Fight to
Preserve it against the Three (3) Great Enemies: the
World, the Flesh, and the Devil.
The Military Character of the Sacrament is Evidenced-in the following Four
(4) Symbols or Acts:
(1) The Forehead is Anointed
with Chrism, in the Sign-of the Cross. The
Cross, by its Nature, evokes Opposition. The more One Crucifies his
Passions, and Rejects the False Teachings of the World, the more he is
Slandered and Attacked. Calvary United, not-only the Friends of
Our Lord; it also United His
Enemies. Those who were Opposed-to One-another, merged their Lesser-Conflicts,
for the sake-of the Greater Hate. Judas and the Sanhedrin, Pharisees and Publicans, Religious Courts and Roman
Overlords -- though they Despised One-another, nevertheless, they rained Common Blows-of Hammer and Nails on
the Hands and Feet of Christ:
"It is because you do not belong to the World, because I have singled you out from the midst of the World, that
the World Hates you" (John 15:18, 19).
When the Little Flower, Saint Therese, prepared herself for Confirmation, she saw that it Implied
"I went into Retreat for Confirmation. I carefully prepared myself for the Coming-of the Holy Spirit. I cannot understand why
so little attention is paid to the Sacrament of Love. Like the Apostles, I happily awaited the promised Comforter. I rejoiced that soon I should be a
Perfect Christian, and have Eternally Marked upon my Forehead, the Mysterious Cross of this Ineffable Sacrament. On that day, I received the Strength to
Suffer, a Strength which I much needed, for the Martyrdom of my Soul was about to begin".
(2) The Interior Grace of the
Sacrament, gives Fortitude and other Gifts
destined-for the Battle of the Spirit. The Apostles, on
Pentecost, were made Witnesses-to the Resurrection of
Christ, and the Word "Witness", in Greek, means
Martyr. So, in Confirmation, the Christian is Marked-with
Power and Boldness, on the
Forehead, so that neither Fear nor False Modesty,
will deter him from the Public Confession of Christ. Cattle are often Branded-with the Owner's Name; and Slaves
or Soldiers in the Emperor's Service were Tattooed, so that they could be easily Recognized if they ever Deserted the Service. Plutarch states, it was a
Custom to Brand Cattle that were destined-for Sacrifice, as a Sign that they were set-apart for something
Sacred. Herodotus tells-of a Temple in Egypt, in which a Fugitive might take the Right-of Sanctuary: once he did so, he was Stamped,
Marked, or Tattooed, as an Indication that he was the Property-of God, and therefore, was
'Inviolable' and 'Sacrosanct'.
The Spiritual Significance of Marking is anticipated: " ... all alike Destroy,
till none is left, save only where you see the Cross, Marked upon them" (Ezekiel 9:6). On the Last Day, the Elect will be Sealed-on their
Foreheads in the Name-of the Lamb and of
His Father, to Protect them from Destruction (Apocalypse 7:3).
Confirmation, then, is the Sealing-of a Person, in the Army-of the Lord. Saint Paul says:
"Do not distress God's Holy Spirit, whose Seal you bear until the Day of your Redemption comes" (Ephesians 4:30).
(3) A Slight Blow on the Cheek is given
the Person Confirmed, to remind him that, as a Soldier-of Christ,
he must be prepared-to Suffer all-things for His Sake. To
Deny One's Faith, for a passing Carnal
Pleasure, or to Surrender it under Ridicule, is far more
Serious in the Eyes-of God, than a Soldier, Deserting his Duty. Peguy, bemoaning a Want-of
Spiritual Bravery, writes:
"Shame upon those who are ashamed. It is not a question of Believing or not Believing; it is a question of Knowing what is the
most Frequent Cause of Loss of Faith. No Cause can be more Shameful than Shame -- and Fear. And of all the Fears, the most Shameful is certainly the
Fear of Ridicule; the Fear of being taken for a Fool. One may Believe, or one may not Believe. But Shame upon him who would Deny his God to avoid being
made a Mark for Witticisms. I have in Mind, the Poor, Timorous Wretch who looks Fearfully on every side to be sure that there is not some High Personage
who has laughed at him, at his Faith, at his God. Shame upon the Ashamed. Shame implies a Cowardice that has nothing to fall back upon. Shame upon those
who are Ashamed".
(4) The Combative Character of Confirmation
is further shown by the fact that its Ordinary Minister is the Bishop, who is, as it were, a Genera in the Military of the
Church. Because Confirmation gives an increase-of the Holy
Spirit over Baptism, it is Fittingly Administered by the one who has the Fullness-of the Priesthood.
When the Bishop Extends his Arms over those Confirmed, as a Successor-of the Apostles, he Imitates Peter and
John, who Laid Hands on New Converts of Samaria, so that "they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:1). He also Imitates
Paul at Ephesus: "When Paul laid his Hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them" (Acts 19:6). The Bishop is not
a Hoarder-of his Authority; he is a Dispenser-of it, as was Our Blessed Lord,
Who told His Apostles that they were to make Disciples of all Nations. (Matthew 18:19-20)
Fullness-of the Baptismal Offices
The Bishop, as the 'Authority' in the Church, Incorporates the One
Confirmed into Adult Responsibilities. From now on, the One Confirmed, does not lead
an Individual Christian Life: he becomes Commissioned in the
Army (Church Militant). Confirmation
is, therefore, the First (1st) Great Manifestation-of the Relation established between the 'Authority'-of the
Church, and Christian Personality.
Confirmation, Both Personal and Social
Every Sacrament has been set as a kind-of-balance, between the Individual and the Community.
The Individual is Baptized, but his Baptism Incorporates him into
the Community-of Believers -- the Church. The
Grace descends into the Soul of the Individual, but, the
Grace is for the Perfection-of the Mystical
Body. This is True also of the Sacrament of Confirmation,
for, even more than Baptism, it Orients us toward the Community or Fellowship-of
Believers. Love is a Union, by which One escapes-from Egotism.
When One reaches Spiritual Adulthood, One is open-for a Wider Love.
Children live-for themselves; Adults cease to live exclusively for themselves, particularly those who reach the "Perfect
Age" in the Spirit. The Combat of
Baptism was, we said, a "Personal" Combat: in
Confirmation, the Combat is "Ex
Officio" Military, and under the Orders-of the Chief. Baptism is Principally the
Battle against Invisible Enemies: in Confirmation,
it is the Battle against Social Enemies, such as the
Persecutors of the Church.
The Mystical Death, One undergoes in
Baptism, is 'Individual': in Confirmation, the Mystical
Death is 'Communal'. We are prepared-to Die, to be a
Martyr, or a Witness-to Christ, for the sake-of the "Body which is the
Church". Confirmation, then, relates us to the Community; that is why the
Spirit was given-on Pentecost when all the Apostles were
assembled together, with Mary in their midst.
Confirmation makes us Soldiers-of Christ. Soldiers do not
come-together, of-and-by themselves, to Constitute an Army. Rather, it is the Political Authority-of Government which Summons the Soldiers, and Constitutes
them as an Army. So it is in Confirmation. The Church does
not have a Spiritual Military, because Her Members
'Volunteer'-for Service. It is rather that the Church makes them grow
Spiritually, to a Point, where they can Carry Spiritual Arms, and be Authorized-as
Her Combatants, Bearing the "Breastplate of Justice fitted on . . . the Shield of Faith . . . the Helmet
of Salvation . . . and the Sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:14, 16, 17).
The Sacrament of the Lay Apostolate
The Laity are summoned-by Confirmation, to
Share-in the Apostolate-of the Church, to be Witnesses-to Christ
before those who know Him not, to be Prophets or Teachers in an Unbelieving
World and, together-with the Priesthood, to offer their Bodies as a Reasonable
Sacrifice to the Heavenly Father:
"You are a Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a Consecrated Nation, a People God means to have for Himself; it
is yours to Proclaim the Exploits of the God, Who has called you out of Darkness, into His Marvelous Light" (1Peter 2:9).
The Laity share-in the General (Baptismal) Priesthood of the Church,
because all are Members-of Jesus the Priest; but they do not share-in the
Ministerial or Hierarchical Priesthood, which comes-with Holy
Orders, in which there is a Personal Representation-of Christ, such as
Offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and
The Laity have a Double (2)
Consecration, through Baptism and Confirmation,
which gives them a certain participation-in the Priesthood-of Christ.
The Ministerial or Hierarchical Priesthood,
however, has the Third (3rd) and Specific Consecration from
Holy Orders. There are thus Two (2) sorts of Priesthood: the
First (1st) is 'External', and reserved-for the Hierarchical Priesthood;
the Second (2nd) is 'Internal' (Baptismal), and common-to all the Faithful.
Sharing in the Triple Offices of the Incarnate Christ
The Person who is Confirmed, always has a Personal, and in some instances, a Canonical Mission. He has
a Personal Mission inasmuch as, through his own Personal Contact, he must help bring other Souls to
Christ -- just as Andrew brought Peter, Philip brought Nathaniel, the Samaritan Woman brought her Townspeople,
and Philip converted the Eunuch of the Ethiopian Court.
But the Mission, given-by Confirmation, requires a Wider Outlook than the Personal Work of
Witnessing and Converting. It is not only Individual Souls, but also the Milieu, the Environment -- the Whole
Social Order, in all its Political, Scientific, Journalistic, Medical, Legal, Recreational, and Economic Structures, which also has to be
This Canonical Mission of Spiritualizing the World, in an Organized-way, is dependent-on the
Hierarchy and the Teaching Authority of the Church. There is some communication-of this Teaching-Office in the
Ceremony of the Imposition of Hands. The Laity do not participate-in
the Hierarchy, but, they participate-in the Apostolate-of the Hierarchy. The Apostles and their Successors have a Divine
Mission to Teach; the Laity receive-from the Hierarchy, a Canonical Mission to Teach.
What makes Catholic Action, is not the fact that
Catholics are Organized, but that they have received a Mission to Bear Witness to Christ,
over-and-above their own Personal Witnessing-to Christ in the Holiness
of their Lives. The Laity are not just the Church-Taught; they
participate-in the Church-Teaching. As Leo XIII said, the Laity
cannot arrogate-to themselves this Authority, but when circumstances demand it, they have the 'Right' to communicate-to others, as Echoes-of the
Magisterium-of the Church, that which they themselves have learned.
And Pope Pius XII addressed a new Group-of
Cardinals as follows:
"The Laity must have an ever clearer Consciousness, not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church; that is,
of being the Community of the Faithful on Earth, under the guidance of their Common Leader, the Pope, and the Bishops in communion with him.
They are the Church".
"The Acts of Apostles" Twice (2) shows that when the
Disciples were scattered-by Persecution, the Laity immediately
began-to Preach God's Word, and increase the Church
(Acts 8:4, Acts 9:19), something that is happening today in Persecuted Lands. Aquilla and his Wife, Priscilla, completed
the Instructions-of Apollos (Acts 18:26), and later-on, became the Trusted Helpers of Saint Paul (Romans 16:3). Apollos, who never seems to have received
any Ministerial Consecration, was a vigorous Preacher-of Christ
(Acts 18:27, 28).
There have even been Laymen who taught Theology. For example, John d'Andrea was Professor-of
Canon Law at Bologna, from 1302 to 1348. Wilfred G. Ward was Professor of Dogmatic Theology at Saint Edmund's
Seminary of London, England, from 1851 to 1858.
More-and-more, the Church is emphasizing the Teaching Mission, conferred-by
Confirmation. In Mission Lands, Catechists Number Tens of Thousands.
Abroad and at-home, the Canonical Mission of Teaching, is conferred implicitly-on Teachers, when the Bishops appoint them to Parochial Schools.