During a general audience Pope Francis, continuing his catechesis on the sacraments, focused on Confirmation, a sacrament which must be understood as “continuing from Baptism, to which it is indissolubly linked”.
Pictured: Bishop John Noonan confirming and blessing the faithful during one of the Diocese of Orlando confirmations.
“These two sacraments, along with the Eucharist, constitute a single saving event – Christian initiation – in which we are brought into Christ who died and rose again, and become new creatures and members of the Church. This is because originally these three Sacraments were celebrated together, at the end of the catechumenal path, normally on Holy Saturday. This concluded the process of formation and gradual insertion into the Christian community, that could even take several years. It is a step by step process, first reaching Baptism, then Confirmation, and finally the Eucharist”.
“In confirmation, we are anointed with oil. And indeed, through the oil known as the ‘holy Chrism’ we are conformed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to Christ, who is the only true ‘anointed one’ the Messiah, the Saint of God. The term ‘confirmation’ reminds us that this Sacrament involves growth from baptismal grace; it unites us more firmly with Christ; it completes our bond with the Church; it accords to us the special strength of the Holy Spirit in order to spread and to defend the faith, to confess the name of Christ and never to be ashamed of His Cross”.
“For this reason it is important that all our children receive this Sacrament”, he added. “We are all concerned about baptizing them, but perhaps less so with regard to confirmation, and therefore they remain at a halfway point, and do not receive the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to go forward in Christian life”. Therefore, “it is important to provide a good preparation for Confirmation, aiming to lead them towards personal adhesion to faith in Christ and to reawaken in them a sense of belonging to the Church”.
“Confirmation, like every Sacrament, is not the work of men, but rather the work of God, Who takes care of our lives in order to mould us in the image of His Son, to make us able to love like Him. He infuses us with the Holy Spirit, whose action pervades the whole person and all of life, as is shown by the Seven Gifts that Tradition, in the light of the Sacred Scriptures, has always made clear: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord”, said the Bishop of Rome, announcing that these gifts will be the subject of his next catechesis, after the Sacraments. “When we welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts and allow it to act, Christ Himself is made present in us and takes form in our lives; through us, it will be He Who prays, forgives, brings hope and consolation, serves our brothers, is close to the needy and the abandoned, Who creates communion and sows peace”.
The Pope brought his catechesis to and end by urging those present to remember that they have received Confirmation, firstly “to thank the Lord for this gift, and then to ask Him for His help in living as true Christians, to always journey with joy according to the Holy Spirit that has been granted to us”. As he was concluding, it began to rain heavily and Pope Francis exclaimed, “It seems that on these last few Wednesdays, during the audience, we have been blessed from heaven! However, since you are brave, let us go ahead and continue…”.