The sacrament of confirmation is the second of the three sacraments of initiation—along with baptism and the Eucharist—required for full initiation in the Catholic Church (c. 842 §2).
Those who have been baptized continue on the path of Christian Initiation through the Sacrament of Confirmation, by which they receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord sent upon the Apostles at Pentecost.
By this gift of the Holy Spirit the faithful are more fully conformed to Christ and are strengthened with power to bear witness to Christ for the building up of his Body in faith and charity. They are marked with the character or seal of the Lord in such a way that the Sacrament of Confirmation cannot be repeated (The Order of Confirmation, nn. 1–2).
Who can be Confirmed?
Only a validly baptized person who has not yet been confirmed can and should receive the sacrament of confirmation at the appropriate time. For this reason, proof of one’s prior valid Christian baptism (whether Catholic or non-Catholic) must be submitted to the Coordinator of Religious Education or the OCIA coordinator at the Catholic community.
Proof of baptism is normally established by a certificate of baptism issued by the church where the baptism took place. Learn more about how to obtain a copy of a certificate of baptism.
Who Can Celebrate Confirmation in the AMS?
Subjects of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA are encouraged to begin preparation for confirmation by contacting the AMS priest or Coordinator for Religious Education at the military installation where they serve.
Those who are not subjects of the AMS, even if they have regular access to military chapels, require the written permission of the civilian pastor of the parish where they reside to participate in the preparation process at the installation. Agreement of the priest at the installation must also be sought before the preparation process commences.
Note that access to military installations is restricted. Some connection with the military is required for non-AMS Christian faithful to celebrate confirmation in the installation chapel.
The Proper Time to Celebrate Confirmation
The proper time to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation depends on when one is baptized.
a. Those Baptized as Adults
Those who are baptized Catholic or received into full communion of the Catholic Church as adults—i.e., a person over the age of seven with the use of reason (c. 852 §1)—celebrate confirmation immediately following their baptism or reception into full communion in the same Mass. For this reason, their preparation for confirmation is included in their preparation for baptism.
b. Those Baptized Catholic as Infants
In the Latin Church, those who are baptized Catholic as infants, i.e., until they reach age seven, properly receive confirmation in the dioceses of the United Sates between the age of discretion, also called the age of reason, and sixteen years, as provided for by the diocesan bishop. In the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, children who are baptized, practicing their faith, attending religious education formation and are to be confirmed, should be at least in the eighth grade.
It is not uncommon that adults, baptized Catholic as infants yet never confirmed as children, now desire to receive the sacrament of confirmation. Please contact the priest or Coordinator of Religious Education at the military chapel to inquire about preparation to celebrate confirmation.
Like all sacraments, catechetical preparation is required for those desiring to celebrate confirmation. An individual does not prepare for the celebration of the sacrament on his or her own. Communal and personal preparation is overseen by the senior Catholic priest who serves as the Director of Religious Education at the local installation.
Elements and Steps for Celebrating Confirmation in the AMS
This outline contains the basic elements and steps that form the period of Catholic preparation for confirmation. The AMS priest or Coordinator of Religious Education can provide more details.
To learn about the process for preparing for confirmation the young person and their parent, or the adult seeking to be confirmed, meets with the Catholic priest, Coordinator of Religious education, or OCIA coordinator. At this initial meeting the priest or coordinator will:
- Give an overview of the process to be confirmed in the AMS.
- Ensure that the young person has been baptized and received first Communion. Ensure that the adult seeking confirmation has either been baptized, received first Communion, or needs to complete all of the initiation sacraments – baptism, confirmation, Eucharist. (In the instance of the adult, the coordinator also ensures that the individual completed the proper ecclesiastical process if married, or was married before.)
- Explain the Church’s understanding of confirmation.
- Explain the process for seeking a Sponsor to accompany the individual throughout the confirmation process and during the celebration of confirmation.
- Explain the role of community support and prayer through the process.
“Preparation for Confirmation should aim at leading the Christian toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit—his actions, his gifts, and his biddings—in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life. To this end, catechesis for confirmation should strive to awaken a sense of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ, the universal Church as well as the diocesan and parish communities. The latter bears special responsibility for the preparation of confirmands (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1309).”
“To receive confirmation one must be in a state of grace. Prior to the celebration of confirmation, the candidate should receive the sacrament of penance to be cleansed for the gift of the Holy Spirit. More intense prayer should prepare one to receive the strength and graces of the Holy Spirit with docility and readiness to act (CCC, no. 1310).”
Candidates for confirmation seek the spiritual help of a Sponsor. The qualifications for the Sponsor indicate that the individual:
- Have the intention of performing the role of the sponsor.
- Have completed his or her sixteenth year.
- Be a Catholic who is confirmed, has received the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist, and lives a life in harmony with the role to be undertaken.
- Be in good standing with the Catholic Church; that is, not bound by a canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared.
- Not be the father or mother of the person to be confirmed (c. 893 §1 referencing c. 874 § 1).
If possible, the Church desires that one’s Godparent for baptism serve as the Sponsor for confirmation to manifest the relationship between these two sacraments (c. 893 §2).
Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
- “it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation [becoming adopted sons and daughters of God] which makes us cry ‘Abba! Father!’;
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
- it gives us special strength of the Holy Spirit to defend and spread the faith by word and action as true witnesses to Christ… (CCC, no. 1303).”
“Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal. Christians are also marked with a seal: ‘It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has commissioned us; he has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.’ This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial (CCC, no. 1296).”
“The seal is a symbol close to that of anointing. ‘The Father has set his seal’ on Christ and also seals us in him…, the image of the seal (sphragis) has been used in some theological traditions to express the indelible “character” imprinted by these three unrepeatable sacraments (CCC, no. 698).”
Those confirmed are strengthened for the mission they first received at baptism. The reception of confirmation is an end neither of catechetical preparation nor prayer with and for the community. All those confirmed are called to go deeper in their relationship with Christ and the Church, to discern God’s call and to be moved by the Holy Spirit to accompany those in need.
As one prepares for and celebrates the sacrament of confirmation, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA rejoices in the Lord along with family and friends praying for each candidate. The Church continues to accompany all those confirmed in their mission to serve.
Learn more about confirmation on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/confirmation