Several times over the last few weeks, I have talked very briefly about the beauty to be seen in the celebration of the Sacraments. Catholics know that the seven Sacraments are the central structure of our faith since each one of them brings us into closer touch with Jesus of Nazareth. However, we don’t necessarily see them as gifts in our lives that really do reflect beauty. I started at the end by touching on the Last Anointing or Extreme Unction. I have also said the same thing about Baptism. When each of these ceremonies are carried out properly, they not only achieve their purpose, they achieve it in a way that is quite pleasing to the eye. Now let’s talk about Confirmation.
Like the other Sacraments, Confirmation is filled with symbolism. We receive it but one time in our lifetime and ordinarily we receive it, not in isolation, but in a communal context celebrating our position within the community of faith. This is seen first when those being confirmed are put together in sizable groups and secondly, the larger community of the parish really comes out to join the celebration. In baptism, our parents and godparents speak for us because usually infants are baptized. However, in Confirmation, the person being confirmed speaks for himself or herself. She has come of age, she has studied her holy faith and she is prepared to solidify or to confirm the commitment made for her in baptism. Now the young people do it for themselves.
Each person being confirmed is already a member of its own proper family, but with baptism and First Communion that person very visibly joins the larger faith community, the essential organizational component of the Universal Church, namely the Diocese. Dioceses have very specific boundaries and are headed by a single shepherd, the bishop. In Confirmation, those being confirmed come to the parish church to meet their shepherd and, after questioning them about the clarity of their thinking and their determination to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, he confirms their faith by a holy anointing. The holy oil that is used for that anointing is itself a symbol of ties to the Diocese. The oil was blessed by the bishop at the Cathedral Church during Holy Week and then was divided among all the parishes of the Diocese. Once again, it symbolizes our unity through the bishop with the whole local Church; in this instance, the Diocese of Austin, the Church in Central Texas.
And so the spiritual journey continues. The child is born into its natural family, elevated to membership in the spiritual family, the community of faith which is the Church, and after a certain amount of maturing, that faith is confirmed by the chief shepherd of the local Church, the bishop. No one is isolated in the Church. Through the Sacraments, we are united to Jesus and, through those same Sacraments, united to those who share our faith. These are beautiful milestones on our way to our eternal destiny. Happily, none of us go alone.