Confirmation is the third Sacrament of Initiation into Catholic Christianity, after Baptism and the receiving of the Eucharist. It symbolises the mature Catholic's acceptance of his membership into the Church. Like the other two Sacraments of Initiation, its spiritual effects are considered permanent, so no person may undergo Confirmation more than once.
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The confirmation ceremony begins with an opening prayer, in which the bishop (or, in some cases, a priest authorised by the bishop) asks for the Holy Ghost to descend upon the confirmation candidates. This is supposed to be the same as the visitation of the Holy Ghost to the apostles at Pentecost in the New Testament. The bishop then reaches his hands out over the heads of the confirmation candidates and prays for God to send them the power of the Paraclete, which is another term for the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit.
After the opening prayers comes the confirmation itself. In this part of the ceremony, each candidate comes forward holding a card on which is written her confirmation name. This is the name of a saint chosen for the occasion. The candidate's sponsor, who must always be a confirmed Catholic, stands with her right hand resting on the candidate's right shoulder. The bishop touches each candidate on the head with his fingers and calls each candidate by his confirmation name. Then he anoints the candidate on the forehead with the holy chrism. This is followed by a symbolic blow on the cheek to symbolise that the confirmed Catholic is a soldier of Christ.
Closing Song and Prayers
After the confirmation itself is completed, a song called the "antiphon" is either read or sung aloud. The bishop then sings a prayer before the altar, and blesses all of those who have just become confirmed Catholics. The new confirmed Catholics recite several prayers together -- the Apostle's Creed, the Hail Mary and the Our Father. To complete the ceremony, the bishop offers a Pontifical Blessing for the whole congregation. Sometimes, but not always, the congregation sings a psalm together.
Theology of Confirmation
The confirmation ceremony is the sacrament of the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. It is supposed to seal the Holy Ghost to the believer for the rest of his life. Catholics do not consider confirmation to be a prerequisite for salvation, but they do believe that confirmation gives the mature Catholic the strength to wage spiritual warfare against temptation and persecution. Confirmation is supposed to give the Catholic the "seven gifts of the Holy Ghost." If the person undergoing confirmation is in a state of mortal sin, the confirmation is still a valid one. However, the sin delays the confirmation from becoming fully effective until the person undergoes a penance.
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