My dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog which I have chosen to be about the grace and meaning of the Sacrament of Confirmation.
In early March, I begin my round of Confirmations and, as the diary stands, have the last one in late November. (My revised Confirmation liturgical guidance is here). Receiving the sacrament of Confirmation is a very significant moment both for the young person as well as for their parents and wider family.
When the candidate is anointed with the sacred oil of chrism he or she is graced and gifted with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus Christ was filled with the Holy Spirit at the outset of his public life, that same Spirit takes hold of the one who is newly Confirmed.
Thus; Confirmation is the sacrament of strengthening, as the term itself (“confirmare” in Latin) implies. It strengthens the baptised people of God in their relationship with the Lord Jesus and then it further strengthens them in their vocation to defend and spread the faith.
Yes, being anointed with the Spirit has life-long consequences, if we but stop and reflect. For Christ, it meant that he was empowered to do the work of his Father on earth, to witness to his love and mercy, and to give him the courage to offer himself on the cross for the salvation of his brothers and sisters.
The Lord responded fully to the promptings and guidance of God’s Spirit, for him it was not a gift to be squandered.
The staggering truth is that those who receive the sacrament of Confirmation are called to walk in the footsteps of Christ, proclaiming his gospel of peace, love and mercy in our own day. God’s gifts are invariably given for a purpose!
I am always at pains to encourage those being Confirmed that Christ in a real sense depends on each one of them being willing to respond to God’s grace to share his gospel of good tidings to the world around them.
And that, I acknowledge to them, is a daunting task if they were to attempt it on their own, but the truth is they now have a share in the very same Holy Spirit which the Lord Jesus had. We need only remember, I tell them, just how weak and uncertain Peter and his companions were before Pentecost Day.
However, the sound of the mighty wind and appearance of tongues of fire – symbols of the power and eloquence of Holy Spirit – changed and strengthened them completely and ushered in a new age, that of the Church.
The erstwhile rash and undependable Peter and friends now became entirely different people through the Spirit from above. No longer afraid or unsure of themselves, they would deserve and merit the title of apostles of Christ, and would rather lay down their lives as martyrs than deny him.
So the gift of God’s Holy Spirit that our young people, and others, will receive in the course of this year is one to be shared for the Church and the wider world.
Let us pray for them and their families that as they stand up to profess their faith and step forward to be anointed with chrism, their hearts may be open to the gentle touch of the Holy Spirit. May they prove to be strong and worthy witnesses of Christ and help bring his healing and love to our often troubled and disturbed world.
Until next week’s Blog – may God bless you all and all our readers,
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster