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Secrets of Baptism and Confirmation

Trent Horn

Audio only:

When can kids actually be confirmed? Could an atheist baptize someone? Check out how Trent answers these and other questions in this special episode on the sacraments of initiation.


Welcome to the Council of Trent Podcast, a production of Catholic Answers.

There are some great high school theology teachers out there, but there are also high school theology teachers that absolutely mangle the faith. So sometimes if you want something done right, you got to do it yourself. Welcome to the Council of Trent Podcast. I’m your host Catholic Answers, apologist and speaker, Trent Horn. And I want to let you all know that I’m actually teaching three high school theology classes online for Homeschool Connections this fall. I’m actually building up an entire curriculum and I’m hoping through Homeschool Connections to have an entire high school theology curricula available next fall, that you can enroll your student in either as a live course where I have a maximum of 25 students per class, or you can watch the recorded courses, and there’s no limit to that. I’m really excited about this because here’s the thing, I’ve spoken at a lot of Catholic high schools and most of the Catholic high schools that are willing to invite me to come and speak are on the level. They’re great.

But there’s a lot of Catholic high schools that I would never be able to set foot in because they know my background. Frankly, they know that I’m Orthodox. They know that I will say abortion is wrong, contraception is wrong, marriage is a union of a man and a woman, and they won’t stand for that.

I was once invited to give a session just for high school theology teachers. The principal invited me and he’s really Orthodox great man, a great disciple of Christ. He invited me to speak to the teachers there because he kind of inherited a bad crop of teachers he couldn’t get rid of. So I was in charge of the formation. And so I go and we were doing Q and A and during Q and A the concept of mortal sin came up and some of the teachers said, “Well, what do you mean by mortal sin? It’s already not a great sign they have to ask me that. And so I explained it and said, “Well, grave matter and mortal sin includes …” And I gave typical examples no one’s going to bat an eye at: murder, adultery. And then I said, abortion contraception, homosexual acts sexual acts outside of the marital act. And instantly they start rolling their eyes, guffawing, laughing, talking to each other.

I had been to Catholic high schools. I went to another Catholic high school where I gave a pro-life talk. Once again I was invited by the few minority faithful faculty there, and I gave a pro-life talk and I asked them, “Which of you would like your students to hear this pro-life talk?” Out of 35 teachers, maybe five of them raised their hands. It was completely disappointed. They were, and they were also rude by the way.

So it’s just unfortunate. I mean, there are some great Catholic high schools out there, but if you send your child to a Catholic school, be sure to vet it. Make sure you’re getting orthodoxy and that is what matters most. At Catholic Answers we have this joke that people will go on Twitter or Facebook and in order to correct us they’ll say, “Catholic Answers is wrong about this. I went to Catholic high school for 12 years. I went to Catholic school for my entire life. I went to Catholic high school, so I know.” And then they say ridiculous things like contraception’s not as sin, or hell isn’t real, it’s just a metaphor. So that’s why I’ve been trying to produce these courses. My goal by next fall will be to have at least … There’ll be at least two courses because I’m teaching right now, Introduction to the Catechism. Next semester will be Introduction to the New Testament.

Go to Homeschool Connections. You can still sign up for Introduction to the New Testament this spring if you have high school students who are doing online theology classes. Go to Homeschool Connections.com.

Then my goal next fall is to have at least three courses. And that would be a high school theo … Well, it’ll be three courses. That would be my goal. Introduction to the Catechism, Introduction to the New Testament, and Introduction to the Old Testament. Eventually I’d love to capstone it, Introduction to Church History. If I had all four courses, that’s basically what they teach you in high school theology classes, for anybody to be able to go to knowing that you’re getting something that is orthodox.

Also I cover a lot of apologetics, surprise, surprise, to make sure that kids are prepared for what the world’s going to throw at them. I have been to high school theology classes where it’s good teachers and they cover the material and they cover difficult subjects. I remember in one of them, a student said, “Yeah, but what about this?” And the teacher said, “I’m not going to argue with you, Kyle. I’m just giving the lesson. This class isn’t about debate. I’m just giving the lesson.” And it was just sad to see because we should be able to show students that our faith can withstand the toughest criticism.

So here’s what I wanted to share with you today. This is Lesson Three from … I teach three Introduction to the Catechism classes. One is on Fundamentals of the Faith. The other is Salvation and Sacraments. And the third is the Christian Life, which is morality and prayer. I’m teaching all three of them concurrently right now. So by the end of this semester, you could take all three, whenever you want as a recorded course. So I’m offering these courses once again, very excited about them.

Sacraments and Salvation deals with what you would expect, the seven sacraments, and also, how do you get to heaven? How do we understand law? Grace? Sin? So what I’m going to share with you today is Lesson Three of Sacraments and Salvation that I actually just shared with the students and that is on baptism and confirmation. So a lot of things about baptism and confirmation that even people who’ve been Catholic their whole lives don’t even know about or the importance of these sacraments. When is a baptism valid? When is it licit? Why are we confirmed? How is confirmation different in the East and the West? Why do some diocese why do some churches confirm little babies or confirm seven-year-olds and others wait until you’re 17 years old. So I go over all those questions related to the sacraments. And what you’ll notice in this lecture is that it’s just a continuous lecture.

It’s 30 minutes. I do a flipped class. So what I do is I have prerecorded 30 minute lectures. If you watch the recorded courses, you’ll get to view them. But if you do the live option, you get the prerecorded lecture and then every week I meet with the students and then just do a half hour of Q and A with them based on the lecture they saw. So it’s very efficient. We cover a lot of topics and the students really enjoy it. So if you want to learn more, go to Homeschool Connections, to check out my courses and many other courses that are being offered there. And without further ado here is Lesson Three of Sacraments and Salvation, A Better Look at Baptism and Confirmation.

So we’re going to continue our discussion of the sacrament of baptism and then lead into the sacrament of confirmation. So we’re talking about the sacraments of initiation. What is it that brings us into the body of Christ?

Now primarily what opens the door so to speak, and we’ll talk about how baptism is the door to the other sacraments. Baptism is what brings us into the body of Christ. Baptism is what makes us babies in Christ, babies amongst the children of God. And that doesn’t matter whatever age you were. So many people were baptized as infants. I wasn’t actually baptized as a baby. I was baptized when I was 17 years old, but when I was baptized at that moment, I became a child of God. Really, I became a baby child of God. I’d only been Christian and I was baptized in the church. What was that? Nearly 20 years ago. The water was poured over me. And I realized at that moment that I’m a Christian now. I’m a Christian, but I’ve only been a Christian for just a few minutes. It’s such a wonderful thing.

So baptism brings us into the body of Christ, but at that moment, we’re baptized, we kind of become babies in Christ and we have to grow then and be fully initiated into the body of Christ, which is where the sacrament of confirmation comes into play. So baptism makes us babies in Christ and gives us grace to be born anew, to be born again. The sacrament of confirmation then makes us adults in Christ. The sacrament of confirmation gives us the grace to not just live out the faith for ourselves, but to live out our faith for other people, to witness to them, to evangelize to them and to help them draw closer to Christ and to his church.

So let’s talk about baptism and confirmation starting with the sacrament of baptism. So every sacrament has ministers. These are the people who administer or give the sacraments to other people. So who are the ministers of the sacrament of baptism? Now sacraments can have ordinary and extraordinary ministers. Sometimes these are the same; there’s only one minister. But in some cases you can have an ordinary and an extraordinary minister of a sacrament. And that’s the case here with baptism. So the ordinary ministers of the sacrament of baptism would be a bishop, priest, or deacon, at least that’s in the Latin Rite church or the Western church. In the Eastern Catholic church it would be the bishop or the priest, not the deacon. The bishops and priests are the ordinary ministers of the sacrament of baptism.

This distinction between ordinary and extraordinary also brings up the distinction between valid and validity and [lisaety 00:09:10] or something being valid and something being lawful. So to be valid means that it actually obtains. So it’s a question of, did the sacrament actually happen? Was grace communicated? Did did it actually happen? That would be validity.

[Lisaety 00:09:24] or lawfulness would deal with was it done in accord with the laws of the church where the church has prescribes and wants us to follow with the law, so to speak. So they’re different and that’s important here. For example, the ordinary minister … Let’s take it back then to the mass and the Eucharist. A mass is only valid if a priest celebrates it. If I tried to celebrate mass, it would not be valid. You can’t have a valid mass without a priest. But you can have a valid baptism without a priest without a bishop, or even without a deacon. You could have a valid baptism, though the question of lawfulness or lisaety would be separate from that.

So to understand that, remember the ordinary ministers of baptism will stick with the Latin Rite or the Western church are a bishop, priest, or deacon. You want to go and have your baby baptized, or you want to get baptized, the ordinary minister, the person the church lawfully delegates to baptize would be a bishop, priest, or a deacon, at least in the Latin Rite church. In the Eastern church, bishop and priest. But the extraordinary minister of baptism can be anyone. Not just any Christian, mind you, but any person can validly baptize. Why is that? Why does the church allow so many people to be extraordinary ministers of baptism? Well, it’s because baptism is the door to the other sacraments. It’s a universal sacrament if you will. Not everyone is called to the sacrament of matrimony. Not everyone is called to the sacrament of holy orders, but every single person who exists is called to the sacrament of baptism, because God wants all people to be saved.

This is affirmed in paragraph 1256 of the catechism, which speaks of the universal saving will of God and the necessity of baptism for salvation. So since God wants everybody to be baptized, it’s the case that God makes baptism accessible to everyone. And so this allows that in a emergency situation or an extraordinary situation … So ordinarily, if you want to be baptized, you would go to a bishop, priest, or deacon. But baptism is so essential that in an extraordinary or emergency situation, you could be baptized with anyone, not just even a Christian.

Let’s say there is someone … two atheists. And one of the atheists says, “Hey, I’ve been looking at Catholicism. I want to become Catholic.” And the other atheist says, “Okay, that’s great. Whatever you want to believe, that’s fine.” And they’re walking towards a Catholic and the atheist who wants to become Catholic gets hit by a bus and he’s on the street and he’s dying. His other atheist friend knows that this guy wants to get baptized. He knows he wanted to get baptized. Maybe he’s heard about baptism. He takes his bottle of water with him and says, “All right, I know you want to be baptized. So here you go. I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

So in an emergency situation, a baptism, if you can’t have time to get a bishop, priest, or deacon there, you can baptize someone as long as you did so with the mind of the church. So as long as you did, “I’m doing what the church expects in baptism.” You do it with the mind to the church and if you did it with the proper baptismal formula. You use true water, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That would be a valid baptism. Now ordinarily you would want a bishop, a priest, or a deacon to do that.

So here’s another example. We just had our third child and we’re planning for them to be baptized actually relatively soon. Now there are cases, however, when a baby is born, if a baby … Let’s say baby’s born, but it looks like they’re in a grave health situation. It looks like, “Oh, this baby’s really sick. We don’t know if they’re going to survive.” The parents, in that emergency moment would be justified in baptizing the baby themselves, or a nurse would be justified in baptizing the baby themselves because baptism is the ordinary means of salvation. We’ll get to that here soon. God wants you to be baptized. We want people to be baptized. So in that emergency situation where you’re not sure if a baby who’s just born, if they have a health emergency, you could do an emergency baptism right there.

And I’ve known parents who’ve done that with children who were born and with extreme health conditions and a priest wasn’t present. So in that case, whether it’s the parents or maybe a nurse helping them in doing that, that would be an extraordinary emergency situation. You’d have an extraordinary minister and so it would be valid and it would be lawful. It would be lawful to do that if it was a genuine emergency.

Now let’s say the parents said, “Well, I don’t feel like setting up the baptism schedule. I don’t want to go to the baptism prep classes. Let’s just baptize the baby at home,” and it’s not an emergency. If the parents did that at home, it would be a valid baptism, but it would be an unlawful one. So what that means is the baby would truly be baptized if the parents said it with the mind of the church and they did the proper baptismal formula, but they would actually be sinning. They’d be breaking the law of the church because the church desires the baptism be done in accordance with specific norms, for example, having a bishop or priest or, in the Western church, having a deacon do it.

Having godparents be present to be witnesses of the baptism. Because if the parents just do that at home and never tell anyone, later on when that child wants to get married or maybe become a priest, you need proof that they were actually baptized. That’s why when you’re baptized in the church you get a fancy little baptismal certificate that’s kept in a special vault in the church and you have witnesses there who can say, “Yeah, I was there, they were baptized.” They serve as witnesses to establish. You’ve received this important sacrament so that you can go on to receive the other sacraments, like the Eucharist, or to be ordained or to be married in the church to have a sacramental marriage. So that’s why it’s important to follow these important norms.

Even if a baptism done by other people might be valid, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s lawful. It only be lawful and valid in an emergency situation, usually like danger of death. Or if you think you don’t know when a priest is going to come. What if you live in a rural area or indigenous tribes, and you don’t know when a priest is going to come in six months? 12 months? And it’s just not possible to access a priest to be able to do that.

In fact, in Japan, after priests were driven from Japan … They were persecuted several hundred years ago in the country of Japan. Priests were driven out. Catholic priests were not allowed to stay in Japan. This was, I think, in the 18th century. Eventually the priests returned. They were allowed to return several hundred years later. They were worried like, “Well, there’s not going to be any Catholics left. It’s been hundreds of years.” But they found Catholics who had carried on the faith because they were able to celebrate two sacraments: The sacrament of marriage and the sacrament of baptism. They didn’t have the Eucharist, but they taught the faith and they baptized their children. It was valid and lawful for them to do that because there were no priests.

But look, if you can get to a priest in a timely manner, then you should do so, or to a deacon in the Western church. You should follow the law and norms of the church in that regard. But it’s just important to remember when it comes to who can baptized, you have the ordinary ministers. Then it’s just interesting because God wants everyone to be saved in an emergency situation, anybody can baptize, even an atheist if they did so with the mind of the church and an accord with the proper formula. The reason for that is baptism, as the catechism says, is the door to the sacraments. Baptism is what opens up all of the other sacraments to us. And that’s why it’s so important.

It’s also important because it’s necessary. It’s the only ordinary means that we know of for someone to be able to go to heaven. How do we know that? Well, that’s what Jesus told us. John, 3:5 Jesus says, “Unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” I’ve heard Protestants say, “Oh, well, that just means the water is the amniotic fluid and the spirit is believing in Jesus.” No, that’s not the case. Jesus is talking about water baptism here. Later in this chapter of John, Jesus and his disciples go out and they baptized just a few verses later.

And the church fathers in the early church unanimously agreed John 3:5 is not symbolic. Jesus is talking about water baptism here. So unless it’s born of water in the spirit, baptism, you can’t enter the kingdom of God. Paragraph 1257 of the catechism says, “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of baptism, but God is not bound by his sacraments.” So what does that mean? The reason we baptize people, the reason why it’s so important is that it’s the only means we know of for someone to be saved.

People will ask you as a Catholic … Protestants will sometimes ask me, “Have you been saved?” And I’ll say, “Oh yeah, I was baptized 20 years ago.”

“Baptism isn’t what saves you.”

Yeah, it is what saves us. 1 Peter 3:21 even says, “Baptism now saves you.” Now in being baptized, we still have to obey the law of Christ, the law of the church, because we can throw away our salvation. But it is baptism that makes us children of God and allows us to attain heaven.

So God has bound salvation to the sacrament of baptism, but God is not bound by his sacraments. What that means is, we strive to baptize everyone because that’s the only … We say, “Well, what tool did God give us to attain heaven? Baptism.” But can God save someone apart from baptism? Absolutely. Because He’s all powerful. He can do anything that’s logically possible.

So what the church teaches then is that baptism is the ordinary means of salvation, but there are other extraordinary means. They’re not means that one should necessarily hope for, but we know God in His mercy has provided them for the good of the church. This includes the baptism of blood. So that would be, if let’s say you wanted to do to be baptized, but you were martyred. You were killed because you confess the Christian faith and you weren’t baptized yet. The church teaches that you were baptized in blood. That by choosing to die as a witness of the faith, the blood that that is shed is like the water of baptism and it cleanses the soul and allows you to attain heaven.

There’s also the baptism of desire. So for example, catechumens people who pledged to become Catholic and want to be baptized and die before receiving baptism. They were traditionally buried in Holy ground because they were given the baptism of desire. So the idea is that they had a desire to be baptized. So God even though knowing they would die before receiving baptism, God provided for them the graces of baptism because of that desire that they had, knowing they would not eventually be baptized.

Finally, in paragraph 1260 of the catechism, it talks about how Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one in the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers in a way known to God. So since God wants everyone to be saved, it says here in paragraph 1260, “It may be suppose that such persons …”

Let’s say people who die without ever knowing Jesus like native Americans who lived a thousand years ago in the New World. They never knew who Jesus was. It says “It may be supposed that such persons would have desired baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.” So the church teaches that it is possible, not guaranteed but possible, for someone who through invincible ignorance or in ignorance they could have never overcome such as not knowing who Jesus is, or being very poorly formed and taught a deficient faith that is not the same as the true faith. These kinds of persons could be saved that God would know that they sought truth and holiness, and they would have desired baptism if someone had actually shared the authentic message of baptism with them.

But while there are these other means of being saved, these other kinds of baptism, that doesn’t detract from the ordinary means of salvation, why it is important to baptize people. It’s not a guarantee that the unbaptized will be saved. It is a possibility, but it’s not a guarantee. So that is why the church preaches evangelization, why it evangelizes the good news, and why it strives to baptize people.

Which actually leads us to a question. What happens to unbaptized children? You’ve probably known people, maybe even in your own family, who have suffered miscarriage. My wife and I have suffered multiple miscarriages.

What happens both to born children who are not baptized, but especially to unborn children who are not baptized? The Catechism of the Catholic church says in paragraph 1261, “The church can only entrust the children who die without baptism to the mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved. and Jesus’s tenderness towards children, which caused him to say, ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them.'” So the answer is that we do not have a guarantee that children who die without baptism are in heaven, but we have a hopeful promise. We don’t have a guarantee. You only say, “Well, that’s cruel. Why can’t you just say that?” We can’t give guarantees unless God gave them. If God had explicitly said, “Babies who die without baptism are saved,” we would say that. But God did not say that. We can’t say what God never said.

However, in the fullness of revelation, we can see the hopeful promises we have in God. And so here the church teaches we have this hopeful promise and we pray for those who have died without baptism, especially little children, and we have a hopeful, confidence. Not a guarantee, but a confidence that the same Lord who said, “Let the children come to me,” will say the same thing to unbaptized children.

All right. Moving on, let’s talk about the effects of baptism. What does the sacrament of baptism actually do to us? Well, it purifies us from sin. Like I said, it makes us babies in Christ. We become children of God, little babies, so to speak. It makes us born again, we’re born anew. We’re purified from sin. We’re born into a new life in Christ and this new birth we have is indelible. So if you commit a terrible sin after being baptized, you don’t get rebaptized. You’re only baptized once. It’s one of the sacraments that leaves an indelible mark, along with the sacrament of holy orders and the sacrament of confirmation. It leaves an indelible mark on the soul. It is not repeated. It cannot be repeated.

So the effect of baptism. It’s given once for all. Baptism cannot be repeated. Very clear. Paragraph 1272. Now it may be the case that someone received a baptism that was invalid. So for example, let’s say someone was baptized in the Mormon church. Mormons do not believe. Mormons are not Christian. Doesn’t mean they’re not nice people, but they don’t believe there is one God who is a Trinity of three persons. They believe in an infinite number of gods and that Jesus is a created spirit that has existed for all eternity. It’s just not Christian belief in the Trinity. So the church teaches that Mormon baptisms are invalid. So if a Mormon becomes Catholic, they are not rebaptized, they’re just baptized. Their previous baptism is declared invalid.

So I mean, people say, “I was rebaptized.” You got water poured over you again, but you can only be baptized once. Okay? So valid baptism cannot be repeated. An invalid baptism is just replaced with a valid baptism. However, baptism does not completely erase the effects of original sin. So it cleanses us from sin, gives us sanctifying grace. At the moment you’re baptized, if you die right at that moment, you would go straight to heaven. So it undoes the curse of original sin, but doesn’t undo everything. We still have pain. We still die. Human nature has been corrupted. That’s why we wait for the resurrection of the body after death to have the full fruits of our baptism blossom, so to speak, at the resurrection of the dead when we are glorified, just as Christ has been glorified.

Through baptism also it’s communal. We become members of Christ’s body. We become members of the church. The catechism says that in doing so, becoming members of the body of Christ, we’re called to be subject to others. We serve others. But we also enjoy rights within the church, like the right to access the sacraments. We have a right to, in reasonable accord, receive the Eucharist, to receive the sacrament of confession when they are requested in a reasonable time, place, and manner.

So the sacrament of baptism makes us babies in the faith, but you got to grow in the faith. And that’s where confirmation comes in. As we’ll talk about here in receiving confirmation, when I say it makes us adults in the faith, that does not mean the sacrament of confirmation is something you only get when you’re an adult. The sacrament of confirmation ends the sacraments of initiation. So what it does is it completes the graces that you receive so you’ve received all of the graces necessary to be an adult in the faith, even though you can receive the grace of confirmation long before you’re an adult.

In fact, in the Eastern church it’s common to receive the grace of confirmation in the sacrament in what is called chrismation. It’s the same sacrament, it’s just a different name. You get it as a baby, right after you’re baptized. You get all of the graces at once, just celebrated in different ways. The goal here is that the sacrament gives us the graces we need to be adults in the faith, even if those graces are actualized, if you will, later in life.

So let’s understand confirmation then. I’ve done confirmation programs. I have volunteered in confirmation programs at my old parish a long time ago. Back then, it was a lot of high schoolers. Now in that diocese, it’s seven and eight year olds who are confirmed. But back then it was like 15, 16 year olds. I think that’s unfortunate because when you delay confirmation to high school, a lot of people think confirmation is your Catholic Sweet 16. It’s like, “Oh great. You’re a Catholic high schooler now. Now you’re going to get confirmed.” It is not that.

The catechism says in paragraph 1285, “Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of confirmation together constitute the sacraments of Christian initiation whose unity must be safeguarded. The recipient of the sacrament of confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace.” So the idea is it’s not just a celebration, “I’m a 16-year-old Catholic.” It’s about becoming fully alive in the faith to have the fullness of the grace of the sacraments of initiation, to be able to fully live out the faith and complete our initiation into the body of Christ.

So let’s talk about the tradition of being confirmed. Why do we do confirmation? Why do they put oil on your head? And it gets everywhere and it smells funny. Why do we do that? Well, it follows the tradition of being anointed. Someone who is anointed with oil, it is a symbol that they have a spirit-led mission. So we call Jesus Christ. Christ is not Jesus’s last name. Christ is a title. Jesus, the Christ. It means the Messiah, Greek christos, which means the anointed one. Jesus is anointed for a mission to save humanity from their sins. So a Christian is literally an anointed one. It is someone who’s received the oil of anointing for a spirit-led mission. We see this in the New Testament, in the Letter to the Hebrews, when it talks about instructions about ablutions or washings, like baptism, the laying on of hands.

So we receive a confirmation, usually the bishop or a priest who represents him will put oil on us and he’ll lay hands on us to confirm. That would be the sacrament of confirmation being referenced here. So how is confirmation celebrated? It’s different in the Western and the Eastern church. In fact, I’m preparing for my two other children, one child’s being baptized and chrismated, the other two will be chrismated very soon. They’re very little, they’re three and five. So in the Eastern church, confirmation is celebrated a little differently. It’s called chrismation. So in the Eastern Eastern Catholic church, baptism and confirmation are united. They’re celebrated together and so it is a priest who confirms. In the Western church that role was traditionally held by the bishop. In the Eastern church it’s the priest who confirms. The priest baptizes you then confirms you. He practices chrismation.

The paragraph of the catechism number 1300 says this, “After a prayer of epiclesis, the more significant parts of the body are anointed with myron, the sacred oil, the forehead, eyes, nose, ears, lips, chest, back, hands and feet. Each anointing is accompanied by the formula, “The seal of the gift of the Holy spirit.” So we see how chrismation confirmation is celebrated here. So this would be the Eastern formula, how it is celebrated. The same sacrament celebrated in different ways.

But in the Western church, it’s a little bit different. This might be the sacrament you’re more familiar with. In the Western church it was the Bishop who completed the sacraments of initiation. So it was believed that if you were fully brought into the church, it was believed that a successor of the apostles should fittingly be the one who fully brings you into the church. But since the Bishop couldn’t be at every single baptism, as the church got larger, that was eventually delegated to priests. Or what ended up happening was that confirmations were done at specific times when the bishop was able to meet groups of individuals. So in the West, the bishop completes the sacraments of initiation. So that’s why confirmation is usually celebrated several years after baptism, maybe seven or eight years, sometimes all the way up into the teens.

Now the Eastern church does recognize this. The Eastern church recognizes that the bishop brings us into the church. So the priest, when he does chrismation in the East, he uses a special chrism or oil that has to be consecrated by the bishop. So the bishop is still involved in chrismations in the Eastern church. It’s just more of a remote involvement. We see here that in the Western church then it’s very similar, slightly different how it’s carried out. There is an anointing with chrism on the forehead, which is done by the laying on of the hand. And then the formula is just a little different. It’s “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy spirit.”

So the Eastern West have just slight variations in sacramental formulas. In the Western church it would be for baptism, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit. In the Eastern church it is, “The servant of God is baptized.” Slight difference. So instead of also saying “The seal of the gift of the Holy spirit,” it’s “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy spirit,” but it’s still pretty similar.

Okay. So who can confirm? How is the sacrament of confirmation celebrated? Who is able to confirm it? In the Western church it would be a bishop. Traditionally it is the bishop who does it, though I’ve been to many confirmations where it is a priest. Oftentimes the vicar of the diocese is given a special authority to do that because there could be many, many confirmations in a large diocese the bishop is not able to get to. So many times he delegates a particular priest who has the ability to confirm on his behalf. So the ordinary minister there would be the bishop or a priest he delegates.

In Eastern church it’s a priest who is the ordinary minister. It’s just assumed that the priest will join baptism and confirmation together. So the priest would be the ordinary minister of confirmation or chrismation in the Eastern church. The extraordinary minister, however, would be any priest. So if you had, once again, an extraordinary or emergency situation where you wanted someone to be received into the church, be baptized, confirmed and received the Eucharist, and it was done in an extraordinary time and place, any priest is able to carry out in the Western church. Even if he doesn’t have the bishop’s delegation, he has in virtue of being a priest, the ability to confirm in an emergency situation.

So that’s the person who can confirm or administer the sacrament, but who can be confirmed? So who can be confirmed? The catechist says in paragraph 1306, “Every baptized person not yet confirmed can and should receive the sacrament of confirmation.” It’s something that fully initiates us into the church. So if you’re baptized, but not confirmed, you can get confirmed and you should be confirmed. So when can I be confirmed? We’ve already talked about this a bit but just to make it clear, in the Eastern church as an infant. Right after baptism, you can be confirmed.

In the Western church it was held rather as a tradition of having the age of discretion, maybe as young as seven or eight years old. Just two different ways of celebrating the faith. Both are valid. St. Thomas Aquinas though … it’s interesting. He does say, “Age of body does not determine age of soul. Even in childhood, man can attain spiritual maturity.” So this is a high school theology course. Don’t let people tell you just because your … 1 Timothy, Paul says, “Let no one have contempt for your youth.” Aquinas would have the same thing. I’ve known so many teenagers who are more mature Christians than some grown adults that I know.

So if you are of the age of discretion, however, the candidate should be in a state of grace to receive the sacrament of confirmation. So ideally you would go to confession and then receive. If you’re an older child or adult, you go to confession, then receive confirmation. That is necessary for it to be lawful. It’s what the church asks us to do, but it’s still valid. You would still be validly confirmed even if you had not gone to confession for example, before receiving the sacrament of confirmation.

And finally, what are the effects of the sacrament of confirmation? Well, it’s an outpouring of the Holy spirit. Just as at the Pentecost in Acts chapter two, when the Holy spirit came down upon the apostles, came down like tongues of fire, settling upon them, that it empowered them to share the faith with the whole world. We received that special … Paragraph 1302 of the catechism says “The special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost is given to us.” A portion of that is given to us in the sacrament of confirmation. It grounds us in each member of the Trinity. It increases our bond with the church. And as I said before, it strengthens our ability to evangelize and defend the faith.

Finally, in paragraph 1304 in the catechism it says, “Confirmation is given only once for it too imprints on the soul and indelible spiritual mark, the character. [foreign language 00:35:24], if you will, in Greek, which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of His spirit, by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be His witness. So a seal … We think about sealing things. If you seal it with oil, like an object and makes it stronger, it’s less likely to leak if it’s a container. If you seal a wound with oil it heals. Athletes would be given oil to soothe their muscles to help them to compete better. Oil is a strengthening element in the ancient world. That’s why oil is used as the matter of confirmation, because it is through this material substance known for strengthening that we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

Water is used for baptism because water gives life. It gives life and it can actually kill if you have too much of it, you drown. So the Holy Spirit kills sin within us in baptism and gives us life in Christ. The oil of confirmation strengthens us. The Holy Spirit strengthens us through matter that is known for its strengthening properties. It’s not the oil that strengthens us. It’s the Holy Spirit working through the oil, just like it is not water that saves us from sin, it is the Holy Spirit conveyed through the medium of water.

So the seal shows that we belong to God. It shows we belong to him. We think about kings used to seal documents. There’d be wax on a document. They press their ring into it and that would be the seal. I believe that’s what the Greek word [foreign language 00:36:48] means, a seal. And so you would know that this is authentic. So we receive the seal of the Holy spirit we are authentically Christian and completely initiated into the body of Christ.

Paragraph 1296 makes this very clear in the catechism. “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.

Thank you guys so much for being able to listen to my course. If you want to check out this course and others that I’m offering for high school theology students, in fact, anyone can register for these courses for the recorded courses. But if you’d like your high school students to consider signing up for the live versions, be sure to go to Homeschool Connections.com. Thank you all so much. And I hope you have a very blessed day.

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