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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 24 Oct 2001

Confirmation Sponsorship QUESTION from Patrick Murphy December 9, 1999
I am a youth minister at my church and have recently been asked to be a Confirmation sponsor for one of the teenagers in our youth group. I was so excited and honored to be asked that I didn't take the time to find out exactly what my role would be. I feel very strongly about Confirmation, I think it is a very important sacrament. I wonder if you could explain to me the meaning of the symbols and prayers used during the service and what exactly my role is before the Confirmation itself and afterwards. ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on December 13, 1999
Dear Patrick, Thank you for your questions and congratulation for being chosen to be a Confirmation sponsor. I apologize for the delay in answering your question but I wanted to answer your questions as fully and completely as possible and that took a little research. Also since most of the source material from which I formulated your answer isn't available on-line (that I'm aware of) I had to type it all in and my typing skills are terrible. Pope Paul VI said of Confirmation; Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, those who have been born anew in baptism receive the ineffable (indescribable) gift, the Holy Spirit Himself, by which 'they are endowed with special strength' and by the character of this sacrament 'are bound more perfectly to the Church' and 'are more strictly obliged, as true witnesses of Christ, to spread and defend the faith by word and deed...'(Apostolic Constitution Divinae Consortium Naturae, 1971). Conformation is usually, but not always done during a Mass. During the Mass those being Confirmed stand before the bishop and the Church and renew their baptismal promises. After they renew their baptismal promises the bishop prays the following prayer. My dear friends: In baptism God our Father gave the new birth of eternal life to His chosen sons and daughters. Let us pray to our Father that He will pour out the Holy Spirit to strengthen His sons and daughters with His gifts and anoint them to be more like Christ the Son of God. The bishop then extends his hands over all those to be Confirmed. This gesture is called the laying on of hands. It's a very old practice. Both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures record that the laying on of hands was used when a person was dedicated to God for a certain task. At Confirmation, the laying on of hands signifies that the power of the Holy Spirit is given to each candidate. At the laying on of hands, the bishop prays that those being Confirmed will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in a special way. He prays; All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their Helper and Guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. We ask this through Christ our Lord. After this, each of those being Confirmed are presented to the bishop by their sponsors. The person being confirmed kneels before the bishop. The sponsor stands behind him with his hand on his shoulder. It is at this time that the person being Confirmed receives a special sacramental sign and hears the words of the sacrament of Confirmation. The sacramental sign is an anointing with oil, or chrism. Chrism is a mixture of oil and balsam. This tradition, like the laying on of hands, is very old. In ancient Israel the practice had many significant meanings. It's religious meaning was to signify that a person was being set apart from others and given a special mission. The Bible tells us that Solomon was anointed when he became king. The oil is absorbed into the anointed person and becomes part of that person. The Hebrew word Messiah means anointed one. The bishop moistens his right thumb with chrism. With the chrism, he makes the sign of the cross on the person's forehead. He addresses the person by their Confimation name and says, Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit. The newly Confirmed person responds, Amen. The bishop then says, Peace be with you. The newly Confirmed responds, And also with you. The Mass then continues as usual. The sponsor is the person who presents the person being Confirmed to the bishop. Often one or both of the Godparents are chosen to be sponsor(s) because the duties and spiritual bond are similar. The spiritual bond unites certain persons by reason of baptism. The minister of the sacrament and the sponsor contract the spiritual relationship with the one baptized. ( No relationship arises between minister and sponsor). It does not matter whether the administration of baptism is private or solemn, provided it is valid. The sponsors also act as the representative of all the people of the Church who pledge their support to the persons being Confirmed. It's possible in the case of extreme urgency with the sacrament of baptism that the minister could be an unbaptised person who does the baptism by request. This is a valid baptism so long as it is done as prescribed by the Church and that the minister intends to do what the Church requires. In such cases the infidel minister would not contract the spiritual relationship, because of his own lack of baptism. A proxy also does not contract the bond, as a true proxy is neither designated to be a sponsor nor possesses the necessary intention. Strictly speaking, the minister is not excluded from being also a sponsor in the baptism, although distinct persons are indicated. Such sponsorship should be exercised through a proxy. I hope this answers all of your questions. You are honored to be chosen and rightfully so. Send us a picture if you happen to scan them to disc. God bless you and your sponsee. In Christ, John Miskell Back to Index Page

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