The Sacraments: Confirmation

Posted on March 24, 2023 by Published by

The third and final sacrament of initiation is Confirmation. When we talk to parents and godparents at Baptism, we say that today they are accepting the faith on behalf of their child, and at Confirmation their child will accept the faith on their own. However, there is more to Confirmation than simply restating commitment to the Catholic faith – Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace (CCC 1303).

As Catholics, on the day of Confirmation we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. When the bishop lays his hands on the confirmandi (person being confirmed) he ends his prayer with “Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment 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. Amen.” Then, the bishop makes the sign of the cross with the Sacred Chrism (same oil as Baptism) on the confirmandi’s forehead, and says, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

So many gifts!  Let’s take a look at what each one provides:

Wisdom: Gives us the ability to view the world through God’s perspective. With this gift we are able to see and evaluate all things — joy and sorrow, success and failure — through the eyes of God. Walking through life with God’s wisdom helps us make all of our decisions and to see others as God sees them.

​Understanding: ​Grants us the ability to comprehend the Scriptures, the messages and the meaning of Christ’s teachings. The more we understand the teachings of the church, the more our faith is strengthened.

Counsel/Judgement: ​Gives us the ability to judge what is good and evil and to act accordingly. It helps us to assess a situation quickly and correctly so that we always live our life according to God’s will. Not only does counsel provide solutions to difficult and unexpected situations in our own lives, but it helps us to assist others.

Fortitude/Courage: ​In our daily battle against temptation and sin, we need the gift of courage to see us through. This gift provides the mental and emotional strength given to us by the Holy Spirit to face adversity, danger, or temptation – helps us persevere throughout our time in this world so that we may reach our goal of being united with Christ in the afterlife.

Piety: ​Pope Francis explained the importance of this gift when he addressed his general audience in June 2014, saying, “Piety is not mere outward religiosity; it is that genuine religious spirit which makes us turn to the Father as his children and to grow in our love for others, seeing them as our brothers and sisters, members of God’s family.”

Knowledge:​ Here we are not talking about scientific or historical facts. Rather, we are speaking about spiritual knowledge. This gift helps us determine if we have all of our spiritual facts in order such as: are material objects and idols keeping us from putting God first? Are we doing anything that is creating a roadblock between us and God? Where do we need to change?

Fear of God: This gift is often misunderstood because of the word “fear”. Are we supposed to be afraid of the Lord? No! Our relationship with the Lord is based on love, not fear. What this gift means is that we should fear how sin separates us from the Lord. We should fear living, speaking, or acting in any way that offends the Lord. We should live in wonder and awe of God’s perfection and fear ever hurting Him.

​Are You Using Your Gifts?

Whether confirmed recently or decades ago – these seven gifts were given to us by the Holy Spirit the day we stood before the altar to be confirmed. These gifts last a lifetime and will never be taken away from us.  Did we wake up the day after confirmation and immediately have the ability to use all of these gifts to their full potential?  Not likely!  It is more likely that these gifts emerge gradually as we use them while we work hard to live a virtuous life.  In other words – God is giving us the tools, or the graces, to live the life He envisions for us, and without these gifts in our arsenal, we would have no chance of being successful.  No matter how long ago you received these gifts, let us all be reminded that the amazing grace of God is always in us to help us do what is right.

Here are some commonly asked questions about Confirmation…

Why is the dove used as a symbol of Confirmation?

The dove is the universal symbol of the Holy Spirit. At Christ’s baptism the Spirit’s presence was noted by a dove descending upon Christ (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10, with similar passages in John and Luke). Accompanying the dove in art are the Seven Gifts of the Spirit, usually represented as parted tongues of fire. The dove with its seven flames is also emblematic of the sacrament of confirmation.

Is a Bishop the only one that can provide the sacrament of Confirmation?

Canon Law 882 states that the ordinary minister of a Confirmation is a Bishop.  However, it also states that the priest can validly confirm someone if he has the faculty to do so.  Canon Law 883 provides the instances that Priests can confirm – the one we are most familiar with is adult confirmation – what we typically see at the Easter Vigil mass.

Why do the confirmandi choose a confirmation name representing a patron saint?

The custom of adopting a saint’s name at confirmation was done in order to adopt the saint as a special heavenly patron or to honor a saint to whom one had a special devotion. In short, the purpose was to give the confirmandi the opportunity to develop his understanding of and reliance on the communion of saints.

This is the fourth installment in a series of articles about the Seven Sacraments, contributed by Deacon Peter LeTourneau, Director of Parish Ministry and Evangelization at Our Lady of the Wayside Parish. Please feel free to reach out to Deacon Peter with questions or comments at


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