In the West, Confirmation is received as the third sacrament, following Baptism and First Communion. However, it is considered the second sacrament by the Church because it is regarded as "the perfection of Baptism." The introduction to the Rite of Confirmation says:
by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.The main aspect of the Rite of Confirmation is the anointing of the faithful with chrism oil with the words, "Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit." According to Scott P. Richert, "This seal is a consecration, representing the safeguarding by the Holy Spirit of the graces conferred on the Christian at Baptism."
It's important, also, to note the words used at Confirmation: "Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit." (Emphasis added) Faith in the Lord, receiving the Holy Spirit, is a gift to us. A gift is something given without expectation of reciprocity, and something that must be consciously accepted. By receiving Confirmation, the faithful are making a public profession of the acceptance of that gift, and their faith in the Lord.
The Sacrament of Confirmation confers special graces of the Holy Spirit on the person being confirmed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists five effects of Confirmation:
- It roots us more deeply in the divine filiation [as sons of God] which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!".
- It unites us more firmly to Christ.
- It increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.
- It renders our bond with the Church more perfect.
- It gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses to Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never be ashamed of the Cross.
All those who have been baptized are eligible to be confirmed, and, while the Western Church suggests receiving the sacrament after reaching the "age of reason" (around seven years old), it can be received at any time.Confirmation is the conscious and outward profession of faith that began in Baptism. The faithful who choose to receive Confirmation in the Church are making a public profession of faith in the Lord.