Confirmations at St. Peter's, Eastwood.

On Tuesday evening, I joined Fr. Jeff Woolnough and the parishioners of St. Peter's, Eastwood, on the occassion of the episcopal visitation and Confirmations. This was my first opportunity to meet Bishop Alan Williams myself.

Confirmation is a great Sacrament, it constitutes the completion of the Sacraments of Initiation, and provides tenable link with our bishops, the successors of the Apostles. Just as Jesus Baptised with water and the Spirit, so we Baptise our Children, claiming them for Christ soon after birth, and then with the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, which recalls the laying on of hands and invocation of the Spirit wrought by the Apostles in Scripture. The biblical record tells us that converts to the faith were first baptised, and then the Apostles “laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17).

We define Confirmation as the sacrament of spiritual strengthening, in Latin, roboratio spiritualis. Our English word “robust” comes from the Latin robur, which means “oak wood” or “hardwood.”

More concretely, Confirmation strengthens the supernatural life we receive in Baptism. Confirmation increases our sanctifying grace in every way, but mainly in deepening our capacity to remain spiritually alive. It gives us the power of resistance, the ability to resist dangers, and the strength to become more Christ‑like until the dawn of eternity.

Confirmation does nothing less than provide us with superhuman strength against hostile forces from within our own fallen nature and from the world and the evil spirit who is literally hell-bent to destroy us.

There are three sacraments that give a person what we call an indelible character. They are Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. Confirmation confers the character of assimilation to Jesus Christ, the priest, teacher, and king.

On each of these levels, the assimilation is associated with Christ’s role as Savior. As we know, the priesthood of Jesus is the mission that He came into the world to fulfill by offering Himself in sacrifice on the cross. We cannot repeat too often what sacrifice means. Sacrifice is the voluntary surrender of something precious to God. On Calvary, Jesus offered His human life for our salvation. But the heart of His bloody sacrifice was in His human will, freely surrendering Himself to the Father.

On this first level of assimilation to Jesus Christ the priest, Confirmation gives us the strength to bear suffering (passively) in union with Him and the courage to sacrifice pleasant things (actively) out of love for the One who died on the first Good Friday out of love for us.

Confirmation assimilates us to Christ the teacher. We acquire a strong will in adhering to the faith in the face of obstacles, a strong mind in not doubting the truths of faith, a strong humility of spirit in professing the faith, and a strong wisdom that knows how to communicate the faith to others effectively.

Finally, Confirmation assimilates us to Christ the King. It gives us a quality of leadership that can direct others on the path of salvation. It gives us a strong character that can withstand the ravages of bad example or the snares of seduction, and a strong personality that will attract even the enemies of Christ to His standard.

We might describe the sacramental character of Confirmation by calling it the sacrament of witness to Christ, in the Church and before the world.

In other words, Confirmation is the sacrament of fearless apostolic zeal. Having said this, we are ready to spell out in as clear words as possible what this sacrament gives us the grace to do. In the words of the new canon of law, issued by Pope Jolu1 Paul II on the first Sunday of Advent in 1983, we are told that by the sacrament of Confirmation, the baptised are “made strong and more firmly obliged by word and deed to witness to Christ and to spread and defend the faith.”

Immediately we see that Confirmation is exactly what its name implies. It is the supernatural, which means superhuman, courage we receive to be apostles of Jesus Christ.

Bishop Alan Williams confers the Sacrament of Confirmation
Bishop Alan spoke wonderfully. It was interesting to note how he referred to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans 8:26:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
This same verse, extremely appropriate for this occasion, as well as the situation our new bishop finds himself in, was also referenced by Bishop Thomas McMahon at the last Confirmation I attended.

Bishop Alan Williams with my two oldest sons after the Confirmation.
Bishop Alan also noted the wonderful work done renovating the altar at St. Peter's by Fr. Jeff. He took the time to bless the work as captured on this video:


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