General Audience Catechesis – 30 May

Pope Francis continues his catechesis on the sacrament of confirmation…

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Continuing with the argument of Confirmation or Cresima, today I wish to shed light on the “profound connection of this Sacrament, with the whole of Christian Initiation (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 71).

Before receiving the spiritual anointing, which confirms and reinforces the grace of Baptism, the Confirmation candidates are called to renew the promises made one day by parents and godparents. Now it’s they themselves who profess the faith of the Church, ready to answer “I believe,” to the questions the Bishop asks them; ready, in particular, to believe “in the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and gives life, and who today, through the Sacrament of Confirmation, is conferred in a special way on [them], as already on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost: (Rite of Confirmation, n. 26).

Because the coming of the Spirit requires hearts recollected in prayer (Cf. Acts 1:14), after the silent prayer of the community, the Bishop, extending his hands on the Confirmation candidates, implores God to infuse in them His Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. The Spirit is one (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4) but, coming to us, He brings with Him a wealth of gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and holy fear (Cf. Rite of Confirmation, nn. 28-29). We heard the passage of the Bible with these gifts that the Spirit brings. According to the prophet Isaiah (11:2), these are the seven virtues of the Spirit effused on the Messiah for the fulfilment of His mission. Saint Paul also describes the abundant fruit of the Spirit, who is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). The one Spirit distributes and multiplies gifts that enrich the one Church: He is the Author of diversity, but at the same time, the Creator of unity. So the Spirit gives all these riches, which are different but at the same time He creates harmony, namely, the unity of all these spiritual riches, which we Christians have. By tradition attested by the Apostles, the Spirit, who completes the grace of Baptism, is communicated through the imposition of hands (Cf. Acts 8:15-17; 19:5-6; Hebrews 6:2). To this biblical gesture <and> to experience better the effusion of the Spirit that pervades all those that receive him, was soon added an anointing with fragrant oil, called chrism, which has remained in use up to today, both in the East as well as the West [Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC) 1289].

The oil — chrism — is a therapeutic and cosmetic substance that, entering the tissues of the body, medicates the wounds and perfumes the members; because of these qualities it was assumed by biblical and liturgical symbolism to express the action of the Spirit, who consecrates and permeates the baptized person, embellishing him with charisms. The Sacrament is conferred through the anointing of the chrism on the forehead, carried out by the Bishop with the imposition of the hand and through the words: “Receive the seal of the Holy Spirit, which is given to you as gift.” The Holy Spirit is the invisible lavished gift and the chrism is His visible seal.

Receiving on his forehead the sign of the cross with the fragrant oil, the Confirmed <person> receives therefore an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which configures him more perfectly to Christ and gives him the grace to spread his “good fragrance” among men (Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15).

We listen again to Saint Ambrose’s invitation to the newly Confirmed: “Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal [. . . ] Guard what you have received, God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your heart” (De Mysteriis 7, 42: CSEL 73, 106; Cf. CCC, 1303). The Spirit is an unmerited gift, to be received with gratitude, making room for His inexhaustible creativity. It’s a gift to guard with care, to second with docility, allowing oneself to be moulded, as wax, by His fiery charity, “to reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, 23).

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT,