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30 November, 1999

David Birchall SJ answers an inquiring parent about the sacrament of confirmation.


Could you tell me something about confirmation? My son is due to be confirmed in six months time and I must admit to only having a vague idea of what it is supposed to be about.


Confirmation is the sacrament where the Spirit of God is called upon to strengthen and guide the person being confirmed. It helps us recognise that we need the support of God to live a good life, a life of integrity. The sacrament serves as a remembrance that wherever we are we can always call on the Spirit of God to support us.

Confirmation may be seen as the acceptance of the Faith given to the baby in Baptism by a person entering into adult life. Catholics are always confirmed within a Mass. Usually the Mass is celebrated by the local bishop. Of all the sacraments there is probably most diversity in the practice of Confirmation.

The best age for the sacrament
In Ireland the practice is to offer the sacrament to young people of between 9 and 11. If you have a child at a Catholic school, then they will usually receive instruction for this Sacrament in the top primary class. There has been some debate in recent years about the best age for Confirmation.
In some diocese around the world it is the custom to celebrated Confirmation as an entrance into adult faith at the age of 15-18, in other places it is celebrated at the age of about 7 or 8, before Confession and Communion, as most experts say it is really part of the sacrament of Baptism.

If you have a child of secondary school age who has not received the sacrament of Confirmation then go along to your parish priest to see what form of instruction is available. Though it’s good to encourage your child to take part in the instruction, post-primary students should not be unduly pressured into receiving the sacrament. As with all sacraments people should only take part because they see a value in them, not to please someone else.

Bishop or priest?
Confirmation is usually given by a bishop, though increasingly priests are confirming in their own parish. Whoever administer the sacrament the Spirit of God is still as powerfully at work.

Confirmation of adults
Your parish priest will tell you what is available locally as far as adult preparation for the sacrament is concerned.
If you are a Catholic who has not been Confirmed but plan to get married in the Church, then it is a good thing to talk to your parish priest about this. As the Sacrament of Confirmation is part of the initiation into the Church, it is expected that before you get married you should be confirmed. But don’t worry, you won’t be expected to dress up in white and join the children, something much more appropriate and discrete will be arranged.
For an adult entering the Church, Confirmation is usually celebrated as part of the Baptismal ceremony.

This article first appeared in the

Messenger, a publication of the Irish Jesuits.