Celebrating the Rite of Confirmation: A Practical Guide


THE RITE AT A GLANCE

Introductory Rites

Liturgy of the Word

Rite of Confirmation

A Presentation of the Candidates
B Homily or Instruction
C Renewal of Baptismal Promises
D The Laying on of Hands
E The Anointing with Chrism
F General Intercessions

Liturgy of the Eucharist

Concluding Rite

UNDERSTANDING THE RITE

The celebration of the sacrament itself begins with the presentation of the candidates, after the proclamation of the Gospel in the Liturgy of the Word. The candidates are called by name and, accompanied by their sponsor or parents, come forward to stand before the bishop.

The bishop then gives a brief homily or instruction, helping the candidates, their sponsors and parents, and the entire assembly to better understand the mystery of confirmation. (See Rite of Confirmation, paragraph 22)

Following the homily, the candidates are invited to renew their baptismal promises. After having done so, the bishop and any concelebrating priests lay hands upon all the candidates. The sacred Chrism is then brought to the bishop, who anoints the one to be confirmed saying, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The rite concludes with the general intercessions, in which the community prays for the newly confirmed, their parents and godparents, the Church and its leaders, and all people throughout the world.

PREPARING THE LITURGY

Choosing the Readings

The celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation is often scheduled according to the local bishop’s schedule. Those preparing the liturgy must know the various available options regarding the choice of Scripture readings. If there is a “V” to the left of the ordo entry for that day, Ritual Masses (i.e., Confirmation) are permitted. Readings may be chosen from among those given for Confirmation (Volume IV of the lectionary, numbers 764-768). If there is no “V” to the left of the entry, the readings assigned to the day must be used.

Music Considerations

The rite of Confirmation calls for song after the profession of faith and during the anointings with chrism. The sung response or acclamation following the profession of faith should be brief. Songs such as the Veni Sancte (any one of several settings), John Bell’s “Take, O Take Me As I Am”, the traditional hymn “O Breathe On Me, O Breath of God”, Paul Page’s “Gift of God” (World Library Publications) would work well during the anointing of the candidates.

Because the Sacrament of Confirmation is one of the three Sacraments of Initiation, consider choosing hymns whose texts highlight the sacramental journey and all its symbols. “God Is Here! As We His People” (Fred Pratt Green/GIA Publications) and “Baptized in Living Waters” (Alan Hommerding/World Library Publications) are set to tunes which are familiar to those of other faith traditions. “All Are Welcome” (Marty Haugen/GIA Publications) or an energetic setting of the Litany of the Saints would also work well. Marty Haugen’s “Send Down the Fire” (GIA Publications) and Tom Tomaszek’s “Go Make A Difference” (OCP Publications) make a strong connection between the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and serving as God’s witnesses to the world.

Other suggestions for appropriate music selections that correlate to the various parts of the rite of Confirmation are found in each chapter of the Confirmation Catechist Guide.

One of the often overlooked languages of the liturgy is the language of silence. While it is tempting to play or sing during the laying on of hands, this is most powerfully done in silence.

Liturgical Color

The assigned liturgical color for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation is red or white or some other festive color. A choice of red provides an opportunity to invite the candidates for Confirmation and all other members of the assembly to “celebrate the Spirit” by wearing something red to the mass.

Liturgical Symbol

The sacred Chrism is used in the anointing of the candidates for Confirmation. Depending upon the location of the ambry (where the oils are kept), the parish’s vessel of sacred Chrism may be left in the ambry, placed on the edge of or near the baptismal font (to highlight the connection between Baptism and Confirmation as Sacraments of Initiation), or placed on a special stand in the entrance of the church or in the sanctuary area. During the celebration of Confirmation, the vessel may be carried to the bishop in simple procession, and Chrism may be poured from the parish’s large vessel into a bowl for the bishop’s use during anointing. Highlight the parish’s larger vessel of sacred Chrism by placement, procession, and use of liturgical color (with ribbons, cloth, flowers, or a candle on the stand).

Preparing the Liturgical Ministers

Ministers of hospitality are important to the successful celebration of any sacramental rite. Ministers of hospitality should greet attendees graciously and distribute hymnal or worship aids. In addition, they can direct people to the location of babysitting services, restrooms, and how to get to the reception following the liturgy are not obvious to visitors. Ministers of hospitality also need to know of any reserved or special seating, and could be asked to take charge of distributing nametags to the candidates and their sponsors. Any special instructions should be conveyed to the ministers of hospitality well in advance of the celebration.

Since the bishop is normally the presider at the celebration of Confirmation, servers will require some additional training. All special considerations regarding vestments, chairs, and the use of miter and crozier are given in the Ceremonial of Bishops, paragraphs 457-472.

With so many options available, it will be necessary for the lectors to know what readings have been chosen, and where those readings are located within the lectionary. As always, lectors should be chosen according to their ability to proclaim the Word of God clearly and well.

Eucharistic ministers need to know their stations and responsibilities ahead of time. The person scheduling the eucharistic ministers should include any concelebrating priests and deacons as eucharistic ministers for the celebration.

ENGAGING THE ASSEMBLY

Note: Refer to the Confirmation Program Director’s Manual, Part Five, for additional ideas for involving parishioners in the Confirmation preparation process and the celebration of the rite.

The best way to engage an assembly in any sacramental celebration is to encourage them to attend. Attendance is more likely if parishioners feel they are part of the preparation process or if they know or have prayed for the candidates. Prior to the celebration, post photos and have the candidates supply biographical facts about themselves. The same information or a list of the candidates’ names could be included in the parish bulletin. Invite parishioners not involved as sponsors, parents of the Confirmation candidates, or Confirmation catechists to plan and host the reception following the liturgy.

Encourage parishioners to keep the candidates in prayer. Invite them to take a slip of paper, cut in the shape of a dove or a flame, listing the name of a Confirmation candidate and the gift of the Holy Spirit she/he most desires. On the other side of the prayer symbol, include the words of the “Prayer Over the People” from the rite of Confirmation. Encourage parishioners to keep the candidates in mind by praying this prayer frequently.

God our Father,
complete the work you have begun
and keep the gifts of your Holy Spirit active in the hearts of your people.
Make them ready to live his Gospel and eager to do his will.
May they never be ashamed to proclaim to all the world Christ crucified
living and reigning for ever and ever. AMEN.

(Rite of Confirmation, “Prayer Over the People”)


 




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