We’re in the Chapel this month, exploring how we can live out the Seven Sacraments in our daily spiritual lives. In this spot check we’ll take a closer look at the Sacrament of Confirmation. But before we launch into that, remember that the Sacraments are always first and foremost actions of the Holy Trinity to give us grace. But since grace is a relationship, we are also called to a response. Our response is laid out for us in the Sacramental Sign and in the Sacramental Oath. The Sacramental Sign shows us what God is doing for us through each of the Sacraments, so we know how to cooperate with the grace each Sacrament gives us. The Sacramental Oath tells us how God invites us to respond t that grace in order to deepen our relationship with Him.
So now let’s apply this to Confirmation. Confirmation completes or “confirms” Baptism by sealing us with the Holy Spirit. Therefore it calls us to a deeper relationship with God. Specifically, Confirmation calls us to participate in the divine life by participating in the mission of Jesus.
The Sacramental Sign of Confirmation is being sealed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit through the Sacred Chrism. The Holy Spirit equips us to participate in the divine life by confirming within us the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are given to us in “infancy” form through Baptism and are brought to new life in the Sacrament of Confirmation. These Gifts are direct aids of the Holy Spirit to live in relationship with God. Now, four of the Gifts – Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel and Wisdom – enlighten our intellect to deepen our intimacy with God, to help us to know God better and to participate in His truth. Knowledge helps us participate in God’s goodness placed in Creation by inspiring us to use created goods according to the purpose God intended, and for our Christian perfection. Understanding inspires in us deeper insights into divine revelation. Counsel inspires us to see and understand moral goodness. Wisdom gives us divine intimacy most directly by helping us to see everything through God’s eyes, so to speak, to think with the mind of God. The other three Gifts – Piety, Fortitude and Fear of the Lord – strengthen our Will to deepen our love for God and our participation in His goodness. Piety inspire us to honor God out of filial affection (the affection children have for their parents). Fortitude inspires in us the courage to embrace goodness even when doing so is difficult, challenging or even dangerous. And Fear of the Lord inspires us to fear losing our precious relationship with God. So we live the Sacramental Sign by exercising these seven Gifts consciously and deepening our relationship with God through them.
The Sacred Chrism is also a sign of consecration. When we are confirmed, we are consecrated into the mission of Jesus, which is the mission of the Church. And this brings us to the Sacramental Oath of Confirmation. The Sacramental Oath is to use these gifts, not only to deepen our own intimacy with God but to invite others to do the same thing. Confirmation calls us to evangelization, to engage the culture, and even to offer our lives in the spirit of martyrdom.
While the primary purpose of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is to deepen our relationship with God, the Holy Spirit sometimes gives us the ability to use one or two of these gifts to help others as well. A grace intended to be used to help others is called a charismatic grace. For example, someone who is given the gift of Understanding in an especially strong way may be equipped by the Holy Spirit to use that Gift as a teacher, a preacher, or in another “prophetic” role. In this case the Gift of Understanding not only helps the individual deepen their intimacy with God, but also to help that individual lead others do the same.
The Holy Spirit also gives other charismatic graces in Confirmation. These graces are sometimes called “charisms” or “charismatic gifts,” but the Church officially calls them charismatic graces. While Saint Paul lists some of thee graces in his letters, there is no definitive list. Instead the Holy Spirit equips each of us in unique ways to serve the Kingdom of God in this world.
One way to think of the charismatic gifts is that they equip us to participate in Jesus’ 3-fold mission of priest, prophet and king. The priestly mission is to pray and offer sacrifices to participate in God’s love for others. The prophetic role is to share the Good News and to teach divine truth. The kingly mission is to spread the love of God through service, and sometimes includes administration and leadership in various parts of the Church. The charismatic graces received in Confirmation will often mix with an individual’s natural talents to equip the Christian to serve in one of these three missions.
Love of Neighbor “For the Sake of Our Love of God”
The really cool part is that when we use these spiritual gifts to serve others, we are actually deepening our intimacy with God. We are participating in His love and goodness for others because through these gifts God actually works through us. If you think about it, what makes a real friendship or a real marriage or a real family is that we participate in each other’s lives. So God invites us to participate in His life. We participate in His love and goodness as He works through us with our cooperation. So even as we’re serving others for the Kingdom of God, we are exercising our relationship with the Holy Trinity. Love of neighbor flows out of our love for God.
Your Spiritual Project
With all of this in mind, what do you need to do to more fully live out your Confirmation? Have you ever identified how the Gifts of the Holy Spirit work in your life? Have you consciously tried to exercise them? Have you ever identified what charismatic graces the Holy Spirit has given you and how He might be calling you to serve the Kingdom of God through them? If you’ve never thought about these things, this is a great time to start! And if you’ve already identified your spiritual gifts, this is a great opportunity to think and pray about them even more deeply.
If you’re interested in learning more about living the Sacraments, join our free Spiritual Project by clicking the button below!
Also published on Medium.