Frequently Asked Questions About Confirmation:

WHAT IS THE BEST AGE FOR CONFIRMATION?

Some churches confirm students in second grade, some in high school, and so on. However, the most common age for confirmation in the Chicago Archdiocese is eighth grade. Church law demands that the person being confirmed has reached the "age of discretion," which is about seven years old, but Eastern Rites churches actually confirm infants at the time of baptism, just to symbolize the strong connection between baptism and confirmation.

In short, there is no "best" age for confirmation, and in times of emergencies, such as severe illness or the danger of death, there is no age restriction at all.

WHAT DOES CONFIRMATION CELEBRATE?

Confirmation is one of the three sacraments of initiation. The others are baptism and the Eucharist. These sacraments of the church welcome a person who believes in Christ into the Body of Christ, which is the entire community of believers throughout the world. That body is the church. With these sacraments, a journey of faith begins for you.

Confirmation strengthens the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. Yes, the Rite of Baptism of the Roman Catholic Church does invoke the Holy Spirit, so the Spirit is already present in your life when you walk up to the bishop to get confirmed. It's just that confirmation celebrates the Spirit's presence in your life. Also, it is you who make the decision to get confirmed, whereas your parents probably were the ones who decided to have you baptized.

As the name implies, confirmation is the church's way of "confirming" that you are indeed a Spirit-filled, unique member of God's community of believers. With the gifts you have received through the Spirit, you can make God's kingdom on earth a better and holier place. Without God's Spirit, you would not be able to do this.

WHY DO I HAVE TO DO SERVICE HOURS TO GET CONFIRMED?

You don't. Let me just say that the church will confirm you simply if you ask to be confirmed. That is how God's grace works. He offers it to you simply and primarily because he loves you. You cannot "deserve" it, but he offers it to you anyway. Confirmation is a sacrament, a rite of the holy catholic church. You cannot "earn" it as though you were earning a badge in Cub Scouts or Girl Scouts. Anyone who tells you different doesn't understand about how much God loves you.

Some dioceses (including Chicago) encourage service hours, though. It's like when you want to get married. Sure, the church will marry you just for asking, but you have to ask properly. In order to make sure you know what you're asking the church to do, you usually have to attend several months of marriage preparation classes. With confirmation, all you have to do is ask the church to confirm you, but you do have to ask properly. With marriage, you have to "understand" what it means to be a spouse, and with confirmation, you have to "understand" what it means to have the Holy Spirit in your life. You have to understand how to accept God's grace in the proper way.

In the past, service projects have turned out to be a pretty good way to help seventh and eighth graders understand how God's grace works in us. It can teach you about talents and gifts you may have, which come from God through his Spirit.

Look at it this way: if you want to test out the gift of being a basketball star in the NBA, first you should probably try out for your high school team. In a similar way, if you want to test out the gift of being filled with the Spirit, it might be a good idea, people in the church think, to try it out at, say, a food pantry in Tinley Park. The town has one big food pantry that is sponsored by many churches. St Damian even sponsors a food pantry. If you do it, you have a better opportunity to discover new gifts by discovering different interests you have in serving God and his creation on earth. These activities help you understand your place in the world and your place in God's kingdom by sharing your talents with other members of the human family, who are God's children as well.

It's also a pretty good idea to let others know about Jesus' kindness by helping others in their time of need, just as he did. In other words, he showed the way. Now you follow in his footsteps. Technically speaking, it can't be a "requirement," but it's definitely a good way to help you make your journey toward confirmation.

DOES IT MATTER IF MY PARENTS DON'T GO TO CHURCH MUCH?

Quite frankly, yes. More than anyone else, your parents are the most important piece of your preparation for confirmation. If they don't support you on your journey toward confirmation, that journey will be a lot harder. The reward for you will be just as great, but getting there will be tougher. If your parents aren't going to help you on this journey, even if they enrolled you in CCD class so you can get confirmed, choose your sponsor very carefully. Other adults in your community or in the church can also help. Furthermore, if your parents absolutely refuse to go to church, you can still go to church yourself. Perhaps your teacher can give you a ride. Just ask. You might be surprised.

DO I HAVE TO GO TO MASS?

Yes. To be honest, I don't know why confirmation candidates ask this question, but every year, it comes up in my classes. Whenever I have asked, "Why are you even asking me that question?" the typical response has been, "Because I don't like going to church?" Well, what exactly don't you like about going? Does the communion wafer taste bad? Does your priest make you answer questions during the homily? Surely, there must be some way you can bring up whatever bothers you about going to church with your priest or CCD teacher. It's basically a sin to miss mass on Sunday, so why would you want to do that? Do you want to sin? If you want to sin that much, then you shouldn't be reading this page, which is written for people who want to get confirmed. Go to a page for sinners instead.

As I said above, for service hours, confirmation is not something you have to "earn" by doing certain activities, like going to church or taking food to hungry people. However, if you don't want to do these things on your own accord, you have to ask yourself a serious question: Are you really ready to be confirmed in the Roman Catholic church? When you are confirmed, you are declaring that God's Holy Spirit is alive within you. That Spirit, according to Jesus himself, gives you the will and ability to love your God (our God), and to love your neighbor. If you are not willing and able to do these two things, which were part of Jesus' great commandment to us, you are not ready to be confirmed in the Roman Catholic church.

WHO IS A GOOD CONFIRMATION SPONSOR?

Someone who loves you and provides an excellent example of living a holy life in the church you want to be confirmed in. That might be a person at your parish, but most commonly, it is a person in your family or from another parish who leads a very holy life. I'm not saying this is the only criterion, but one example would be, if you choose a married person as your sponsor, they should be married according to the rules of the Roman Catholic church. Certainly, they have to be baptized as a Christian, confirmed in the Roman Catholic church, and they must receive communion in the Roman Catholic church.

That being said, keep in mind that your confirmation is a rite (or ritual) in the Catholic church. Some bishops establish rules beyond what I have said here, so the best source for an answer to this question would be your priest.

CAN YOU GET MARRIED IF YOU'RE NOT CONFIRMED?

Well, yes, marriage in the Roman Catholic church is a covenant and a relationship between a "baptized" man and a baptized woman, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (@ 1601, 1613-1616, 1642). Both parties to a marriage must be open to children and be able to freely give their consent to be married. Other than that, Canon law says nothing (that I could find) regarding the need to be confirmed before being married. However, both parties, if they are Christian, must be baptized, so presentation of a baptismal certificate (from a Catholic or other Christian church) may be required prior to the wedding.

CAN YOU TAKE COMMUNION WITHOUT BEING CONFIRMED?

Of course, you can, provided you have received communion in the past and are currently in spiritual and moral communion with the Roman Catholic Church and the pope. This may require you going to confession before receiving communion, but the three sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and communion) are independent. You cannot be confirmed if you aren't in communion with the Church, but you may receive communion at any mass regardless of your status as a confirmation candidate, unconfirmed person, and confirmed person. Any time a mass is celebrated—such as at a wedding—your status as an unconfirmed person does not prevent you from taking communion.

WHAT QUESTIONS DOES THE BISHOP ASK?

In some dioceses, the bishop (or his representative) may ask you a question or two when you go up to get confirmed. The purpose of these questions is to make certain you know what you are asking the church to do in confirming you. Questions might deal with the meaning of confirmation, your personal dedication to Christ or to the church, and so on. In some dioceses the questions have been eliminated in order to keep the ceremony down to a reasonable duration. However, it is safe to assume that if you have fulfilled all the requirements for your parish, the questions the bishop asks will not be difficult for you to answer.

WHO CAN ATTEND MY CONFIRMATION?

The church doesn't have any restrictions on who may attend a confirmation ceremony, since all rites and rituals of the church are public. No one in attendance should be disruptive, since the ceremony belongs to the church. But anybody may attend. That being said, some churches are not big enough to accommodate multiple guests for all of the people being confirmed. Your parish priest might need to limit the number of people who can attend. This is so that every confirmation candidate has an equal opportunity to invite guests to this important ceremony. I know it's important for you, but keep in mind, it is equally important for all of your fellow confirmation candidates.

DO YOU HAVE TO GO TO CCD TO GET CONFIRMED?

No, but that is the most common track in most U.S. dioceses. You go to CCD (or religious education classes) to prepare for confirmation, and then a bishop from your diocese comes to your church and confirms you. What I'm saying here is that you have to be prepared for confirmation. CCD is the most common way to get that preparation, but there are other ways, which may or may not be available to you. If you absolutely need to know about any alternative paths to being confirmed, ask your parish priest, since it's basically up to him. I think you will find most priests can accommodate extraordinary schedule circumstances if you would really like to be confirmed. Adults who are seeking confirmation will be required to take classes or have sessions with a priest or religious education director from the parish before they can be confirmed. This is often called RCIA, or Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, but it includes confirmation.

DOES IT COUNT IF I WAS CONFIRMED IN ANOTHER CHURCH?

This is not a question commonly asked by seventh- and eighth-grade students, but it has come up on this Web site quite a bit. In most cases, unconfirmed people receive communion all the time (children can usually receive communion starting at about second grade, while confirmation usually occurs during eighth grade). But if you're asking this question, you probably want to know if you have to get "re-confirmed" in the Roman Catholic church, or if you can take communion in the Roman Catholic church if you have been confirmed in another Christian denomination, such as the United Methodist church or the High Church of England.

The answer is complicated, but in general, no, it doesn't count, and you can't take communion in the Roman Catholic church if you're confirmed in another church. However, Eastern Orthodox churches, such as the Russian or Serbian Orthodox church, have no specific restrictions against their members taking communion in a Catholic church. If you are in doubt about whether your confirmation in a Christian church is covered by the Roman Catholic church, please speak to a priest about your specific case before receiving communion.

That being said, there are no restrictions on your attendance at a Roman Catholic mass or other ceremony: even non-Christians can attend these. But when it comes to receiving communion, you must be "in communion with" (spiritually and morally) the Roman Catholic church and the pope before you can receive communion at a mass. The Protestant Reformation, sadly, divided the Christian church yet again, and while baptism in most Protestant churches is considered effective by the Roman Catholic church, communion and confirmation are not. As a result, people who are confirmed in Protestant churches are considered to be not in communion with the pope.

DO I HAVE TO GET CONFIRMED?

No. Certainly, the church and all your CCD teachers will not think any less of you if you choose not to get confirmed. And although it may cause some tension in your family (your parents, after all, obviously want you to be confirmed), you can choose to be confirmed at any time, when you feel ready: as I said above, the gift of the Holy Spirit is yours for the asking. Whenever you ask for him to come into your life, God will send him.