Confirmation

What does Confirmation add that you didn't receive in Baptism?

Confirmation strengthens the life that a Christian receives in Baptism.

But doesn't every virtuous, meritorious deed strengthen the grace of Baptism?

Yes, but Confirmation is more super-abundant and all-encompassing. At conception you are made a child of your parents, but at puberty, when you reach adolescence, the life that you received from your parents gains a new force because the life that you have from conception, all of a sudden becomes a life-giving force at adolescence. An adolescent is capable of bringing forth offspring. God does not simply want us to be His children. He wants us to go out and make others His children. He wants to give us His life, but He wants us to experience the life-giving power of that life and to share it with others.

Confirmation, then, is what makes us supernaturally effective apostles, witnesses and soldiers of Christ. It makes the life of Christ fruitful within our souls. It gives us, through a Sacrament, a divine mission, a call from God whereby we step out in Faith from spiritual childhood to spiritual maturity. It is other than simply being a child, and it is prior to Holy Orders or Matrimony (which specify the vocation even further). But, it is a true vocation, and in particular, it is an Apostolic vocation.

It should be noted that the Church does not regard Confirmation as a rite of passage, nor as akin to a Jewish barmitzvah, nor as a booster grace for adolescence, nor as a public personal acceptance of the baptismal promises (the last idea is subject to an anathema from the Council of Trent against the Anglican and Lutheran idea of Confirmation).

Why Confirm at 12 when the normative age for Confirmation in the Roman Rite is 7?

Confirmation is more for others, where Baptism is more for self. A Confirmed child of God has a mission to evangelise others so that the Mystical Body of Christ receives an increase in its members. This explains the Latin Rite (for pastoral reasons) often Confirming adolescents rather than at a younger age. Younger children are less able to fully appreciate the apostolic responsibility that Confirmation demands. Whilst Confirmation should not be regarded as a booster for adolescence, it should be noted that Confirming a 12 year old is an opportune moment: just when all the temptations of adolescence are assailing the pubescent youth, the Church bestows on the young person an increase in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable him or her to confess Christ boldly and never be ashamed of the Cross. Confirmation is normally the last of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, and so it is helpful (but not essential) that young people are mature enough to make a personal pledge of the Baptismal Promises of which they were not personally aware at their infant Baptism.

What is the point of Confirmation & why does the Church make a big deal about it?

Imagine the situation in the Early Church when people were being baptised. For an adult Christian, just baptised, the possibility of death was very real. It makes complete sense that after the initial Sacrament of Initiation (ie Baptism) the new Christian would be sealed, confirmed, patted on the back (slapped on the face in a caring way) by the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands of the Apostles (Acts 19:5-6). Acts 8: 14-17 'For it (the Holy Spirit) had not yet fallen on them, but they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they (the Apostles) laid their hands on them (newly baptised converts) and they received the Holy Spirit.' It is therefore logical that the Church should always in every age make available such a Sacrament because spiritual warfare continues at all times. The Sacrament of Confirmation can be explained in terms of what non-Christians have been doing down through the centuries whenever they become judges, doctors, citizens, soldiers or rulers. The Sacraments make us citizens of the kingdom, soldiers of Christ. The Church's war with the world, the flesh and the Devil becomes our affair when we are Confirmed. The Church on Earth is the Church Militant (see the Novus Ordo Baptismal Liturgy: "and fight the devil in all his cunning" - alternative prayer of exorcism; CCC 405,407, 409, 1090, 2015, 2516.)

A Sacrament is a Covenant Oath. The word 'sacramentum' in Latin means oath. It is a pledge of oneself where you swear to live the truth and nothing but the truth. You ask for God's help. You invoke God's name. God comes to you as witness, guarantor and judge. He gives you the power that you need to perform what you have sworn. But then He judges that performance as well. A Sacrament is a promise and a plea. You promise God that you will be faithful, but you also ask His help that you will keep your promise. A Sacrament is a bodily sign instituted by Christ to give grace. We need to see the sign of the Sacrament otherwise we would have no way of knowing whether or not we had received the grace being conferred. Grace is super-sensible (above our senses, beyond our physical nature's ability to sense it). Christ has given us bodily signs of the reception of His grace because our material-bound natures are incapable of being aware of it.

Soldiers are made to swear oaths before they are inducted into the military because you always put somebody under oath when you can't trust them but you have to. In a court room you put people under oath, just like with a Sacrament: you make God a promise ("I solemnly swear to …"), and you plea to God for help ("So, help me God"). Politicians, judges and physicians are put under oaths because you are giving them something that exceeds their own natural power. You are trusting them more than they can be trusted on their own, but you are also ensuring that they will no longer be on their own.

Although it is always a sin, you can lie any old time of day, unless you tell a lie in a court-room under oath. That makes you a perjurer and a criminal because you have broken your sworn oath. A soldier under oath on the battle-field who decides to desert can be shot on sight. His act is contrary to everything the army needs. Sacraments makes us everything that oaths make men in the natural realm, only they make us those things in the supernatural realm. Confirmation gives a sense of nobility, dignity and urgency. The gravity of Confirmation is brought home to any young person who is serious about the Faith. The war is one of love.

Confirmation:

- completes the grace of Baptism and increases in us the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

- roots us more deeply in God's family and enrols us into Christ's service for ever

- incorporates us more firmly into Christ and marks our total belonging to Him

- strengthens our bond with the Church and protects us in the great eschatological trial

- associates us more with the Church's mission by obliging us to spread the Faith

- enriches us with a special strength of the Holy Spirit that helps us to defend the Faith

- imprints an indelible spiritual mark on a Christian soul - sealed by the Holy Spirit

References:
Hahn, Sheed, Tierney & Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 1285 " 1321

* Please note that this text should be read in the context of the whole work and in recognition of the appropriate paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlighted in the index.