The Baltimore Catechism
Lesson 15: ON CONFIRMATION
A. Confirmation is a Sacrament through which we receive the Holy Ghost to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.
In Baptism we are made Christians, but we are not very strong in our faith till the Holy Ghost comes in Confirmation. You remember how timid the Apostles were before the coming of the Holy Ghost, and how firm and determined in their faith they were afterwards; and how fearlessly they preached even to those who crucified Our Lord. “Soldiers,” because we must fight for our salvation against our three enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh. Our Lord is our great leader in this warfare, and we must follow Him and fight as He directs. A soldier that fights as he pleases and not as his general commands, will surely be beaten.
A. The bishop is the ordinary minister of Confirmation.
“Ordinary,” because in some very distant countries where on account of the small number of Christians they have as yet no bishops, the Pope allows some priest to give Confirmation; but then he must use the holy oil consecrated by a bishop, and cannot consecrate oil himself.
A. The bishop extends his hands over those who are to be confirmed, prays that they may receive the Holy Ghost, and anoints the forehead of each with holy chrism in the form of a cross.
A. Holy chrism is a mixture of olive oil and balm, consecrated by the bishop.
The oil signifies the strength we receive, and the balm that we should be free from the corruption of sin, and give forth the sweetness of virtue.
A. In anointing the person he confirms the bishop says: I sign thee with the Sign of the Cross, and I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
A. By anointing the forehead with chrism in the form of a cross is meant, that the Christian who is confirmed must openly profess and practice his faith, never be ashamed of it, and rather die than deny it.
“Openly profess” that is, acknowledge that he is a Catholic when it is necessary to do so. He need not proclaim it in the streets. “Practice” it without regard for what other people think, say, or do. “Ashamed” of a religion so glorious as the Catholic religion? Would we not be proud to belong to a society of which kings and princes were members? Well, a few centuries ago nearly all the kings, princes, and great men of the earth were Catholics. All the saints were Catholics. All the Popes were Catholics. At present over three hundred million people in the world are Catholics. This Church was founded when Christ Our Lord was on earth, and is nearly two thousand years old. All the other churches are only a few hundred years old. We ought, therefore, to be proud of our religion, for which and in which so many noble persons died. We should feel proud that we are Catholics; while Protestants should feel ashamed in our presence, for they have deserted the true standard of Christ, and followed some other leader who set up a religion of his own in opposition to the true Church of Our Lord. They will not have the cross or crucifix, the standard of Christ, in their churches or houses or about their persons, and yet they claim to be Christians redeemed by the Cross. We are called upon to defend or profess our religion when we have to do what the Church and God require us to do: for example, hear Mass on Sundays and holy days; abstain from the use of fleshmeat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent, fast on fast-days, and the like, when we are among persons not Catholics.
A. The bishop gives the person he confirms a slight blow on the cheek to put him in mind that he must be ready to suffer anything, even death, for the sake of Christ.
A. To receive Confirmation worthily it is necessary to be in the state of grace.
A. Persons of an age to learn should know the chief mysteries of faith and the duties of a Christian, and be instructed in the nature and effects of this Sacrament.
How can one be a good soldier who does not know the rules and regulations of the army nor understand the commands of his general? How can one be a good Christian who does not understand the laws of the Church and the teachings of Christ? The “nature”–that is, understand the Sacrament itself. “Effects” that is, what it does in our souls.
A. It is a sin to neglect Confirmation, especially in these evil days when faith and morals are exposed to so many and such violent temptations.
“Temptations”–from the sayings and writings of the enemies of religion. To neglect it when we have an opportunity of receiving it without any very great difficulty would be a sin. When persons have been unfortunate enough to grow up without Confirmation, they should come at any time in their lives to receive it, and not be ashamed to do so on account of their age or condition in life.
A. The effects of Confirmation are an increase of sanctifying grace, the strengthening of our faith, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
“Increase;” because we must be in a state of grace, that is, having already sanctifying grace in our souls when we receive Confirmation. “Strengthening’ ” so that we have no doubt about the doctrines we believe.
A. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
A. We receive the gift of fear of the Lord to fill us with a dread of sin.
On account of the goodness of God and the punishment He can inflict.
A. We receive the gift of piety to make us love God as a Father, and obey Him because we love Him.
A. We receive the gift of knowledge to enable us to discover the will of God in all things.
A. We receive the gift of fortitude to strengthen us to do the will of God in all things.
Some know the will of God-what they should do-but they have not the courage to follow the dictates of their conscience. For example, a person goes with bad company: the gift of knowledge will teach him that he should give it up; but the gift of fortitude will enable him to do what his conscience shows him to be right.
A. We receive the gift of counsel to warn us of the deceits of the devil, and of the dangers to salvation.
The devil is much wiser than we are, and has much more experience, being among the people of the world ever since the time of Adam-about 6,000 years. He could therefore easily deceive and overcome us if God Himself by the gift of counsel did not enable us to discover his tricks and expose his plots. When at times we are tempted, our conscience warns us, and if we follow the warning we shall escape the sin. Counsel tells us when persons or places are dangerous for our salvation.
A. We receive the gift of understanding to enable us to know more clearly the mysteries of faith.
“Mysteries,” truths we could never know by reason, but only by the teaching of God; and the gift of understanding enables us to know better what His teaching means. The Apostles heard and knew what Our Lord taught, but they did not fully understand the whole meaning till the Holy Ghost had come.
A. We receive the gift of wisdom to give us a relish for the things of God and to direct our whole life and all our actions to His honor and glory.
“Relish,” a liking for, a desire for.
A. The beatitudes are:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
- Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.
- Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall be filled.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
- Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
The beatitudes are part of a sermon Our Lord once preached to the people on the Mount. (Matt. 5). When Our Lord wished to preach, the Jews would not always allow Him to enter their synagogues or meeting houses; so He preached to the people in the open air. Sometimes He stood in a boat by the seashore; sometimes on a little hill, with the people standing or sitting near Him. Did you ever think how you would have acted if you lived at that time and were present when Our Lord preached? How anxious you would have been to get near to Him? How you would have pushed your way through the crowd and listened to every word? Why, then, do you sometimes pay so little attention in church or at instructions when the words of Our Lord are repeated to you? Our Lord instituted a Church which, as we know, is sometimes called the kingdom of Heaven. In this sermon He laid down the condition for being good subjects of His kingdom; that is, He gives the virtues we should practice to be good children of the Church. He tells us what rewards we shall have for practicing these virtues and leading a holy life: namely, God’s grace and blessing in this world and everlasting glory in Heaven.
- (1) “Poor in spirit.” One is poor in spirit if he does not set his heart upon riches and the goods of this world in such a way that he would be willing to offend God in order to possess them, or rather than part with them. Thus one who has no money but who would do anything to get it, would be poor, but not poor in spirit, and therefore not among those Our Lord calls blessed. If we are really poor and wish to be poor in spirit also, we must be contented with our lot–with what God gives us–and never complain against Him. No matter how poor, miserable, or afflicted we may be, we could still be worse, since we can find others in a worse condition than we are. We do not endure every species of misery, but only this or that particular kind; and if the rest were added, how much worse our condition would be! The very greatest misery is to be in a state of sin. If we are poor and in sin, our condition is indeed pitiable, for we have no consolation; but if we are virtuous in poverty, bearing our trials in patience and resignation for the love of God, we have the rich treasures of His grace and every assurance of future happiness. On the other hand, if one is very rich and gives freely and plentifully to the poor and works of charity, and is willing to part with riches rather than offend God, such a one is poor in spirit and can be called blessed. It is a great mistake to risk our souls for things we must leave to others at our death. Sometimes those who leave the greatest inheritance are soonest forgotten and despised, because the money or property bequeathed gives rise to numerous lawsuits, quarrels and jealousies among the relatives, and thus becomes a very curse to that family, whose members hate one another on its account. Or it may happen that the heirs thoughtlessly enjoy and foolishly squander the wealth the man, now dead, has labored so hard to accumulate, while he, perhaps, is suffering in Hell for sins committed in securing it. Again, how many children have been ruined through the wealth left them by their parents! Instead of using it for good purposes they have made it a means of sin; often lose their faith and souls on account of it; and in their ingratitude never offer a prayer or give an alms for the soul of the parent, who in his anxiety to leave all to them left nothing in charity to the Church or the poor. Surely it is the greatest folly to set our hearts upon that which can be of no value to us after death. When a person dies men ask: What wealth has he left behind? But God and the angels ask, What merits has he sent before him?
- (2) “Possess the land”–that is, the promised or holy land, which was a figure of the Church. Therefore it means the meek shall be true members of Our Lord’s Church here on earth and hereafter in Heaven, and be beloved by all.
- (3) “That mourn:” Suffering is good for us if we bear it patiently. It makes us more like Our Blessed Lord, who was called the Man of Sorrows.
- (4) “Justice”–that is, all kinds of virtue. “Filled”–that is, with goodness and grace. In other words,
- if we ask and really wish to become virtuous, we shall become so. St. Joseph is called in Holy Scripture “a just man, to show that he practiced every virtue.
- (5) If we are “merciful” to others, God will be merciful to us.
- (6) “Clean of heart’!–that is, pure in thoughts, words, deeds, and looks.
- (7) “Peacemakers:’ If persons who try to make peace and settle disputes are called the children of God, those who, on the contrary, try to stir up dissensions should be called the children of the devil. Never tell the evil you may hear of another, especially to the one of whom it was spoken; and never carry stories from one to another: it is contemptible, and sinful as well. If you have nothing good to say of the character of another, be silent, unless your duty compels you to speak. Never be a child of the devil by exciting jealousy, hatred, or revenge in anyone; but on the contrary, make peace wherever you can, and be one of the children of God.
- (8) “Suffer persecution:’ Therefore, when you are badly treated on account of your piety or religion, remember you are like the martyrs of your holy faith, suffering for virtue and truth, and that you will receive your reward.
A. The twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost are charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity.
“Fruits,” the things that grow from the gifts of the Holy Ghost. “Charity,” love of God and. our neighbor, “Peace” with God and man and ourselves. With God, because we are His friends. With man, because we deal justly with all and are kind to all. With ourselves, because we have a good conscience, that does not accuse us of sin. “Benignity,” disposition to do good and show kindness. “Long-suffering”–same as patience. “Modesty, continency, and chastity” refer to purity in thoughts, words, looks, and actions.