Sunday, November 25, 2007

Review: The Sacrament of Confirmation For Confirmation Candidates

The Sacrament of Confirmation For Confirmation Candidates by ESD (Edizioni Studio Domenicano) in collaboration with the Institute of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, 2006, New Hope Publications, 107 pages, Softcover, Catholic.

If you are looking for a concise, thorough, and orthodox (faithful to the teachings of the Church) resource for the sacrament of Confirmation, The Sacrament of Confirmation For Confirmation Candidates fits the bill.

The book is divided into three parts. The 1st section covers what the sacrament of Confirmation is and the rite and its effects, providing a basic understanding of the sacrament in question and answer form. The 2nd section breaks down the creed as it explains the truths of the Catholic faith. This also is presented in question and answer form. The 3rd section discusses the witnesses or martyrs of the faith as well as highlights the lives of a few, selected saints.

A sample question and answer from Part I is “When did Jesus institute the sacrament? After having promised this sacrament, Jesus instituted Confirmation on the day of Pentecost when He sent the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and Mary gathered in the Cenacle. The Apostles immediately began to preach and make known their faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.”

Other questions in Part I include, “How is the sacrament of Confirmation conferred? What is chrism? What are the names of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit? and many more.”

I particularly like the way they break down the creed into question and answer form in Part II, giving depth and meaning to the creed as they explain many truths of our faith. Many of these questions are not your typical questions and others are often posed to Catholics, making this a helpful appolgetics tool. “Is faith the only way to know that God exists? How can our reason prove the existence of God? Why do we say that God is Father? What does the expression ‘Mother of God’ mean in reference to the Virgin Mary?” and many more.

The spotlight on a few selected saints in Part III also serves as a starting point for candidates to pick their confirmation names, inspired by the holiness of the saints’ lives.

My one and only quibble with the text is the use of the expression “adult, mature Christians” when describing Confirmation. “Confirmation makes us perfect Christians, that is adult, mature Christians.” I think this terminology can lead to misunderstanding about this sacrament. The text does go on to explain that “Confirmation, therefore, by its very nature, ought to be celebrated before the Eucharist, that is, before First Communion. However, for serious pastoral reasons, in many countries it is celebrated later in order to assure adolescents a longer religious formation.”

I think the expression “adult, mature Christians” creates confusion because people think the child needs to choose this sacrament as a sign of adulthood, instead of spiritual maturity. Also, in the Eastern Rites the child does not even need to be the age of reason to receive Confirmation and is usually an infant.

Question #5 does address this issue. “Why do we say that Confirmation is the sacrament of adulthood? We do not say this because the sacrament must necessarily be received by adults, but because it enables us to bear witness to and defend the faith to others. This is proper to adulthood, though spiritual adulthood does not necessarily coincide with bodily age.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church #1308 also clarifies this point. “Although Confirmation is sometimes called the ‘sacrament of Christian maturity,’ we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth. . .” Because of space I urge you to read the rest of the quote.

Almost every page includes a colorful illustration, which brings to life the points of the text. One of the best examples of this is when the text discusses the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. We see a galley ship with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit written on the sails and seven virtues of the Holy Spirit written on the oars. Underneath the picture we read, “The virtues are like oars which propel the boat forward with great effort; the gifts of the Spirit are like sails which push the boat forward without any effort on the part of the rowers.” While the illustrations are not outstanding, they are quaint and colorful.

The logical presentation of the facts written in easy to understand language makes this book accessible for any age Confirmation candidate. More than rote questions for the candidate to memorize, the questions in this book provoke the candidate to reflect on the truths of the faith.

This book could be used in either a classroom or homeschool setting. When the time comes, I plan to use this with my children who are preparing for Confirmation.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Yank (11/25/2007)

Available from Hillside Education.

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