Confirmation is a Catholic sacrament of mature Christian commitment and a deepening of baptismal gifts. Like Baptism and Eucharist, it is a Sacrament of Initiation for Catholics and a Sacrament of faith in God's fidelity to us.
In the earliest tradition of Christianity, Confirmation did not exist a a sacramental ritual until the SIXTH century. At that time, Confirmation was reserved only for tho e who chose, a adult, to become followers of Christ. By the 12th century, Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist were recognized as the sacraments of initiation into the faith community. Then, as now, adult candidate for Confirmation were called catechumens and were required to enroll in a course of study on the teachings of Christ, the Scriptures and the Church. After a period of scrutinie , they became formal members of the Church by receiving the Sacrament of Baptism, the Eucharist and Confirmation. The e rite are till celebrated on the vigil (eve) of Easter.
The practice of instructing new catechumens deteriorated and/or was abandoned for many years. Pope John XXIII, at age 77 called for a world wide Church to convene a Second Vatican Council II (October 1962-1965). He felt deeply about the Church's need for updating, reform and renewal. He was a dreamer and a visionary. Though in office les than 5 years, hi pontificate embraced the reform of the Church and the roles of the laity in the Modem World.
Prior to Vatican II the distinction of role between the clergy and the laity was evidenced and symbolized in the church by the altar rail, which separated the sanctuary from the laity. The sanctuary became the domain of the male clergy where rite, ritual, liturgy and sacrament were celebrated. The pews became the venue of the laity. Except for the clergy,the Eucharist could not be touched by lay hand . Communion was placed on the tongue to be swallowed a quickly as possible. The bible was hardly recognized by or used in the homes of Catholic Christians. The Sunday scriptures were the same readings year after year. There was little or no congregational singing and the Mas was offered in the silent mode and in Latin. Religious in truction of youth was a umed to have been completed after receiving the sacrament of Confirmation. The laity continued a passive role in ministry. The old mantra of the good Catholic Christian's responibility was to "pay, pray and obey."
Pope John xxm agonized over what he perceived a an appalling neglect of the Sacred Scriptures by Catholic scholars and their spiritual efficacy in Living and preaching the Word of God. He decried the divisivene s among the Churches/religions and called upon the dissenter to join together for ministry, ecumenism, interfaith dialogue and re pect for our common love for God and Hi people. He felt deeply about the need for reform of the Liturgy and elevating the role of the laity in the world and the Church. Among the distinctive teachings of Vatican II on the laity are the following:
- The Church is the whole People of God, not ju t the hierarchy, clergy and religious
- The laity must participate directly in the mission of the Church, which i not the exclusive mission of the hierarchy
- The Church's mission includes action on behalf of justice and peace and is not limited to the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments
- The Church include all Christians and i not limited excluively to the Catholic Church
After Pope John XXIII's death, Pope Paul VI continued the implementation of Pope 10hn's initiatives and decrees. Perhaps Paul VI's greatest contribution to Vatican II was hi Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modem World (1965). It i a powerful document which respect humankind, reveres the dignity of every human per on, respects the individual's conscience rightly judged as the final arbiter in individual and social relationships and the well being of the human family.