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The Last Sacraments
"Then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost"
(Acts viii. 17).
BEFORE the coming of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost, the apostles were weak
and vacillating. One of them betrayed his Master for thirty pieces of
silver; another--the Prince of the Apostles, he whom Christ afterward
made head of His Church--thrice denied his Lord and his God.
After the descent of the Holy Ghost, what a change! What a wonderful
transformation! They who before had been as timid as the lamb, as
changeable as the chameleon's hue, became now as bold as the lion, as
firm as Gibraltar's rock.
In a similar way does Confirmation act on the receiver. Confirmation is
that sacrament in which, by the imposition of the bishop's hands, we
receive the Holy Ghost to make us strong and perfect Christians and
soldiers of Jesus Christ. It is the second in the order of the
sacraments, because the early Christians were accustomed to receive it
immediately after Baptism. In the 8th chapter of the Acts of the
Apostles we find the first recorded instance of the administering of
Confirmation by the apostles. Here we are told that St. Peter and St.
John confirmed the Samaritans who had been baptized by Philip. "They
prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. . . . Then they
laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost." In a
similar way does the bishop, the successor of the apostles, administer
Confirmation at the present day. First, he turns toward those to be
confirmed and says: "May the Holy Ghost come down upon you and the power
of the Most High keep you from sin." Then extending his hands over them
he prays that they may receive the Holy Ghost.
In the 6th verse of the 19th chapter of the Acts the sacred writer,
after telling about the baptism of the disciples at Ephesus, adds: "And
when Paul had laid his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came on them." In
the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews St. Paul mentions
Confirmation, the laying on of hands, with Baptism and Penance, as among
the principal practices of Christianity.
The sacrament of Confirmation has been administered to the faithful of
every age from the time of Christ until the present. We learn this from
the Fathers and writers of the various ages. Among them St. Clement
says: "All must make haste to be confirmed by a bishop, and receive the
sevenfold grace of the Holy Ghost." The practice of administering
Confirmation is founded on tradition, then, as well as on Scripture. Is
it not reasonable to believe and practise that which the Christian
Church of every age believed and practised?
The apostles of Christ administered Confirmation by praying that the
faithful may receive the Holy Ghost and laying their hands upon them.
The successors of the apostles do likewise. Who will say that this
practice is not reasonable? Baptism gives spiritual life; Confirmation
increases it. Baptism makes persons children of God; Confirmation
strengthens them, causes them to grow, and makes them strong men and
soldiers of Jesus Christ.
All the morality of life is implied in the sacrament of Confirmation. It
strengthens man, it gives him courage to confess God; and as sin is the
denial of God, whoever has courage to confess God will practise
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