In the early Church,
Initiation (that is, the rite of being made
a member of the Church) took on many different forms
– but it always included Baptism
with water. However, the baptism
in water was often – if not always –
accompanied by other things, including laying
on of hands and anointing
with oil. There are many different examples
and images of this sequence in the New
However, the usual format for Christian Initiation
soon became Baptism with water, followed by Anointing
and Laying on of Hands.
laying on of hands bit became the sole privilege
of the Bishop,
and as the church began to grow, the possibility
of a bishop being around every time a Baptism happened
was impossible! So the Laying on of Hands and Anointing
became separated in time, until the bishop could
get there to complete what had begun in Baptism!
It’s this model that has determined what happens
today. Most people will have been Baptised as a
baby or young child, and so Confirmation
is delayed to give the individual an opportunity
to make a mature expression of faith,
and take on for themselves the promises made for
them by their godparents.
However, if the person hasn’t been baptised
then it’s preferable that Baptism and Confirmation
is celebrated at the same time.
Since the two belong together, both rites are the
means by which they are filled with the Holy
Spirit. At Confirmation, we ask that the Holy
Spirit fill them with new strength so that they
can carry on the life that has begun at their Baptism
and continue to follow Jesus.
are lots of changes happening with Christian Initiation
at the moment, including various ‘experimental’
models such as lowering or raising the age at which
young people are Confirmed, and lowering the age
at which they receive Communion.
Some parishes have
been given permission to try out giving children
communion at a younger age, say 8 or 9 years, and
then confirming them when they are a bit older.
This is what happens in the Roman
Whatever happens in your parish, the whole activity
of being Baptised, Confirmed and receiving Communion
should all be seen as a whole - where people are
initiated into the life of the Church and celebrate
the saving death
of Christ, as a Church Community.