Who May Receive Confirmation and What Is the Proper Age?

Author: Nicholas Halligan

Who May Receive Confirmation and What Is the Proper Age?

(Taken from Book IV Chapter III of the Code of Canon Law)

Chapter III


Can. 889 #1 Every baptized person who is not confirmed, and only such a person, is capable of receiving confirmation.

#2 Apart from the danger of death, to receive confirmation lawfully a person who has the use of reason must be suitably instructed, properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises.

Can. 890 The faithful are bound to receive this sacrament at the proper time. Parents and pastors of souls, especially parish priests, are to see that the faithful are properly instructed to receive the sacrament and come to it at the opportune time.

Can. 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion, unless the Episcopal Conference has decided on a different age, or there is a danger of death or, in the judgment of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise.

(Taken from the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" )


1306 Every baptized person not yet confirmed can and should receive the sacrament of Confirmation.121 Since Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist form a unity, it follows that "the faithful are Obliged to receive this sacrament at the appropriate time,"122 for without Confirmation and Eucharist, Baptism is certainly valid and efficacious, but Christian initiation remains incomplete.

1307 The Latin tradition gives "the age of discretion" as the reference point for receiving Confirmation. But in danger of death children should be confirmed even if they have not yet attained the age of discretion.123

1308 Although Confirmation is sometimes called the "sacrament of Christian maturity," we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need "ratification" to become effective. St. Thomas reminds us of this:

Age of body does not determine age of soul. Even in childhood man can attain spiritual maturity: as the book of Wisdom says: "For old age is not honored for length of time, or measured by number of years." Many children, through the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received, have bravely fought for Christ even to the shedding of their blood.124

1309 Preparation for Confirmation should aim at leading the Christian toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit - his actions, his gifts, and his biddings - in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life. To this end catechesis for Confirmation should strive to awaken a sense of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ, the universal Church as well as the parish community. The latter bears special responsibility for the preparation of confirmands.125

1310 To receive Confirmation one must be in a state of grace. One should receive the sacrament of Penance in order to be cleansed for the gift of the Holy Spirit. More intense prayer should prepare one to receive the strength and graces of the Holy Spirit with docility and readiness to act.126

1311 Candidates for Confirmation, as for Baptism, fittingly seek the spiritual help of a . To emphasize the unity of the two sacrametns, it is appropriate that this be one of the baptismal godpaernets.127


121 Cf. CIC, can. 889 #1.

122 CIC, can. 890.

123 Cf. CIC, cane. 891; 883, 3 .

124 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 72, 8, ad 2; Cf. Wis. 4 8.

125 Cf. OC Introduction 3.

126 Cf. Acts 1:14.

127. Cf. OC Introduction 5; 6; CIC, can. 893 ##1-2.

(Taken from "The Administration of the Sacraments" by Nicholas Halligan, O.P. published by Alba House 1963. Written using the old Code of Canon Law as reference.)

III. Recipient

17. - A. - Outside the Danger of Death. - The ordinary and extraordinary ministers of c. 782 can administer Confirmation to infants and adults outside as well as within the danger of death, unless the extraordinary minister designated by special indult is restricted.

18. - 1. - Qualifications for reception.

a) One who has not received the sacrament of Baptism cannot be validly confirmed; moreover, for the Confirmation to be lawful and fruitful, the recipient must be in the state of grace, and, if he has reached the use of reason, sufficiently instructed.45 An implicit habitual intention suffices for adults. The sacrament revives when an obstacle of serious sin impeding its effect is removed.

b) Those to be confirmed should first be properly instructed in the nature, dignity and effects of this sacrament, and the dispositions necessary to receive it worthily.43 Those who due to age or lack of intelligence cannot remember or follow the instruction may still be confirmed. Heretics and schismatics may not be confirmed unless they have abjured their errors and been reconciled to the Church.

19. - 2. - Obligation of reception. Although this sacrament is not a necessary means of salvation, yet no one is allowed to neglect it when an opportunity to receive it is offered; on the contrary, pastors must take care that the faithful come to be confirmed at a suitable time.47 Confirmation must be received before entering the novitiate of religious 43 or the clerical state,49 and, if possible, before marriage.50

20. - 3. - Ask for Confirmation.

a) In the Latin Church Confirmation should not be conferred until about the seventh year, although it may be conferred sooner if the infant is in danger of death, or if its administration seems to the minister justified for good and serious reasons.51 No other situations are admitted for the administration of the sacrament at an age earlier than about seven.52 On the other hand, the bishop may not forbid the reception of the sacrament before the age of ten years.53 The delay prescribed until the attainment of the use of reason is to provide for proper instruction and more fruitful dispositions.

b) It is preferable that Confirmation be received before First Holy Communion. If First Communion was received before Confirmation could be opportunely received, then frequent reception of Holy Communion may not be prevented.54

21. - 4.-New name. It is customary for the recipient of Confirmation to receive a new name.55 Even when Confirmation immediately follows Baptism, this request for a new name must be granted. The new name is recorded in the proper place in the Confirmation register.

22.—B. - IN DANGER OF DEATH. - The general indult Spiritus Sancti munera" makes Confirmation more available than does canon 782 for those who are in danger of dying without having received it. In addition to the presence of valid baptism, minimum intention and opportune instruction, the recipient of the sacrament in virtue of this indult must possess other requirements.

23. - 1. - Territory. To receive Confirmation validly the recipient must be "actually staying in the territory of these ministers" empowered to confirm.

24. - 2. - Danger of death. It is also required "that the faithful in question are in true danger of death from grave illness from which it may be foreseen they will die." In practice, the prudent (even though not necessarily certain) judgment of the existence of a real and grave danger of death must be made by the minister56 and according to the norms used in Extreme Unction. It has already been noted that the "Spiritus Sancti munera," as extended to missionary priests, does not seem to restrict the danger of death to an internal source.

25. - 3. - Persons.

a) Both infants and adults are included. "Those to be confirmed who have attained the use of reason require from canon 786, in addition to being in a state of grace, the dispositions and knowledge necessary for receiving this sacrament fruitfully. It is for the minister, therefore, to give the necessary instruction to sick people according to their capabilities, and to arouse in them an adequate intention of receiving this sacrament for the strengthening of their souls. If later they are restored to health, those whose duty it is must provide opportune instructions for them in the mysteries of the faith, and on the nature and effects of this sacrament."

b) Since both "Spiritus Sancti munera" and the terms of its extension to missionary priests speak only of the "faithful" as the recipients of this benefit, Confirmation may not be validly conferred on heretics or schismatics before they are reconciled to the Church. Some commentators hold that such an administration would be valid but gravely unlawful. It seems that an infant of non-Catholic parents, who is being lawfully baptized in danger of death when there seems to be no possibility of survival, may be confirmed, if scandal is avoided.57


45. C. 786.

46. Appendix ii, N. 7.

47. C. 787.

48. C. 544, 1.

49. CC. 974, 1, 1; 993, 1.

50 C. 1021, 2.

51. C. 788.

52. PCI 16 iun. 1931. Contrary customs are sometimes tolerated for a time, but there is to be instruction given and effort made to bring about normal conditions.

53. PCI 26 mart. 1952. The custom of delaying Confirmation until twelve or fourteen years is not approved by the Church (S. C. Sac. 30 iun. 1932).

54 S. C. Sac. 30 iun. 1932; cf. also 20 maii 1934.

55. S. C. Rit. 20 sept. 1749, ad 7. A name which is indecent or unfitting a Christian should be changed in Confirmation. (S.C.P.F. 4 mai 1774)

56. Cf. S. C. Sac. 6 mart. 1947.

57. Cf. cc. 750; 751.

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