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William H. Sanford wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • How can Catholic doctrine state that people receive the Holy Spirit during Confirmation when the Scriptures say this?

The Scriptures say: "Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

Acts 2:38

Seems rather plain what the order of events is here. Repent ... be baptized ... and then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Now it is true that all Catholic children are baptized at infancy before Confirmation.

  • How is it possible then for the Catholic receiving Confirmation to have ever repented before Baptism?

An infant cannot do this, plain and simple. It is impossible to effectively baptize a person without his consent, let alone his knowledge.

  • Do you remember being baptized?

I don't remember, nor do I recall repenting before being baptized.

  • How is it possible for me to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost at Confirmation, if I don't follow the method God's Word stipulates as the order of events needed for it proper reception?

William

  { How can Catholic doctrine state that people receive the Holy Spirit during Confirmation? }

Mike replied:

Hi, William —

Thanks for the question.

I believe the Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the answer to your question.

The highlighted portion is my emphasis; I've also given you some context at the end of these quotes.

The Baptism of infants

1250 Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.

1251 Christian parents will recognize that this practice also accords with their role as nurturers of the life that God has entrusted to them.

1252 The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole "households" received baptism, infants may also have been baptized.
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I. Confirmation In The Economy Of Salvation

1286 In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him "without measure."

1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah's, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim "the mighty works of God," and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age. Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.

1288 "From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ's will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church."

1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name "Christian," which means "anointed" and derives from that of Christ himself whom God "anointed with the Holy Spirit." This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means "chrism." In the West, the term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.

Because the Church and the parents would not wish to deny the priceless grace of becoming a child of God, the parents, along with the Church, speak for the child, until [he/she] is of age where they can speak for themselves, at Confirmation.

I hope this answers your question.

Mike Humphrey
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