Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


This Sunday, as several of our parishioners are confirmed, we consider one of the essential prayers in the Rite of Confirmation. Immediately prior to anointing each of the candidates with the Sacred Chrism (holy oil), the bishop prays over them collectively with extended hands, invoking the Holy Spirit:

“Almighty, everlasting God, Who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these Thy servants by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given them remission of all their sins; send forth upon them from heaven Thy sevenfold Holy Ghost, the Paraclete. Amen. The Spirit of wisdom and understanding. Amen. The Spirit of counsel and fortitude. Amen. The Spirit of knowledge and piety. Amen. Fill them with the Spirit of Thy holy fear, and sign them with the sign of the cross (+) of Christ in mercy unto eternal life. Through the same our Lord, etc. Amen.”

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are mentioned together in Isaiah 11:1-2. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1286, “the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission.

How does this concern us? If we read further in Catechism nos. 1287-8, we see the following:

“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...Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.”

“‘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 [.....] the sacrament of Confirmation...perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.’”

It always was and continues to be Our Lord’s intention to endow His Church with “every grace and heavenly blessing,” as we pray in the Roman Canon. It is not simply a matter of Christ being the Savior, and that’s the end of the story. It is Christ’s express will for His disciples to be integral participants in his ongoing saving work. Notice, too, how the prayer speaks of the sevenfold Spirit, not merely seven gifts from the Spirit. In other words, the gifts enable the baptized to share more fully in the very life of God Himself.

Furthermore, the grace of Confirmation is something upon which each Christian may always rely for strength, because it imparts an indelible seal or character which is ordered towards witnessing, as we read in Catechism nos. 1304-5: “...Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of His Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be His witness...‘the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi ex officio)’” (cf. Catechism no. 1274).

St. Paul is talking about this very thing when he prays for his flock in Ephesus:

“In Him you also...were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit [.....] For this reason...I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power in us who believe…” (cf. Eph. 1:13, 15-19, RSV, emphasis mine). 

As is clear, he wants to them to lean into the indelible character they have received, and to grow in the graces imparted to them. When we ask St. Paul to pray for us in the Confiteor, we may rightly think of him praying this prayer on our behalf. 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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