By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Many Catholic parents go to great lengths to ensure their children are baptized, and they must make similar efforts to see that their children are confirmed, Pope Francis said.
Without confirmation, he said, young people will remain “halfway” on the path of Christian maturity and membership in the church.
Confirmation “unites us more solidly to Christ. It completes our bond with the church,” Pope Francis said Jan. 29 at his weekly general audience.
The sacrament “gives us the special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith, to confess the name of Christ and to never be ashamed of his cross,” the pope said.
Confirmation solidifies and increases the grace given at baptism, “which is why it’s important to make sure our children and young people receive this sacrament. We all make sure that our children are baptized, which is good, but perhaps we’re not quite so diligent in making sure they are confirmed.”
“If you have a child or young person at home who hasn’t been confirmed and is the right age to receive the sacrament, do everything possible to make sure it happens,” he said.
Especially for those who were baptized as infants, the pope said, confirmation is a time to affirm one’s personal decision to follow Christ and to be a member of his church.
Pope Francis told the crowd, estimated by the Vatican at about 25,000 people, that the Holy Spirit, “so important for the Christian life,” is given to believers in a special way through confirmation.
The Bible and Catholic tradition speak of seven specific gifts of the Holy Spirit, the pope said, but he promised not to give the crowd a pop quiz by asking people to list them. Instead, he gave the answers: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
Through the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said, “Christ himself is present in us and takes form in our lives. Through us, he is the one — listen carefully — he is the one who prays, forgives, spreads hope and consolation, serves our brothers and sisters, draws close to the needy and the least, creates unity and sows peace.”
At the end of the audience, Pope Francis greeted members of an Italian national association dedicated to fighting usury and loan sharking. When a family can’t eat because they are paying exorbitant interest rates, he said, “this is not Christian. This is not humane!”