More than 2,000 years ago the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in the Upper Room and has been guiding the Church ever since.
The Spirit the Apostles received then is the same Spirit that fortifies thousands of people in the Diocese of Phoenix each year, through the sacrament of confirmation.
“Confirmation is an unleashing of the Holy Spirit in our lives,” said Fr. Daniel McBride, VF, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Chandler. “Prior to the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they are timid and confused. And yet as soon as they receive, they are bold, great preachers that are ready to face the world.”
The sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist are interrelated and all three are required for full Christian initiation.
Christians are born anew by baptism, strengthened by confirmation and receive food for eternal life in the Eucharist.
In the Diocese of Phoenix, children in third grade are confirmed and receive holy Communion, mostly during the springtime months.
Pentecost is celebrated this year on Sunday, June 8.
The Church teaches that through the sacrament of confirmation, there is a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the faithful and they are given strength to share the Good News.
“Receptivity of the Holy Spirit is probably the most critical,” Fr. McBride said. “Hearts need to be open to the gifts because oftentimes people open a gift and put it back up on the shelf in the closet. They don’t realize it’s for every day.”
The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are: wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, and awe and wonder.
During a general audience last month in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis recalled how Jesus told His disciples He would send the Holy Spirit to help them understand everything He had taught them.
The pope said the Holy Spirit “opens our minds” and “opens us to understand better the things of God, human things, situations, all things.”
Juan Pablo Garcia Flores knows confirmation is an encounter with Christ.
“What I’ve learned about the Holy Spirit is He is Jesus and He will work in our lives by giving us grace and gifts of wisdom,” he said.
The third-grade student at Most Holy Trinity School went on to say he is particularly focused on one gift.
“The gift of wisdom. It helps you to avoid the things that can lead you away from God,” he said.
Mary Mirrione, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd national director and catechist at St. Anne Parish in Gilbert, prepares third-graders for the sacrament of confirmation.
She, like Fr. Peter Dobrowski, pastor of St. Margaret Mary in Bullhead City, are witnesses to how the Holy Spirit works through the body of Christ.
Fr. Dobrowski said confirming Catholics at a young age is important because of the violent culture children are raised in, comparing it to the era of persecution in Mexico.
“The Church survived persecution in Mexico because the majority of people were confirmed in their faith,” he said. “Now more than ever we need to confirm our members. We are facing a culture of death and many of them are not confirmed.”
Mirrione told the story of how one young girl came back to her seat crying after receiving the sacrament.
“This little girl had tears coming down her face. I’m watching, I’m wondering what happened and I’m concerned,” Mirrione said. “She comes to the pew and I ask her why she was crying. She answered, ‘He anoints my head with oil. My cup overflows.’
“We are not just preparing them to celebrate the sacrament on that day,” Mirrione said, “we are preparing them to live this out for the rest of their lives.”
At Mass it is the Holy Spirit that transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, forms us in prayer and guides the Church so it can teach without error.
And it’s the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who continually empowers the faithful to boldly share the Gospel message.
“Your life will be different after you’re confirmed,” Fr. McBride said. “Expect it.”