(No Man Is an Island)
Peace be to you.
The greatest untapped reservoir of spiritual power is to be found in the Christian laity.
- It is mainly through the laity that the Church enters into the world. Laymen and laywomen are the meeting place of the Christian and the non-Christian.
- They are the bond between the sacred and the profane, the religious and the sacred. The laity fulfills his Christian vocation in the world.
- When he comes to Church, he receives Life and Truth and Grace.
- He receives them for service, service in the world.
- And in the world this Christian Truth and Grace and Life of his comes into an encounter with other men who may lack it or, certainly, its richness.
- The Christian vocation is the exercise of the ordinary manifestations of life in such a way that the Glory of God is made manifest.
There is, of course, a two-fold danger.
- One is that on the one hand the Christian laity may form a kind of a ghetto, that is to say, consider their religious activities to be confined only within the Church in keeping the commandments, and Christians huddled together in a kind of an igloo, completely divorcing Faith and action.
- The other extreme would be to become so worldly that they can do nothing with it.
Now the result of this separation, I mean the separation of religion and the world, is that culture has emancipated itself from Christ and become demonic.
If the laity are to be effective, they have to do three things.
1. First of all, they have to be conscious of the fact that they are members of the people of God; that they belong to a worshiping community.
2. And secondly, they must be theologically literate. St. Peter said they should be able to give a reason for the Faith that is in them. (2 Peter 1:10-14)
3. And thirdly, they must communicate with the world as Christians. As Christians, they are involved with the world. As John Donne so beautifully put it:
“No man is an island entire and of itself. Every man is a piece of a continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if the manners or friends of thine own house were. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind. Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (Devotions XVII)
Ø No one, therefore, can expect to fulfill his Christian vocation or attain any kind of personal integrity in the modern world who is not at home with computers, with slums, with races, with world affairs, with everything.
Where the Gospel intersects the world, it is the laity who stand at that point.
- As the Cross stood at the intersection of the culture of the civilizations of Athens, Jerusalem and Rome, the laity cross all frontiers and they do this in the name of Christ.
- As we see the laity come into Church on Sundays, we ask them, do they really love one another?
- Are they a unified element in the community?
- Are they coming together just to fulfill an obligation, trying to avoid immortal sin, rather than to come and strengthen and feed a Life, which they ought to spread?
- Are they seeking a kind of selfish sanctification, forgetful that our Blessed Lord said, “For their sakes do I sanctify Myself.”? (John 17: 18-20)
- Will they be very much like everyone else that is around them except for just this weekly habit of coming to Church?
- When others look at this band of the faithful, will they think, “I ought to be like them; I ought to have their love and their truth and their inner peace?”
Too often it’s just the opposite.
Comprehension that our Blessed Lord was not crucified in a cathedral :
***So the laity, therefore, will have to come to a comprehension that our Blessed Lord was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles but in the world on a roadway, in a town garbage heap, at the crossroads where there were languages written upon the cross***.
Yes, they were Hebrew, Latin and Greek, but they could just as well have been English, or Bantu, or Afrikaans, it would make no difference.
- He placed Himself at the very center of the world, in the midst of smut and thieves and soldiers and gamblers and He was there to extend pardon to them.
This is the vocation of the laity: to make Christ known in the world.
- If, then, it be granted that the laity must go in the world, where will they find their power, their wisdom, and their courage in order to be witnesses to Christ?
- If they are just left to their own power, they would be as weak as the apostles were, nine of them away from the garden and three in the garden sleeping.
- Since over and above the natural life there is a Divine or Supernatural Life, there should be a sacrament, some visible sign by which they contact the Power and the Merits of Christ.
- Some kind of channel that will pour away from Calvary down into their own souls to make them strong.
- Let’s go back now into the natural order and you will recall that for living, one, a person must be born. Secondly, he must grow to maturity; he must assume the responsibilities of the society in which he lives. Since over and above the natural life there is a Divine or Supernatural Life, one, we must be born to that Divine or Supernatural Life and that is the Sacrament of Baptism.
- And then we have to grow into the Supernatural Life, and the sacrament that inducts us into this higher Supernatural Life is the Sacrament of Confirmation.
- We are Born Spiritually in one sacrament, become a citizen of the Kingdom of God. And in the other, we are drafted into God’s Spiritual Army and into the lay priesthood of believers.
Modeled on the life of our Blessed Lord.
- And confirmation, like any other sacrament, is modeled on the life of our Blessed Lord.
- Our Lord had a double priestly anointing, corresponding to two aspects of His life.
- First was the Incarnation, and that made him capable of being a Victim for our sins, because, in the Incarnation, he took upon Himself a body, a human nature with which he could suffer and therefore redeem us from our sins.
As God, He could not suffer; as man, He could. And this first aspect of the life of our Blessed Lord culminated in His Passion and death and Resurrection.
- Now there was another aspect of His life, a second anointing as it were, and that was the coming of the Holy Spirit in the Jordan, and that ordained Him for the mission of preaching, the apostolate. And this reached its culmination, of course, as far as the Church was concerned, in Pentecost.
Descent of the Holy Spirit ,double effect on our Lord
But coming back to the life of our Blessed Lord, the descent of the Holy Spirit on our Lord in the Jordan had a double effect on our Lord:
- First, it prepared Him for combat, for battle, militancy. This is what the Gospel states: “Jesus returned from the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit, and by the Spirit He was led out into the wilderness, where He remained forty days, tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1-2 ) Just as soon as he received the Holy Spirit, He entered into the battlefield, the conflict with Satan, who offered him the three easy ways from the Cross.
- The Holy Spirit did something else, not only prepared Him for combat, it also prepared Him for preaching the Kingdom of God. And when our Blessed Lord, therefore, appeared at Nazareth, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me, sent Me out to preach the Gospel to the poor, to restore the brokenhearted, to bid the prisoners go free, and the blind to have sight, to set the oppressed at liberty, to proclaim a year when men find acceptance in the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)
- Now after our Blessed Lord had received the Spirit and fulfilled these two missions, He had instituted a sacrament, the Sacrament of Confirmation, by which this Power and Energy and Strength of being a soldier of Christ and a witness to Christ and the kingdom of God passes into our souls.
The ordinary minister of this sacrament is the Bishop, although in cases of extreme necessity, for example illness and the like, a pastor may administer the sacrament.
One about to be confirmed kneels before the Bishop, who extends his hands and prays: “Almighty, everlasting God, who has deigned to beget a new Life in this, Thy servant, by water and the Holy Spirit, and has granted him remission of his sins, send forth from heaven upon him Thy Holy Spirit with the sevenfold gifts: the Spirit of Wisdom and understanding, Amen; the Spirit of Counsel and Fortitude, Amen; the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, Amen. Fill him with the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord and seal him with the sign of Christ’s Cross, plenteous in mercy unto Life Everlasting. Through the selfsame Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God eternally, Amen.”
Then the Bishop dips his thumb in Holy Chrism and anoints the forehead of the one to be confirmed, saying, first of all he gives the name, then, “I confirm thee with the Chrism of Salvation in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
When he says these words, he makes the sign of the Cross, then he gives the one confirmed a slight blow on the cheek, saying, “Peace be to you.”
- Now the reason a slight blow on the cheek is given is in order to remind the one who is confirmed that he must be prepared to suffer all things for the sake of Christ.
- This sacrament may be received only once because it leaves an indelible mark on the soul.
- So does the sacrament of baptism and also the sacrament of holy orders. Because it may be received only once, as we may only grow into maturity only once in the natural order, there are many who neglect its inspiration.
Elisha & the widow woman:
In order to make it very concrete, let us recall a very interesting story in the Old Testament. Remember the ancient prophet went to visit a widow woman whose sons were about to be sold into slavery because she had no money. (2 Kings 4:1-7) This prophet was Elisha, and Elisha asked, “What do you have in the house?” She said. “Just a little oil.” He told her to go out and borrow vessels from the neighbors, all empty vessels, and when they were gathered, he told her to begin pouring out the little oil that she had into the empty vessels. She began pouring, but the oil did not stop and she filled one vessel, then another, and another, and another until, finally, she said to her son, “Give me yet another vessel.” The son said, “There is no more,” and the oil stopped.
Now the oil in Sacred Scripture very often corresponds to the Holy Spirit.
- And the lesson, therefore, is that the Spirit of Christ that we receive depends also upon our emptiness.
- And the increase of that Power from the moment that we receive the sacrament also depends upon our capacity to respond to Christ.
There is no limit to God’s Love, there is no limit to His power to Bless. He gives in an overflowing measure, far beyond our expectations, far beyond our deserving.
- We may stint the blessings for ourselves by not being in a fit state to receive
We constantly see in the history of the Church where many blessings are forthcoming, just provided we would de-egotize ourselves.
And, therefore, the power of the laity to bear witness to Christ, to be His soldiers in the world, depends upon their humility, their emptiness.
- And then there is yet another lesson.
There was once a Sunday school teacher who came before an empty room and he said. “Where is the class?” He could not see anyone to teach. And the priest said to him, “You will have to go out and gather a class.” He did so, with a little exertion in the streets, and he had a class. So, there are empty vessels all around us – that can be filled with the love of Christ. Any empty vessels in your home? Among your neighbors? If you are a lawyer, do you know empty vessels in your profession, and as a doctor, as a nurse, are there not many whose lives are aimless and destitute?
I recently heard of a lawyer who died in Berlin. He was an unbeliever. He had a Catholic partner, a lawyer, and when his friend became ill, the Catholic lawyer visited him and said, “Now that you are about to die, do you not think you ought to make your peace with God?” The dying partner said to him, “If Christ in your church has meant so little to you during your life – that you never once spoke to me about it, how can it mean anything to me at my death?”
- In serious realization, therefore, of the Sacrament of Confirmation will make one seek to save souls, and if we save a soul, we have a very good chance of saving our own.
Confirmation is the great social sacrament:
Confirmation is the great social sacrament. It binds us to the world, to our neighbor, to humanity. It binds us not only to love God but to love even those people who are seemingly unlovable.
What does identification mean?
I could tell you what it means by telling you how I failed.
I visited a leper colony in Africa where there were about 500 lepers. I brought with me 500 small silver crucifixes, one for each of the lepers. The first leper who came to meet me had his left arm off at the elbow. He held the stump of the arm up, and around the shoulder was a rosary. He extended to me his right hand. I never saw such a mass of putrid, foul, nauseam corruption as I saw in that leper’s hand. I held out the silver crucifix above it and then – I dropped it. It was almost swallowed up in that volcano of leprosy. I took this symbol of Christ’s Love for man, this symbol of God’s identification with suffering humanity, and I refused to identify myself with one who was perhaps bearing on his body less putrefaction than I had in my own soul. And at that particular moment there were 501 lepers in that camp and I – I was the 501st and the worst of all because I refused to identify myself with this brother of mine. Then the thought came to me of the terrible thing I was doing and I pressed my hand in his, hand to hand, and so on for all the other lepers in the camp.
- Because of the Sacrament of Confirmation, I have to love all mankind and, as a priest, I have to identify myself with them.
This identification you can carry over into your own life if you keep before you the symbol of Fire.
Fire has two great qualities, light and heat.
- The light is the symbol of Truth,
- The heat is the symbol of Love.
Too often, we separate light and heat.
We have the Truth but we have little zeal and love.
The enemies have no Truth but they have zeal and love for their cause.
Confirmation would bid us to keep our Truth and the Love of Truth together, and that is what our Lord meant when He said,
“I have come to cast Fire, fire upon the earth, and what will I- but that it be enkindled.” (Luke 12:49)
God love you.
1. In today’s lesson on –Confirmation what stood out the most to you?
2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the subtitle “No Man Is An Island ” to this lesson?
3. How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding of the Sacrament Confirmation?
4. Now that you have learned more about – Sacrament Confirmation
– what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?
SACRAMENT CONFIRMATION .
1212. “The sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, CONFIRMATION, and the Eucharist – lay the foundations of every Christian life. ‘The sharing in the divine nature given to men through the grace of Christ bears a certain likeness to the origin, development, and nourishing of natural life. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the SACRAMENT of CONFIRMATION, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity.'[Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Divinae consortium naturae: AAS 63 (1971) 657; cf. RCIA Introduction 1-2.]”
1242. “In the liturgy of the Eastern Churches, the post-baptismal anointing is the SACRAMENT of Chrismation (CONFIRMATION). In the Roman liturgy the post- baptismal anointing announces a second anointing with sacred chrism to be conferred later by the bishop CONFIRMATION, which will as it were ‘confirm’ and complete the baptismal anointing.”
1285. “Baptism, the Eucharist, and the SACRAMENT of CONFIRMATION together constitute the ‘sacraments of Christian initiation,’ whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the SACRAMENT of CONFIRMATION is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace.[Cf. Roman Ritual, Rite of CONFIRMATION (OC), Introduction 1.] For ‘by the SACRAMENT of CONFIRMATION, (the baptized) are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.'[LG 11; Cf. OC, Introduction 2.]”
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.'[Paul VI, Divinae consortium naturae, 659; Cf. Acts 8:15-17 ; Acts 19:5-6 ; Heb 6:2 .]”
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.'[Acts 10:38 .] 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, CONFIRMATION suggests both the ratification of Baptism, thus completing Christian initiation, and the strengthening of baptismal grace – both fruits of the Holy Spirit.”
1290. “In the first centuries CONFIRMATION generally comprised one single celebration with Baptism, forming with it a ‘double SACRAMENT,’ according to the expression of St. Cyprian. Among other reasons, the multiplication of infant baptisms all through the year, the increase of rural parishes, and the growth of dioceses often prevented the bishop from being present at all baptismal celebrations. In the West the desire to reserve the completion of Baptism to the bishop caused the temporal separation of the two sacraments. The East has kept them united, so that CONFIRMATION is conferred by the priest who baptizes. But he can do so only with the ‘myron’ consecrated by a bishop.[Cf. CCEO, Can. 695 # 1; 696 # 1.]”
1300. “The essential rite of the SACRAMENT follows. In the Latin rite, ‘the SACRAMENT of CONFIRMATION is conferred through the anointing with chrism on the forehead, which is done by the laying on of the hand, and through the words: ‘Accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti’ (Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.).'[Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Divinae consortium naturae, 663.] In the Eastern Churches, after a prayer of epiclesis the more significant parts of the body are anointed with myron: forehead, eyes, nose, ears, lips, breast, back, hands, and feet. Each anointing is accompanied by the formula: ‘The seal of the gift that is the Holy Spirit.'”
1302. “It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the SACRAMENT of CONFIRMATION is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. ”
1306. “Every baptized person not yet confirmed can and should receive the SACRAMENT of CONFIRMATION.[Cf. CIC, can. 889 # 1.] Since Baptism, CONFIRMATION, and Eucharist form a unity, it follows that ‘the faithful are obliged to receive this SACRAMENT at the appropriate time,'[CIC, can. 890.] for without CONFIRMATION and Eucharist, Baptism is certainly valid and efficacious, but Christian initiation remains incomplete.”
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.[St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 72, 8, ad 2; Cf. Wis 4:8 .]”
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.[Cf. Acts 1:14 .] ”
1312. “The original minister of CONFIRMATION is the bishop.[Cf. LG 26.] In the East, ordinarily the priest who baptizes also immediately confers CONFIRMATION in one and the same celebration. But he does so with sacred chrism consecrated by the patriarch or the bishop, thus expressing the apostolic unity of the Church whose bonds are strengthened by the SACRAMENT of CONFIRMATION. In the Latin Church, the same discipline applies to the Baptism of adults or to the reception into full communion with the Church of a person baptized in another Christian community that does not have valid CONFIRMATION.[Cf. CIC, Can. 883 # 2.] ”
1313. “In the Latin Rite, the ordinary minister of CONFIRMATION is the bishop.[Cf. CIC, Can. 882.] Although the bishop may for grave reasons concede to priests the faculty of administering CONFIRMATION,[Cf. CIC, Can. 884 # 2.] it is appropriate from the very meaning of the SACRAMENT that he should confer it himself, mindful that the celebration of CONFIRMATION has been temporally separated from Baptism for this reason. Bishops are the successors of the apostles. They have received the fullness of the SACRAMENT of Holy Orders. The administration of this SACRAMENT by them demonstrates clearly that its effect is to unite those who receive it more closely to the Church, to her apostolic origins, and to her mission of bearing witness to Christ. ”
1316. “CONFIRMATION perfects Baptismal grace; it is the SACRAMENT which gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church, associate us more closely with her mission, and help us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds. ”
1317. “CONFIRMATION, like Baptism, imprints a spiritual mark or indelible character on the Christian’s soul; for this reason one can receive this SACRAMENT only once in one’s life. ”
1319. “A candidate for CONFIRMATION who has attained the age of reason must profess the faith, be in the state of grace, have the intention of receiving the SACRAMENT, and be prepared to assume the role of disciple and witness to Christ, both within the ecclesial community and in temporal affairs. ”
1523. “A preparation for the final journey. If the SACRAMENT of anointing of the sick is given to all who suffer from serious illness and infirmity, even more rightly is it given to those at the point of departing this life; so it is also called sacramentum exeuntium (the SACRAMENT of those departing).[Council of Trent (1551): DS 1698.] The Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that mark the whole Christian life: that of Baptism, which sealed the new life in us, and that of CONFIRMATION, which strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father’s house.[Council of Trent (1551): DS 1694.] ”
1535. “Through these sacraments those already consecrated by Baptism and CONFIRMATION[Cf. LG 10.] for the common priesthood of all the faithful can receive particular consecrations. Those who receive the SACRAMENT of Holy Orders are consecrated in Christ’s name ‘to feed the Church by the word and grace of God.'[LG 11 # 2.] On their part, ‘Christian spouses are fortified and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special SACRAMENT.'[GS 48 # 2.]”
1582. “As in the case of Baptism and CONFIRMATION this share in Christ’s office is granted once for all. The SACRAMENT of Holy Orders, like the other two, confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily.[Cf. Council of Trent: 1 DS 1767; LG 21; 28; 29; PO 2.] “