Confirmation is the formal recognition of a baptised individual’s commitment to the Christian faith. In both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church only bishops can conduct confirmations.
There is no set age, but it is usual to be confirmed during the early teens. Individuals must have been baptised before they can be candidates for confirmation. All candidates will undergo preparation for confirmation. While the detail of this varies from parish to parish, the general purpose is to ensure that they have an understanding about life as a Christian within the family of the Church.
Confirmation may take place in the church that the candidate usually attends; it is also usual to be confirmed at a school church. Roman Catholic children will have made their First Holy Communion at a younger age before confirmation, whereas in the Church of England communion follows confirmation.
Only very close friends or relations will be invited to witness the ceremony. In general confirmation is seen as a private affirmation of faith and an assertion of familial religious affiliations. It is not usually celebrated by a wider circle of friends and relations. In the Church of England, godparents would be expected to attend.
In the Catholic Church, the child, who is normally confirmed in his/her early teens, will also have a confirmation sponsor, who may be nearer the child’s age. This person must be a practising Catholic whose role is to keep an eye on the child’s religious life. The confirmation candidate will also choose an additional saint’s name, spoken by the bishop during the ceremony, but this will not become part of their official or legal names and in practice will rarely be used.
If you are invited to a confirmation, remember that it is primarily a religious ceremony. Dress conservatively and behave respectfully in church – do not whisper, switch off your mobile and do not take photographs.
These are often of a religious nature and may be Bibles, or gold or silver crosses and chains. However, non-religious presents such as other books or cufflinks may be preferred.