We know that through sacramental Baptism we are plunged into the sacred mystery of salvation. Through the same sacrament we become participants in the history of the Church. Through Baptism we are configured by the Holy Spirit initially, and ever more completely if we co-operate with grace throughout our lives, to Christ, crucified and raised from the dead.

Baptism initiates us into discipleship. We are not only escorted through the gateway of sacramental life, but encouraged, as it were, by the same Holy Spirit, to hunger for the fullness, source and summit of the life of grace, receiving Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Grafted as branches onto the Vine Himself we become members of His Mystical Body, members and children of Holy Mother the Church, participants in the life of the Communion of Saints, interceded for by the saints in heaven and benefiting the souls in purgatory by our prayer on their behalf.

At the same time, through Baptism, we become participants, co-workers, in Christ’s own priestly, kingly, and prophetic mission.

We become missionaries, first to our brothers and sisters in the Faith, then to all who, knowingly or not, are seeking the fullness of sacramental life, life in Christ, Christian life,  the anointed life.

Now, through Christ become true children of the Father, co-heirs with Christ, living temples of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit continues His work within all the Baptized, and within those chosen by Him to become priests, the process of our divine election.

In the context of our divine election the sacrament of Confirmation, being as it is the second of the three sacraments which indelibly seal the soul, is most worthy of our frequent meditation upon its continuous gift of the grace of fullness of the Divine Guest of the Soul and the consequent gifts and fruits which the same Holy Spirit lavishes upon us.

We alone, chosen by divine election and ordained in persona Christi, are blessed, sanctified, sealed with all three of the Holy Sacraments which indelibly mark the soul.

Marks: of holiness and beauty.

Marks: of communion of love.

Marks: of joy.

Marks: of no little responsibility to become what we are.

Haunting marks for all eternity even should we – may Christ have mercy on us – die unrepentant in the state of mortal sin.

Of course it may well be since for most of us it is many, many years since the day of our youth when we were confirmed, that the continuous reality of this sacrament is not always, nor even easily, present to our hearts.

The following may well help us recall that marvellous day when the Bishop, shepherd and father of our souls, anointed us with the Sacred Chrism, calling down the Holy Spirit who comes upon us laden with such heavenly gifts for us from the treasury of Christ’s Redemption:

   ….the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. 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. [57]

Completion of baptismal grace, more intimately bound to the Church, lavished with that strength which is of the Holy Spirit, affirmed in our reality of being witnesses of Christ and enjoined with the full range of joyful obligation to be evangelizers and defenders of the faith, with all our words and deeds!

It is the call to preach the Gospel with our very lives!

If we truly take this to heart, how much easier it will be as priests for us to labour joyfully, even in the heat of the day, in the vineyard of the Lord, to tirelessly tend the flock, and adhere with deep interior peace to all that Holy Mother the Church teaches and to submit with magnanimity to the demands of being called, rightly, Father; clerical dress; fidelity to rubrics.

Indeed we shall, through such little things done well, find within us that courage which has endowed the Church over the centuries with a vast cohort of sainted confessors and brave martyrs.

Further, we shall soon discover that the Spirit Himself blesses such fidelity on our part through the return of many souls to the sacraments and the conversion of countless others to the faith we proclaim with our lives.

How vital then, in light of this sacrament of Confirmation which binds us ever more closely to Holy Mother the Church, that we take deep into our hearts, and given the reality of the times grant pure intellectual ascent too as well, the Church’s own self-understanding:

                                                     …awareness of the mystery of the Church is a result of a mature and living faith. From such faith comes that ‘feel for the Church,’ which fills the Christian who has been raised in the school of the Divine Word. He has been nourished by the Grace of the Sacraments and of the ineffable inspirations of the Paraclete, has been trained in the practice of the virtues of the Gospel, has been imbued with the culture and community life of the Church, and is profoundly happy to find himself endowed with that Royal Priesthood proper to the people of God.

                                                  The mystery of the Church is not a mere object of theological knowledge; it is something to be lived, something that the faithful soul can have a kind of connatural experience of, even before arriving at a clear notion of it. Moreover, the community of the faithful can be profoundly certain of its participation in the Mystical Body of Christ when it realizes that by divine institution, the ministry of the Hierarchy of the Church is there to give it a beginning, to give it birth, to teach and sanctify and direct it. It is by means of this divine instrumentality that Christ communicates to His mystical members the marvels of His truth and of His grace, and confers to His Mystical Body as it travels its pilgrim way through time its visible structure, its sublime unity, its ability to function organically, its harmonious complexity, its spiritual beauty.

Images do not suffice to translate into meaningful language the full reality and depth of this mystery. However after dwelling on the image of the Mystical Body, which was suggested by the Apostle Paul, we should especially call to mind one suggested by Christ Himself, that of the edifice of which He is the Architect and the Builder, an edifice indeed founded on a man who of himself is weak but who was miraculously transformed by Christ into solid rock, that is, endowed with marvellous and everlasting indefectibility: ‘It is upon this rock that I will build My Church.’

                                            If we can awaken within ourselves such a strength-giving feeling for the Church and instil it in the faithful by profound and careful instruction, many of the difficulties which today trouble students of Ecclesiology, as for example, how the Church can be at once both visible and spiritual, at once free and subject to discipline, communitarian and hierarchical, already holy and yet still be sanctified, contemplative and active, and so on, will be overcome in practice and solved by those who, after being enlightened by sound teaching, experience the living reality of the Church herself. [58]

Christ loves His Bride the Church, pours Himself out for Her.

Confirmation binds us, as all Her children, more closely to Her, thus closer to Her Divine Bridegroom.

Ordination, configuring us in persona Christi, configures also in the person of He who is the Divine Bridegroom.

We are sacramentally blessed with a double grace of love for the Church.

Flowing initially from the sacrament of Confirmation for us, and for all the laity as well, this love for the Church means a deep respect and adherence to all the Church believes and teaches, celebrates and lives.

The Church is both communal and missionary by Her very nature, so we too are called upon to foster and participate in the communal, the family dimension of this pilgrimage through time as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and, to be evangelizers, missionaries, both to the de-churched and the un-churched.

True for all the Baptized, affirmed and strengthened in this mission of forming the community, the family, the civilization of love and spreading the Gospel, through the sacrament of Confirmation, how much more so does this become a sacred responsibility, and joy, for we priests in virtue of our sacramental ordination.

                                                           “It is the first task of priests as co-workers of the Bishops to preach the Gospel of God to all men…[so as to]…set up and increase the People of God.” Precisely because preaching the Gospel is not merely an intellectual transmission of a message but “the power of God for the salvation of all who believe” (Rm.1:16), accomplished for all time in Christ, its proclamation in the Church requires from its heralds a supernatural basis which guarantees its authenticity and effectiveness. The proclamation of the Gospel by the sacred ministers of the Church is, in a certain sense, a participation in the salvific character of the Word itself, not only because they speak of Christ, but because they proclaim the Gospel to their hearers with that power to call which comes from their participation in the consecration and mission of the Incarnate Word of God. The words of the Lord still resound in the ears of His ministers: “Whoever listens to you listens to Me; whoever despises you despises Me.”(Lk.10:16). Together with St. Paul they can testify: “The Spirit we have received is not the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit, helping us to recognize the gifts He has given us: we speak of these not in words of human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, thus interpreting spiritual things in spiritual terms.”(1Cor.2:12-13). [59]

In a deep and intimate way, through contemplation of the full meaning and continuous grace in our lives of the sacrament of Confirmation, we can become closer to the Divine Guest of the soul, the Holy Spirit.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, at least within the Western Church, there was a tendency to take the Holy Spirit for granted.

Some spiritual writers of the time often referred to Him as the forgotten Person of the Holy Trinity.

Here I will draw upon a classic work by the great and holy former Archbishop of Mexico, Archbishop Luis M. Martinez, whose profound work, written with deep devotion, is known in English as THE SANCTIFIER.

                                                         To the Artist of souls, sanctification and possession are the same act: for sanctification is the work of love, and love is possession.….the first relationship that the Holy Spirit has with souls is that of being the delightful Guest…..

                                                        The first gift of love is love itself, and all other gifts emanate from this supreme gift, as from their source. Therefore, the Gift of the love of God is the Holy Spirit.

                                                         The Holy Spirit brings to our souls the fruitfulness of the Father and binds us lovingly to the Son.

                                                       ….the Holy Spirit is truly the soul of our soul and the life of our life.

                                                          On the night when Jesus made us His friends, He revealed His secrets to us, and we heard from His lips the unfathomable promise that the Spirit of Truth would teach us all things. The operation of the Holy Spirit in our souls is motion. He sanctifies us by directing all our activities with the sweetness of love and the efficacy of omnipotence. He is the only One who can moves us in this way because He alone can penetrate into the hidden sanctuary of the soul, the enclosed garden, invisible to creatures.

                                                  ….in this very special movement the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in the deepest, the most intimate and most active part of our being. He constitutes Himself the immediate director of the soul, which in its full strength and freedom moves only under His inspiration. This intimate and very special movement is the work of love. It is founded on love, caused by love, and leads to love.

                                                   The Holy Spirit must be intimately united to a soul in order to move it. He moves us because He loves us……His movement is the caress of infinite love; …..the Holy Spirit moves us because in His intimate fusion with our soul, which is the work of charity, His divine movements, His holy palpitations, make themselves felt throughout the whole man, who is one with Him. [op.cit.p.60]

This IS communion of love with the Holy Trinity through intimacy with the Divine Guest of our soul!

This is our baptismal vocation in all its glory.

This is the affirmation lavished upon us in sacramental confirmation.

If, in being called upon as priest to celebrate any sacrament, and we find the celebration of that sacrament is a source of stress because it seems the people are lacking in faith or due reverence, or, if when it comes to discerning reception of sacrament we are tempted more towards abusive authoritarianism or lack of fatherly compassion: it is time to beg the Divine Guest of our soul to reanimate our own faith and charity.

If anything or anyone has become the prime object of our attention and affection, other than Christ and the things of Christ: it is time to beg the Sanctifier to renew within us His tender gifts of metanoia, kenosis and true contrition.

If our minds, hearts, souls are confused, swayed, or in bondage to any teachings which seek to overturn the treasures found in the whole deposit of faith and morals confided by Christ to the Church: it is time to beg the Spirit of Truth to renew within us all truth.

If our hearts and souls are in agony as we see Christ re-crucified in the Church, in the hearts of brother priests, in the hearts of the laity: it is time to beg the Spirit of courage and compassion to renew His strength and spirit of forgiveness within us.

If, after having laboured in the vineyard in the heat of the day, evening’s fatigue overwhelms, accedie claws at our hearts which themselves seem to have frozen over, as if we have forgotten our first love: it is time to beg the Spirit of Pentecost to renew within us our sacramental confirmation and set as afire once more.

In all these and other instances where our sinfulness and poverty seem to overcome us it is time to turn humbly to the Holy Spirit who will lavish love and comfort upon us.

The profound experience of being dedicated workers in the vineyard or the wheat field and there appearing before us no particular harvest or that the tares are choking the little shoots, this should neither surprise nor discourage us. Our Divine Lord Himself saw many leave Him when at Capernaum He first spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, He Himself saw even His chosen ones flee in the face of fear.

We priests are human beings, men, ordained men to be sure, but men still, ordained to preach the Gospel of Truth and Love with our lives without compromise in a marketplace which is a culture of death.

We are missionaries to a secular world where people are deeply fearful, wounded, and almost incapable of seeing beyond their own immediate wants.

We are baptized, confirmed, ordained men, priests in a very visible vocation at a time in history when the sheer reality of our being priest is seen by many as justification to abuse, pulverize, reject, ignore, even martyr us.

We are Fathers to children who leave home in droves with nary a backward glance, Shepherds of a flock marred by cognitive disconnect from what is actual reality, Teachers and Sanctifiers for those who have suffered a profound loss of both the sense of faith and sense of sin.

How much do we need to draw constantly on the gift of our Confirmation and its attended grace which strengths us in the faith and binds us more closely to the Church, thus to each other, for we are but a little band of brothers expected to cover with love and truth such a vast world, such an huge extended family.

The attended loneliness of such a unique vocation as a divinely elected pilgrim amongst such a vast number of pilgrims and those who do not even know the ultimate purpose of life is to pilgrim with the Church, through Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, home to our Heavenly Father, can be a real discouragement and great danger for we priests.

We need to turn always to the Holy Spirit who is alive and active, in motion, within us.

Open to Him we can cry out that indeed, while it is true we are believers [1Jn.4:16] nonetheless we need, in our own words, with our own tears, always to beg of Him: faith-MORE, hope-MORE, love-MORE, life-MORE, truth-MORE, courage-MORE, even unto martyrdom.

Through the gift of faith we shall grow in trust.

Through the gift of trust we will open wide the doors of our being to the Holy Spirit more and more.

The Consoler, Councillor, Advocate, Spirit of Truth – whom the Father constantly sends upon us in the Name of Jesus our Lord and God – will dwell within us as Jesus promises. [Jn.14:26]

As such grace unfolds within us, strengthens and renews us, we will hear more deeply in our hearts the words also from the Beloved Apostle about the grace of remaining rooted in the words of Jesus, what He teaches us, so that we remain in Jesus and with Jesus in the Father. [1Jn.2:24-27]

Confirmation is affirmation by the Holy Spirit of our call to holiness, to oneness in and with Christ, a prelude to the even deeper configuration to and intimacy with Him which is ours when, as a result of our divine election, we are ordained in persona Christi.

That too is the movement of the Holy Spirit within us.

All of this, all sacraments, are for the glory of the Father and thus of deep intimacy with the Father.

All sacraments are Trinitarian.

Our vocation of joy is Trinitarian.

                                                                   …..we might say that the ideal of the acts performed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit corresponds to the Father. The ideal is the first exemplar of the work. The Father is the beginning; the work of sanctification is a work of paternity and adoption; from the Father ‘all fatherhood in heaven and on earth receives its name.’ And the end of perfection is Jesus, for Jesus is the image of the Father. During the days of His mortal life He sought the ideal of His acts in the bosom of the Father. The will of the Father, which He came upon earth to accomplish, and the glory of the Father, which formed the one great desire of His soul, appear in the Holy Gospel as His supreme norms. In the most solemn moments of His life the Son lifted His profoundly understanding eyes to the Father, and seemed to gaze with all intentness and sweetness upon that ocean of light. [60-a]

The sanctifying grace within us through Confirmation is primarily the work of the Spirit Himself within us.

The Holy Spirit: urging us to imitate, to participate in, Christ’s own relationship with His Father, our Father.

The Holy Spirit: setting us ablaze with the fire of divine love.

The Holy Spirit: crying out within us Abba! Father – that we might ‘live and move and have our being’, truly, fully, in the Father.

The Holy Spirit: striving to fill us with the utter fullness of God, with Christ, Light from Light, and True Light from True Light:

                                                                    In order to teach us, this unique light has to be dispersed. It has to be adjusted to the capacity of each one of the seven gifts, as the ray is diffused in the colours of the spectrum. Only God can contain Himself in His infinite unity; in us, especially in exile, the facets of His unique beauty must appear one by one. [See note 60-b]

Once we have renewed within us, by the Holy Spirit, an appreciation for, understanding of, openness to the reality of, the sacrament of Confirmation, and by the movement of the Holy Spirit within us co-operate with all He seeks to accomplish within us through His lavishing outpouring of all His gifts, what fire shall blaze within us, what divine light shall pour forth from us!

What a passion we shall have to diligently prepare all those seeking to receive such a splendid gift in the communion of love.

With what sacred urgency shall we go forth and seek out the lost to re-evangelize them, the non-believers to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ.

How great shall be our courage to preach only Truth, our strength to make the gift of love and forgiveness to all, in particular our enemies, how unswerving our proclamation and defense of truth, especially the truth about the sacredness of life from the womb to the tomb.

                                            In the gift of fear, He is the sovereign we revere as the Master of life and death; in fortitude, He is the omnipotent force that delivers itself into the hands of weakness; in piety, He is the Father to whom we must adhere with filial affection, extolling His glory; in counsel, He is the eternal and supreme norm of human action; in knowledge, the inexhaustible exemplar of creatures; in understanding, the supernatural end that sheds light on all knowledge. And in wisdom, He is the focal point that illumines the soul because He is the focal point of love, and because He and Wisdom, united in an embrace of love, have revealed with love’s gentleness the secret of all truth. [60-c]