What Are the Effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation?

A Lesson Inspired by the Baltimore Catechism

Early 1900s vintage photo of 3 boys at their confirmation
Early 1900's vintage photo of three boys at their Confirmation. Sheri Blaney/Photolibrary/Getty Images

In the Western Church, the Sacrament of Confirmation is usually delayed until the teenage years, and for various reasons many Catholics never receive it. This is unfortunate, not only because Confirmation perfects the Sacrament of Baptism, but because the effects of Confirmation are indispensable in helping us to live a truly Christian life. What are those effects, and how do they benefit us? 

What Does the Baltimore Catechism Say?

Question 176 of the Baltimore Catechism, found in Lesson Sixteenth of the Confirmation Edition, frames the question and answer this way:

Question: Which are the effects of Confirmation?

Answer: The effects of Confirmation are an increase of sanctifying grace, the strengthening of our faith, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

What Is Sanctifying Grace?

In Question 105, the Baltimore Catechism defines sanctifying grace as "that grace which makes the soul holy and pleasing to God." But that definition doesn't fully express how important this grace is. We first receive sanctifying grace at our baptism, after the guilt of both Original Sin and personal sin are removed from our souls. Sanctifying grace is often said to unite us to God, but it's more than that, too: It is the life of God within our souls or, as Fr. John Hardon says in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, "a participation in the divine life."

As the Concise Catholic Dictionary (1943) puts it, sanctifying grace is a "divinely produced quality or perfection of the human soul whereby it participates in the nature and life of God and is made to remember Him as He is." The effect of sanctifying grace is to raise up "man's nature to be like God and hence to think as God thinks and to will as He wills." Not surprisingly, considering its connection with both Baptism and Confirmation, sanctifying grace "is absolutely necessary for our salvation." Delaying Confirmation or never receiving the sacrament, therefore, leaves one unnecessarily deprived of this vital grace.

How Does Confirmation Strengthen Our Faith?

By drawing us into the very life of God, the sanctifying grace we receive in Confirmation increases our faith. As a theological virtue, faith is not blind (as people often say); rather, it is a form of knowledge of the truths of divine revelation. The more our own lives become one with God's, the better we can understand the mysteries of His very being.

Why Are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit Attached to Confirmation?

The Sacrament of Confirmation is the continuation among the faithful of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that they received that day come to us first at our baptism, but they are increased and perfected in our confirmation as a sign of our participation in the Church that came into being on that first Pentecost.