QUESTION 72: OF THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
We have now to consider the Sacrament of Confirmation. Concerning this
there are twelve points of inquiry:
(1) Whether Confirmation is a sacrament?
(2) Its matter;
(3) Whether it is essential to the sacrament that the chrism should have
been previously consecrated by a bishop?
(4) Its form;
(5) Whether it imprints a character?
(6) Whether the character of Confirmation presupposes the character of
(7) Whether it bestows grace?
(8) Who is competent to receive this sacrament?
(9) In what part of the body?
(10) Whether someone is required to stand for the person to be confirmed?
(11) Whether this sacrament is given by bishops only?
(12) Of its rite.
Article 1: Whether confirmation is a sacrament?
Objection 1: It seems that Confirmation is not a sacrament. For sacraments
derive their efficacy from the Divine institution, as stated above (Question , Article ). But we read nowhere of Confirmation being instituted by Christ.
Therefore it is not a sacrament.
Objection 2: Further, the sacraments of the New Law were foreshadowed in the
Old Law; thus the Apostle says (1 Cor. 10:2-4), that "all in Moses were
baptized, in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual
food, and all drank the same spiritual drink." But Confirmation was not
foreshadowed in the old Testament. Therefore it is not a sacrament.
Objection 3: Further, the sacraments are ordained unto man's salvation. But
man can be saved without Confirmation: since children that are baptized,
who die before being confirmed, are saved. Therefore Confirmation is not
Objection 4: Further, by all the sacraments of the Church, man is conformed to
Christ, Who is the Author of the sacraments. But man cannot be conformed
to Christ by Confirmation, since we read nowhere of Christ being
On the contrary, Pope Melchiades wrote to the bishops of Spain:
"Concerning the point on which you sought to be informed, i.e. whether
the imposition of the bishop's hand were a greater sacrament than
Baptism, know that each is a great sacrament."
I answer that, The sacraments of the New Law are ordained unto special
effects of grace: and therefore where there is a special effect of grace,
there we find a special sacrament ordained for the purpose. But since
sensible and material things bear a likeness to things spiritual and
intelligible, from what occurs in the life of the body, we can perceive
that which is special to the spiritual life. Now it is evident that in
the life of the body a certain special perfection consists in man's
attaining to the perfect age, and being able to perform the perfect
actions of a man: hence the Apostle says (1 Cor. 13:11): "When I became a
man, I put away the things of a child." And thence it is that besides the
movement of generation whereby man receives life of the body, there is
the movement of growth, whereby man is brought to the perfect age. So
therefore does man receive spiritual life in Baptism, which is a
spiritual regeneration: while in Confirmation man arrives at the perfect
age, as it were, of the spiritual life. Hence Pope Melchiades says: "The
Holy Ghost, Who comes down on the waters of Baptism bearing salvation in
His flight, bestows at the font, the fulness of innocence; but in
Confirmation He confers an increase of grace. In Baptism we are born
again unto life; after Baptism we are strengthened." And therefore it is
evident that Confirmation is a special sacrament.
Reply to Objection 1: Concerning the institution of this sacrament there are
three opinions. Some (Alexander of Hales, Summa Theol. P. IV, Q. IX; St.
Bonaventure, Sent. iv, D, 7) have maintained that this sacrament was
instituted neither by Christ, nor by the apostles; but later in the
course of time by one of the councils. Others (Pierre de Tarentaise,
Sent. iv, D, 7) held that it was instituted by the apostles. But this
cannot be admitted; since the institution of a new sacrament belongs to
the power of excellence, which belongs to Christ alone.
And therefore we must say that Christ instituted this sacrament not by
bestowing, but by promising it, according to Jn. 16:7: "If I go not, the
Paraclete will not come to you, but if I go, I will send Him to you." And
this was because in this sacrament the fulness of the Holy Ghost is
bestowed, which was not to be given before Christ's Resurrection and
Ascension; according to Jn. 7:39: "As yet the Spirit was not given,
because Jesus was not yet glorified."
Reply to Objection 2: Confirmation is the sacrament of the fulness of grace:
wherefore there could be nothing corresponding to it in the Old Law,
since "the Law brought nothing to perfection" (Heb. 7:19).
Reply to Objection 3: As stated above (Question , Article ), all the sacraments are in
some way necessary for salvation: but some, so that there is no salvation
without them; some as conducing to the perfection of salvation; and thus
it is that Confirmation is necessary for salvation: although salvation is
possible without it, provided it be not omitted out of contempt.
Reply to Objection 4: Those who receive Confirmation, which is the sacrament of
the fulness of grace, are conformed to Christ, inasmuch as from the very
first instant of His conception He was "full of grace and truth" (Jn. 1:14). This fulness was made known at His Baptism, when "the Holy Ghost
descended in a bodily shape . . . upon Him" (Lk. 3:22). Hence (Lk. 4:1)
it is written that "Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from the
Jordan." Nor was it fitting to Christ's dignity, that He, Who is the
Author of the sacraments, should receive the fulness of grace from a
Article 2: Whether chrism is a fitting matter for this sacrament?
Objection 1: It seems that chrism is not a fitting matter for this sacrament.
For this sacrament, as stated above (Article , ad 1), was instituted by
Christ when He promised His disciples the Holy Ghost. But He sent them
the Holy Ghost without their being anointed with chrism. Moreover, the
apostles themselves bestowed this sacrament without chrism, by the mere
imposition of hands: for it is written (Acts 8:17) that the apostles
"laid their hands upon" those who were baptized, "and they received the
Holy Ghost." Therefore chrism is not the matter of this sacrament: since
the matter is essential to the sacrament.
Objection 2: Further, Confirmation perfects, in a way, the sacrament of
Baptism, as stated above (Question , Articles ,4): and so it ought to be
conformed to it as perfection to the thing perfected. But the matter, in
Baptism, is a simple element, viz. water. Therefore chrism, which is made
of oil and balm, is not a fitting matter for this sacrament.
Objection 3: Further, oil is used as the matter of this sacrament for the
purpose of anointing. But any oil will do for anointing: for instance,
oil made from nuts, and from anything else. Therefore not only olive oil
should be used for this sacrament.
Objection 4: Further, it has been stated above (Question , Article ) that water is
used as the matter of Baptism, because it is easily procured everywhere.
But olive oil is not to be procured everywhere; and much less is balm.
Therefore chrism, which is made of these, is not a fitting matter for
On the contrary, Gregory says (Registr. iv): "Let no priest dare to sign
the baptized infants on the brow with the sacred chrism." Therefore
chrism is the matter of this sacrament.
I answer that, Chrism is the fitting matter of this sacrament. For, as
stated above (Article ), in this sacrament the fulness of the Holy Ghost is
given for the spiritual strength which belongs to the perfect age. Now
when man comes to perfect age he begins at once to have intercourse with
others; whereas until then he lives an individual life, as it were,
confined to himself. Now the grace of the Holy Ghost is signified by oil;
hence Christ is said to be "anointed with the oil of gladness" (Ps. 44:8), by reason of His being gifted with the fulness of the Holy Ghost.
Consequently oil is a suitable matter of this sacrament. And balm is
mixed with the oil, by reason of its fragrant odor, which spreads about:
hence the Apostle says (2 Cor. 2:15): "We are the good odor of Christ,"
etc. And though many other things be fragrant, yet preference is given to
balm, because it has a special odor of its own, and because it confers
incorruptibility: hence it is written (Ecclus. 24:21): "My odor is as the
Reply to Objection 1: Christ, by the power which He exercises in the sacraments,
bestowed on the apostles the reality of this sacrament, i.e. the fulness
of the Holy Ghost, without the sacrament itself, because they had
received "the first fruits of the Spirit" (Rm. 8:23). Nevertheless,
something of keeping with the matter of this sacrament was displayed to
the apostles in a sensible manner when they received the Holy Ghost. For
that the Holy Ghost came down upon them in a sensible manner under the
form of fire, refers to the same signification as oil: except in so far
as fire has an active power, while oil has a passive power, as being the
matter and incentive of fire. And this was quite fitting: for it was
through the apostles that the grace of the Holy Ghost was to flow forth
to others. Again, the Holy Ghost came down on the apostles in the shape
of a tongue. Which refers to the same signification as balm: except in so
far as the tongue communicates with others by speech, but balm, by its
odor. because, to wit, the apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost, as
teachers of the Faith; but the rest of the believers, as doing that which
gives edification to the faithful.
In like manner, too, when the apostles imposed their hands, and when
they preached, the fulness of the Holy Ghost came down under visible
signs on the faithful, just as, at the beginning, He came down on the
apostles: hence Peter said (Acts 11:15): "When I had begun to speak, the
Holy Ghost fell upon them, as upon us also in the beginning."
Consequently there was no need for sacramental sensible matter, where God
sent sensible signs miraculously.
However, the apostles commonly made use of chrism in bestowing the
sacrament, when such like visible signs were lacking. For Dionysius says
(Eccl. Hier. iv): "There is a certain perfecting operation which our
guides," i.e. the apostles, "call the sacrifice of Chrism."
Reply to Objection 2: Baptism is bestowed that spiritual life may be received
simply; wherefore simple matter is fitting to it. But this sacrament is
given that we may receive the fulness of the Holy Ghost, Whose operations
are manifold, according to Wis. 7:22, "In her is the" Holy "Spirit . . .
one, manifold"; and 1 Cor. 12:4, "There are diversities of graces, but
the same Spirit." Consequently a compound matter is appropriate to this
Reply to Objection 3: These properties of oil, by reason of which it symbolizes
the Holy Ghost, are to be found in olive oil rather than in any other
oil. In fact, the olive-tree itself, through being an evergreen,
signifies the refreshing and merciful operation of the Holy Ghost.
Moreover, this oil is called oil properly, and is very much in use,
wherever it is to be had. And whatever other liquid is so called, derives
its name from its likeness to this oil: nor are the latter commonly used,
unless it be to supply the want of olive oil. Therefore it is that this
oil alone is used for this and certain other sacraments.
Reply to Objection 4: Baptism is the sacrament of absolute necessity; and so its
matter should be at hand everywhere. But it is enough that the matter of
this sacrament, which is not of such great necessity, be easily sent to
all parts of the world.
Article 3: Whether it is essential to this sacrament that the chrism which is its matter be previously consecrated by a bishop?
Objection 1: It seems that it is not essential to this sacrament, that the
chrism, which is its matter, be previously consecrated by a bishop. For
Baptism which bestows full remission of sins is not less efficacious than
this sacrament. But, though the baptismal water receives a kind of
blessing before being used for Baptism; yet this is not essential to the
sacrament: since in a case of necessity it can be dispensed with.
Therefore neither is it essential to this sacrament that the chrism
should be previously consecrated by a bishop.
Objection 2: Further, the same should not be consecrated twice. But the
sacramental matter is sanctified, in the very conferring of the
sacrament, by the form of words wherein the sacrament is bestowed; hence
Augustine says (Tract. lxxx in Joan.): "The word is added to the element,
and this becomes a sacrament." Therefore the chrism should not be
consecrated before this sacrament is given.
Objection 3: Further, every consecration employed in the sacraments is ordained to the bestowal of grace. But the sensible matter composed of oil and balm is not receptive of grace. Therefore it should not be consecrated.
On the contrary, Pope Innocent I says (Ep. ad Decent.): "Priests, when
baptizing, may anoint the baptized with chrism, previously consecrated by
a bishop: but they must not sign the brow with the same oil; this belongs
to the bishop alone, when he gives the Paraclete." Now this is done in
this sacrament. Therefore it is necessary for this sacrament that its
matter be previously consecrated by a bishop.
I answer that, The entire sanctification of the sacraments is derived
from Christ, as stated above (Question , Article ). But it must be observed that
Christ did use certain sacraments having a corporeal matter, viz.
Baptism, and also the Eucharist. And consequently, from Christ's very act
in using them, the matter of these sacraments received a certain aptitude
to the perfection of the sacrament. Hence Chrysostom (Chromatius, In
Matth. 3:15) says that "the waters of Baptism could never wash away the
sins of believers, had they not been sanctified by contact with our
Lord's body." And again, our Lord Himself "taking bread . . . blessed . .
. and in like manner the chalice" (Mt. 26:26,27; Lk. 22:19, 20). For this
reason there is no need for the matter of these sacraments to be blessed
previously, since Christ's blessing is enough. And if any blessing be
used, it belongs to the solemnity of the sacrament, not to its essence.
But Christ did not make use of visible anointings, so as not to slight
the invisible unction whereby He was "anointed above" His "fellows" (Ps. 44:8). And hence both chrism, and the holy oil, and the oil of the sick
are blessed before being put to sacramental use. This suffices for the
reply to the First Objection.
Reply to Objection 2: Each consecration of the chrism has not the same object.
For just as an instrument derives instrumental power in two ways, viz.
when it receives the form of an instrument, and when it is moved by the
principal agent; so too the sacramental matter needs a twofold
sanctification, by one of which it becomes fit matter for the sacrament,
while by the other it is applied to the production of the effect.
Reply to Objection 3: Corporeal matter is receptive of grace, not so as to be the
subject of grace, but only as the instrument of grace, as explained above
(Question , Article ). And this sacramental matter is consecrated, either by
Christ, or by a bishop, who, in the Church, impersonates Christ.
Article 4: Whether the proper form of this sacrament is: "I sign thee with the sign of the cross," etc.?
Objection 1: It seems that the proper form of this sacrament is not: "I sign
thee with the sign of the cross, I confirm thee with the chrism of
salvation, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Ghost. Amen." For the use of the sacraments is derived from Christ and
the apostles. But neither did Christ institute this form, nor do we read
of the apostles making use of it. Therefore it is not the proper form of
Objection 2: Further, just as the sacrament is the same everywhere, so should
the form be the same: because everything has unity, just as it has being,
from its form. But this form is not used by all: for some say: "I confirm
thee with the chrism of sanctification." Therefore the above is not the
proper form of this sacrament.
Objection 3: Further, this sacrament should be conformed to Baptism, as the
perfect to the thing perfected, as stated above (Article , Objection ). But in
the form of Baptism no mention is made of signing the character; nor
again of the cross of Christ, though in Baptism man dies with Christ, as
the Apostle says (Rm. 6:3-8); nor of the effect which is salvation,
though Baptism is necessary for salvation. Again, in the baptismal form,
only one action is included; and the person of the baptizer is expressed
in the words: "I baptize thee, whereas the contrary is to be observed in
the above form." Therefore this is not the proper form of this sacrament.
On the contrary, Is the authority of the Church, who always uses this
I answer that, The above form is appropriate to this sacrament. For just
as the form of a natural thing gives it its species, so a sacramental
form should contain whatever belongs to the species of the sacrament. Now
as is evident from what has been already said (Articles ,2), in this
sacrament the Holy Ghost is given for strength in the spiritual combat.
Wherefore in this sacrament three things are necessary; and they are
contained in the above form. The first of these is the cause conferring
fulness of spiritual strength which cause is the Blessed Trinity: and
this is expressed in the words, "In the name of the Father," etc. The
second is the spiritual strength itself bestowed on man unto salvation by
the sacrament of visible matter; and this is referred to in the words, "I
confirm thee with the chrism of salvation." The third is the sign which
is given to the combatant, as in a bodily combat: thus are soldiers
marked with the sign of their leaders. And to this refer the words, "I
sign thee with the sign of the cross," in which sign, to wit, our King
triumphed (cf. Col. 2:15).
Reply to Objection 1: As stated above (Article , ad 1), sometimes the effect of this
sacrament, i.e. the fulness of the Holy Ghost, was given through the
ministry of the apostles, under certain visible signs, wrought
miraculously by God, Who can bestow the sacramental effect, independently
of the sacrament. In these cases there was no need for either the matter
or the form of this sacrament. On the other hand, sometimes they bestowed
this sacrament as ministers of the sacraments. And then, they used both
matter and form according to Christ's command. For the apostles, in
conferring the sacraments, observed many things which are not handed down
in those Scriptures that are in general use. Hence Dionysius says at the
end of his treatise on the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy (chap. vii): "It is
not allowed to explain in writing the prayers which are used in the
sacraments, and to publish their mystical meaning, or the power which,
coming from God, gives them their efficacy; we learn these things by holy
tradition without any display,"* i.e. secretly. [*The passage quoted in
the text of the Summa differs slightly from the above, which is
translated directly from the works of Dionysius.] Hence the Apostle,
speaking of the celebration of the Eucharist, writes (1 Cor. 11:34): "The
rest I will set in order, when I come."
Reply to Objection 2: Holiness is the cause of salvation. Therefore it comes to
the same whether we say "chrism of salvation" or "of sanctification."
Reply to Objection 3: Baptism is the regeneration unto the spiritual life,
whereby man lives in himself. And therefore in the baptismal form that
action alone is expressed which refers to the man to be sanctified. But
this sacrament is ordained not only to the sanctification of man in
himself, but also to strengthen him in his outward combat. Consequently
not only is mention made of interior sanctification, in the words, "I
confirm thee with the chrism of salvation": but furthermore man is signed
outwardly, as it were with the standard of the cross, unto the outward
spiritual combat; and this is signified by the words, "I sign thee with
the sign of the cross."
But in the very word "baptize," which signifies "to cleanse," we can
understand both the matter, which is the cleansing water, and the effect,
which is salvation. Whereas these are not understood by the word
"confirm"; and consequently they had to be expressed.
Again, it has been said above (Question , Article , ad 1) that the pronoun "I"
is not necessary to the Baptismal form, because it is included in the
first person of the verb. It is, however, included in order to express
the intention. But this does not seem so necessary in Confirmation, which
is conferred only by a minister of excellence, as we shall state later on
Article 5: Whether the sacrament of Confirmation imprints a character?
Objection 1: It seems that the sacrament of Confirmation does not imprint a
character. For a character means a distinctive sign. But a man is not
distinguished from unbelievers by the sacrament of Confirmation, for this
is the effect of Baptism; nor from the rest of the faithful, because this
sacrament is ordained to the spiritual combat, which is enjoined to all
the faithful. Therefore a character is not imprinted in this sacrament.
Objection 2: Further, it was stated above (Question , Article ) that a character is a
spiritual power. Now a power must be either active or passive. But the
active power in the sacraments is conferred by the sacrament of order:
while the passive or receptive power is conferred by the sacrament of
Baptism. Therefore no character is imprinted by the sacrament of
Objection 3: Further, in circumcision, which is a character of the body, no
spiritual character is imprinted. But in this sacrament a character is
imprinted on the body, when the sign of the cross is signed with chrism
on man's brow. Therefore a spiritual character is not imprinted by this
On the contrary, A character is imprinted in every sacrament that is not
repeated. But this sacrament is not repeated: for Gregory II says (Ep. iv
ad Bonifac.): "As to the man who was confirmed a second time by a bishop,
such a repetition must be forbidden." Therefore a character is imprinted
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ), a character is a spiritual
power ordained to certain sacred actions. Now it has been said above
(Article ; Question , Article ) that, just as Baptism is a spiritual regeneration
unto Christian life, so also is Confirmation a certain spiritual growth
bringing man to perfect spiritual age. But it is evident, from a
comparison with the life of the body, that the action which is proper to
man immediately after birth, is different from the action which is proper
to him when he has come to perfect age. And therefore by the sacrament of
Confirmation man is given a spiritual power in respect of sacred actions
other than those in respect of which he receives power in Baptism. For in
Baptism he receives power to do those things which pertain to his own
salvation, forasmuch as he lives to himself: whereas in Confirmation he
receives power to do those things which pertain to the spiritual combat
with the enemies of the Faith. This is evident from the example of the
apostles, who, before they received the fulness of the Holy Ghost, were
in the "upper room . . . persevering . . . in prayer" (Acts 1:13,14);
whereas afterwards they went out and feared not to confess their faith in
public, even in the face of the enemies of the Christian Faith. And
therefore it is evident that a character is imprinted in the sacrament of
Reply to Objection 1: All have to wage the spiritual combat with our invisible enemies. But to fight against visible foes, viz. against the persecutors of the Faith, by confessing Christ's name, belongs to the confirmed, who have already come spiritually to the age of virility, according to 1 Jn. 2:14: "I write unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one." And therefore the character of Confirmation is a distinctive sign, not between unbelievers and believers, but between those who are grown up spiritually and those of whom it is written: "As new-born babes" (1 Pt. 2:2).
Reply to Objection 2: All the sacraments are protestations of faith. Therefore
just as he who is baptized receives the power of testifying to his faith
by receiving the other sacraments; so he who is confirmed receives the
power of publicly confessing his faith by words, as it were "ex officio."
Reply to Objection 3: The sacraments of the Old Law are called "justice of the
flesh" (Heb. 9:10) because, to wit, they wrought nothing inwardly.
Consequently in circumcision a character was imprinted in the body only,
but not in the soul. But in Confirmation, since it is a sacrament of the
New Law, a spiritual character is imprinted at the same time, together
with the bodily character.
Article 6: Whether the character of Confirmation presupposes of necessity, the baptismal character?
Objection 1: It seems that the character of Confirmation does not presuppose,
of necessity, the baptismal character. For the sacrament of Confirmation
is ordained to the public confession of the Faith of Christ. But many,
even before Baptism, have publicly confessed the Faith of Christ by
shedding their blood for the Faith. Therefore the character of
Confirmation does not presuppose the baptismal character.
Objection 2: Further, it is not related of the apostles that they were
baptized; especially, since it is written (Jn. 4:2) that Christ "Himself
did not baptize, but His disciples." Yet afterwards they were confirmed
by the coming of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, in like manner, others can be
confirmed before being baptized.
Objection 3: Further, it is written (Acts 10:44-48) that "while Peter was yet
speaking . . . the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word . . .
and [Vulg.: 'for'] they heard them speaking with tongues": and afterwards
"he commanded them to be baptized." Therefore others with equal reason
can be confirmed before being baptized.
On the contrary, Rabanus says (De Instit. Cleric. i): "Lastly the
Paraclete is given to the baptized by the imposition of the high priest's
hands, in order that the baptized may be strengthened by the Holy Ghost
so as to publish his faith."
I answer that, The character of Confirmation, of necessity supposes the
baptismal character: so that, in effect, if one who is not baptized were
to be confirmed, he would receive nothing, but would have to be confirmed
again after receiving Baptism. The reason of this is that, Confirmation
is to Baptism as growth to birth, as is evident from what has been said
above (Article ; Question , Article ). Now it is clear that no one can be brought to
perfect age unless he be first born: and in like manner, unless a man be
first baptized, he cannot receive the sacrament of Confirmation.
Reply to Objection 1: The Divine power is not confined to the sacraments. Hence
man can receive spiritual strength to confess the Faith of Christ
publicly, without receiving the sacrament of Confirmation: just as he can
also receive remission of sins without Baptism. Yet, just as none receive
the effect of Baptism without the desire of Baptism; so none receive the
effect of Confirmation, without the desire of Confirmation. And man can
have this even before receiving Baptism.
Reply to Objection 2: As Augustine says (Ep. cclxv), from our Lord's words, "'He
that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet' (Jn. 13:10), we gather
that Peter and Christ's other disciples had been baptized, either with
John's Baptism, as some think; or with Christ's, which is more credible.
For He did not refuse to administer Baptism, so as to have servants by
whom to baptize others."
Reply to Objection 3: Those who heard the preaching of Peter received the effect
of Confirmation miraculously: but not the sacrament of Confirmation. Now
it has been stated (ad 1) that the effect of Confirmation can be bestowed
on man before Baptism, whereas the sacrament cannot. For just as the
effect of Confirmation, which is spiritual strength, presupposes the
effect of Baptism, which is justification, so the sacrament of
Confirmation presupposes the sacrament of Baptism.
Article 7: Whether sanctifying grace is bestowed in this sacrament?
Objection 1: It seems that sanctifying grace is not bestowed in this
sacrament. For sanctifying grace is ordained against sin. But this
sacrament, as stated above (Article ) is given only to the baptized, who are
cleansed from sin. Therefore sanctifying grace is not bestowed in this
Objection 2: Further, sinners especially need sanctifying grace, by which
alone can they be justified. If, therefore, sanctifying grace is bestowed
in this sacrament, it seems that it should be given to those who are in
sin. And yet this is not true.
Objection 3: Further, there can only be one species of sanctifying grace,
since it is ordained to one effect. But two forms of the same species
cannot be in the same subject. Since, therefore, man receives sanctifying
grace in Baptism, it seems that sanctifying grace is not bestowed in
Confirmation, which is given to none but the baptized.
On the contrary, Pope Melchiades says (Ep. ad Episc. Hispan.): "The Holy
Ghost bestows at the font the fulness of innocence; but in Confirmation
He confers an increase of grace."
I answer that, In this sacrament, as stated above (Articles ,4), the Holy
Ghost is given to the baptized for strength: just as He was given to the
apostles on the day of Pentecost, as we read in Acts 2; and just as He
was given to the baptized by the imposition of the apostles' hands, as
related in Acts 8:17. Now it has been proved in the FP, Question , Article  that
the Holy Ghost is not sent or given except with sanctifying grace.
Consequently it is evident that sanctifying grace is bestowed in this
Reply to Objection 1: Sanctifying grace does indeed take away sin; but it has
other effects also, because it suffices to carry man through every step
as far as eternal life. Hence to Paul was it said (2 Cor. 12:9): "My
grace is sufficient for thee": and he says of himself (1 Cor. 15:10): "By
the grace of God I am what I am." Therefore sanctifying grace is given
not only for the remission of sin, but also for growth and stability in
righteousness. And thus is it bestowed in this sacrament.
Reply to Objection 2: Further, as appears from its very name, this sacrament is
given in order "to confirm" what it finds already there. And consequently
it should not be given to those who are not in a state of grace. For this
reason, just as it is not given to the unbaptized, so neither should it
be given to the adult sinners, except they be restored by Penance.
Wherefore was it decreed in the Council of Orleans (Can. iii) that "men
should come to Confirmation fasting; and should be admonished to confess
their sins first, so that being cleansed they may be able to receive the
gift of the Holy Ghost." And then this sacrament perfects the effects of
Penance, as of Baptism: because by the grace which he has received in
this sacrament, the penitent will obtain fuller remission of his sin. And
if any adult approach, being in a state of sin of which he is not
conscious or for which he is not perfectly contrite, he will receive the
remission of his sins through the grace bestowed in this sacrament.
Reply to Objection 3: As stated above (Question , Article ), the sacramental grace adds
to the sanctifying grace taken in its wide sense, something that produces
a special effect, and to which the sacrament is ordained. If, then, we
consider, in its wide sense, the grace bestowed in this sacrament, it
does not differ from that bestowed in Baptism, but increases what was
already there. On the other hand, if we consider it as to that which is
added over and above, then one differs in species from the other.
Article 8: Whether this sacrament should be given to all?
Objection 1: It seems that this sacrament should not be given to all. For this
sacrament is given in order to confer a certain excellence, as stated
above (Article , ad 2). But all are not suited for that which belongs to
excellence. Therefore this sacrament should not be given to all.
Objection 2: Further, by this sacrament man advances spiritually to perfect
age. But perfect age is inconsistent with childhood. Therefore at least
it should not be given to children.
Objection 3: Further, as Pope Melchiades says (Ep. ad Episc. Hispan.) "after
Baptism we are strengthened for the combat." But women are incompetent to
combat, by reason of the frailty of their sex. Therefore neither should
women receive this sacrament.
Objection 4: Further, Pope Melchiades says (Ep. ad Episc. Hispan.): "Although
the benefit of Regeneration suffices for those who are on the point of
death, yet the graces of Confirmation are necessary for those who are to
conquer. Confirmation arms and strengthens those to whom the struggles
and combats of this world are reserved. And he who comes to die, having
kept unsullied the innocence he acquired in Baptism, is confirmed by
death; for after death he can sin no more." Therefore this sacrament
should not be given to those who are on the point of death: and so it
should not be given to all.
On the contrary, It is written (Acts 2:2) that the Holy Ghost in coming,
"filled the whole house," whereby the Church is signified; and afterwards
it is added that "they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." But this
sacrament is given that we may receive that fulness. Therefore it should
be given to all who belong to the Church.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), man is spiritually advanced by
this sacrament to perfect age. Now the intention of nature is that
everyone born corporally, should come to perfect age: yet this is
sometimes hindered by reason of the corruptibility of the body, which is
forestalled by death. But much more is it God's intention to bring all
things to perfection, since nature shares in this intention inasmuch as
it reflects Him: hence it is written (Dt. 32:4): "The works of God are
perfect." Now the soul, to which spiritual birth and perfect spiritual
age belong, is immortal; and just as it can in old age attain to
spiritual birth, so can it attain to perfect (spiritual) age in youth or
childhood; because the various ages of the body do not affect the soul.
Therefore this sacrament should be given to all.
Reply to Objection 1: This sacrament is given in order to confer a certain
excellence, not indeed, like the sacrament of order, of one man over
another, but of man in regard to himself: thus the same man, when arrived
at maturity, excels himself as he was when a boy.
Reply to Objection 2: As stated above, the age of the body does not affect the
soul. Consequently even in childhood man can attain to the perfection of
spiritual age, of which it is written (Wis. 4:8): "Venerable old age is
not that of long time, nor counted by the number of years." And hence it
is that many children, by reason of the strength of the Holy Ghost which
they had received, fought bravely for Christ even to the shedding of
Reply to Objection 3: As Chrysostom says (Hom. i De Machab.), "in earthly contests fitness of age, physique and rank are required; and consequently slaves, women, old men, and boys are debarred from taking part therein. But in the heavenly combats, the Stadium is open equally to all, to every age, and to either sex." Again, he says (Hom. de Militia Spirit.): "In God's eyes even women fight, for many a woman has waged the spiritual warfare with the courage of a man. For some have rivaled men in the courage with which they have suffered martyrdom; and some indeed have shown themselves stronger than men." Therefore this sacrament should be given to women.
Reply to Objection 4: As we have already observed, the soul, to which spiritual
age belongs, is immortal. Wherefore this sacrament should be given to
those on the point of death, that they may be seen to be perfect at the
resurrection, according to Eph. 4:13: "Until we all meet into the unity
of faith . . . unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ." And
hence Hugh of St. Victor says (De Sacram. ii), "It would be altogether
hazardous, if anyone happened to go forth from this life without being
confirmed": not that such a one would be lost, except perhaps through
contempt; but that this would be detrimental to his perfection. And
therefore even children dying after Confirmation obtain greater glory,
just as here below they receive more grace. The passage quoted is to be
taken in the sense that, with regard to the dangers of the present
combat, those who are on the point of death do not need this sacrament.
Article 9: Whether this sacrament should be given to man on the forehead?
Objection 1: It seems that this sacrament should not be given to man on the
forehead. For this sacrament perfects Baptism, as stated above (Question , Articles ,4). But the sacrament of Baptism is given to man over his whole
body. Therefore this sacrament should not be given on the forehead only.
Objection 2: Further, this sacrament is given for spiritual strength, as
stated above (Articles ,2,4). But spiritual strength is situated principally
in the heart. Therefore this sacrament should be given over the heart
rather than on the forehead.
Objection 3: Further, this sacrament is given to man that he may freely
confess the faith of Christ. But "with the mouth, confession is made unto
salvation," according to Rm. 10:10. Therefore this sacrament should be
given about the mouth rather than on the forehead.
On the contrary, Rabanus says (De Instit. Cleric. i): "The baptized is
signed by the priest with chrism on the top of the head, but by the
bishop on the forehead."
I answer that, As stated above (Articles ,4), in this sacrament man receives
the Holy Ghost for strength in the spiritual combat, that he may bravely
confess the Faith of Christ even in face of the enemies of that Faith.
Wherefore he is fittingly signed with the sign of the cross on the
forehead, with chrism, for two reasons. First, because he is signed with
the sign of the cross, as a soldier with the sign of his leader, which
should be evident and manifest. Now, the forehead, which is hardly ever
covered, is the most conspicuous part of the human body. Wherefore the
confirmed is anointed with chrism on the forehead, that he may show
publicly that he is a Christian: thus too the apostles after receiving
the Holy Ghost showed themselves in public, whereas before they remained
hidden in the upper room.
Secondly, because man is hindered from freely confessing Christ's name,
by two things---by fear and by shame. Now both these things betray
themselves principally on the forehead on account of the proximity of the
imagination, and because the (vital) spirits mount directly from the
heart to the forehead: hence "those who are ashamed, blush, and those who
are afraid, pale" (Ethic. iv). And therefore man is signed with chrism,
that neither fear nor shame may hinder him from confessing the name of
Reply to Objection 1: By baptism we are regenerated unto spiritual life, which
belongs to the whole man. But in Confirmation we are strengthened for the
combat; the sign of which should be borne on the forehead, as in a
Reply to Objection 2: The principle of fortitude is in the heart, but its sign
appears on the forehead: wherefore it is written (Ezech. 3:8): "Behold I
have made . . . thy forehead harder than their foreheads." Hence the
sacrament of the Eucharist, whereby man is confirmed in himself, belongs
to the heart, according to Ps. 103:15: "That bread may strengthen man's
heart." But the sacrament of Confirmation is required as a sign of
fortitude against others; and for this reason it is given on the forehead.
Reply to Objection 3: This sacrament is given that we may confess freely: but not
that we may confess simply, for this is also the effect of Baptism. And
therefore it should not be given on the mouth, but on the forehead, where
appear the signs of those passions which hinder free confession.
Article 10: Whether he who is confirmed needs one to stand* for him? [*Literally, "to hold him"]
Objection 1: It seems that he who is confirmed needs no one to stand for him.
For this sacrament is given not only to children but also to adults. But
adults can stand for themselves. Therefore it is absurd that someone else
should stand for them.
Objection 2: Further, he that belongs already to the Church, has free access
to the prince of the Church, i.e. the bishop. But this sacrament, as
stated above (Article ), is given only to one that is baptized, who is
already a member of the Church. Therefore it seems that he should not be
brought by another to the bishop in order to receive this sacrament.
Objection 3: Further, this sacrament is given for spiritual strength, which
has more vigor in men than in women, according to Prov. 31:10: "Who shall
find a valiant woman?" Therefore at least a woman should not stand for a
man in confirmation.
On the contrary, Are the following words of Pope Innocent, which are to
be found in the Decretals (XXX, Question ): "If anyone raise the children of
another's marriage from the sacred font, or stand for them in
Confirmation," etc. Therefore, just as someone is required as sponsor of
one who is baptized, so is someone required to stand for him who is to be
I answer that, As stated above (Articles ,4,9), this sacrament is given to
man for strength in the spiritual combat. Now, just as one newly born
requires someone to teach him things pertaining to ordinary conduct,
according to Heb. 12:9: "We have had fathers of our flesh, for
instructors, and we obeyed [Vulg.: 'reverenced']" them; so they who are
chosen for the fight need instructors by whom they are informed of things
concerning the conduct of the battle, and hence in earthly wars, generals
and captains are appointed to the command of the others. For this reason
he also who receives this sacrament, has someone to stand for him, who,
as it were, has to instruct him concerning the fight.
Likewise, since this sacrament bestows on man the perfection of
spiritual age, as stated above (Articles ,5), therefore he who approaches
this sacrament is upheld by another, as being spiritually a weakling and
Reply to Objection 1: Although he who is confirmed, be adult in body,
nevertheless he is not yet spiritually adult.
Reply to Objection 2: Though he who is baptized is made a member of the Church,
nevertheless he is not yet enrolled as a Christian soldier. And therefore
he is brought to the bishop, as to the commander of the army, by one who
is already enrolled as a Christian soldier. For one who is not yet
confirmed should not stand for another in Confirmation.
Reply to Objection 3: According to Col. 3 *(Gal. 3:28), "in Christ Jesus there is
neither male nor female." Consequently it matters not whether a man or a
woman stand for one who is to be confirmed.
Article 11: Whether only a bishop can confer this sacrament?
Objection 1: It seems that not only a bishop can confer this sacrament. For
Gregory (Regist. iv), writing to Bishop Januarius, says: "We hear that
some were scandalized because we forbade priests to anoint with chrism
those who have been baptized. Yet in doing this we followed the ancient
custom of our Church: but if this trouble some so very much we permit
priests, where no bishop is to be had, to anoint the baptized on the
forehead with chrism." But that which is essential to the sacraments
should not be changed for the purpose of avoiding scandal. Therefore it
seems that it is not essential to this sacrament that it be conferred by
Objection 2: Further, the sacrament of Baptism seems to be more efficacious
than the sacrament of Confirmation: since it bestows full remission of
sins, both as to guilt and as to punishment, whereas this sacrament does
not. But a simple priest, in virtue of his office, can give the sacrament
of Baptism: and in a case of necessity anyone, even without orders, can
baptize. Therefore it is not essential to this sacrament that it be
conferred by a bishop.
Objection 3: Further, the top of the head, where according to medical men the
reason is situated (i.e. the "particular reason," which is called the
"cogitative faculty"), is more noble than the forehead, which is the site
of the imagination. But a simple priest can anoint the baptized with
chrism on the top of the head. Therefore much more can he anoint them
with chrism on the forehead, which belongs to this sacrament.
On the contrary, Pope Eusebius (Ep. iii ad Ep. Tusc.) says: "The
sacrament of the imposition of the hand should be held in great
veneration, and can be given by none but the high priests. Nor is it
related or known to have been conf erred in apostolic times by others
than the apostles themselves; nor can it ever be either licitly or
validly performed by others than those who stand in their place. And if
anyone presume to do otherwise, it must be considered null and void; nor
will such a thing ever be counted among the sacraments of the Church."
Therefore it is essential to this sacrament, which is called "the
sacrament of the imposition of the hand," that it be given by a bishop.
I answer that, In every work the final completion is reserved to the
supreme act or power; thus the preparation of the matter belongs to the
lower craftsmen, the higher gives the form, but the highest of all is he
to whom pertains the use, which is the end of things made by art; thus
also the letter which is written by the clerk, is signed by his employer.
Now the faithful of Christ are a Divine work, according to 1 Cor. 3:9:
"You are God's building"; and they are also "an epistle," as it were,
"written with the Spirit of God," according to 2 Cor. 3:2,3. And this
sacrament of Confirmation is, as it were, the final completion of the
sacrament of Baptism; in the sense that by Baptism man is built up into a
spiritual dwelling, and is written like a spiritual letter; whereas by
the sacrament of Confirmation, like a house already built, he is
consecrated as a temple of the Holy Ghost, and as a letter already
written, is signed with the sign of the cross. Therefore the conferring
of this sacrament is reserved to bishops, who possess supreme power in
the Church: just as in the primitive Church, the fulness of the Holy
Ghost was given by the apostles, in whose place the bishops stand (Acts 8). Hence Pope Urban I says: "All the faithful should. after Baptism,
receive the Holy Ghost by the imposition of the bishop's hand, that they
may become perfect Christians."
Reply to Objection 1: The Pope has the plenitude of power in the Church, in
virtue of which he can commit to certain lower orders things that belong
to the higher orders: thus he allows priests to confer minor orders,
which belong to the episcopal power. And in virtue of this fulness of
power the Pope, Blessed Gregory, allowed simple priests to confer this
sacrament, so long as the scandal was ended.
Reply to Objection 2: The sacrament of Baptism is more efficacious than this
sacrament as to the removal of evil, since it is a spiritual birth, that
consists in change from non-being to being. But this sacrament is more
efficacious for progress in good; since it is a spiritual growth from
imperfect being to perfect being. And hence this sacrament is committed
to a more worthy minister.
Reply to Objection 3: As Rabanus says (De Instit. Cleric. i), "the baptized is
signed by the priest with chrism on the top of the head, but by the
bishop on the forehead; that the former unction may symbolize the descent
of the Holy Ghost on hint, in order to consecrate a dwelling to God: and
that the second also may teach us that the sevenfold grace of the same
Holy Ghost descends on man with all fulness of sanctity, knowledge and
virtue." Hence this unction is reserved to bishops, not on account of its
being applied to a more worthy part of the body, but by reason of its
having a more powerful effect.
Article 12: Whether the rite of this sacrament is appropriate?
Objection 1: It seems that the rite of this sacrament is not appropriate. For
the sacrament of Baptism is of greater necessity than this, as stated
above (Article , ad 4; Question , Articles ,4). But certain seasons are fixed for
Baptism, viz. Easter and Pentecost. Therefore some fixed time of the year
should be chosen for this sacrament.
Objection 2: Further, just as this sacrament requires devotion both in the
giver and in the receiver, so also does the sacrament of Baptism. But in
the sacrament of Baptism it is not necessary that it should be received
or given fasting. Therefore it seems unfitting for the Council of Orleans
to declare that "those who come to Confirmation should be fasting"; and
the Council of Meaux, "that bishops should not give the Holy Ghost with
imposition of the hand except they be fasting."
Objection 3: Further, chrism is a sign of the fulness of the Holy Ghost, as
stated above (Article ). But the fulness of the Holy Ghost was given to
Christ's faithful on the day of Pentecost, as related in Acts 2:1.
Therefore the chrism should be mixed and blessed on the day of Pentecost
rather than on Maundy Thursday.
On the contrary, Is the use of the Church, who is governed by the Holy
I answer that, Our Lord promised His faithful (Mt. 18:20) saying: "Where
there are two or three gathered together in My name, there am I in the
midst of them." And therefore we must hold firmly that the Church's
ordinations are directed by the wisdom of Christ. And for this reason we
must look upon it as certain that the rite observed by the Church, in
this and the other sacraments, is appropriate.
Reply to Objection 1: As Pope Melchiades says (Ep. ad Epis. Hispan.), "these two
sacraments," viz. Baptism and Confirmation, "are so closely connected
that they can nowise be separated save by death intervening, nor can one
be duly celebrated without the other." Consequently the same seasons are
fixed for the solemn celebration of Baptism and of this sacrament. But
since this sacrament is given only by bishops, who are not always present
where priests are baptizing, it was necessary, as regards the common use,
to defer the sacrament of Confirmation to other seasons also.
Reply to Objection 2: The sick and those in danger of death are exempt from this
prohibition, as we read in the decree of the Council of Meaux. And
therefore, on account of the multitude of the faithful, and on account of
imminent dangers, it is allowed for this sacrament, which can be given by
none but a bishop, to be given or received even by those who are not
fasting: since one bishop, especially in a large diocese, would not
suffice to confirm all, if he were confined to certain times. But where
it can be done conveniently, it is more becoming that both giver and
receiver should be fasting.
Reply to Objection 3: According to the acts of the Council of Pope Martin, "it
was lawful at all times to prepare the chrism." But since solemn Baptism,
for which chrism has to be used, is celebrated on Easter Eve, it was
rightly decreed, that chrism should be consecrated by the bishop two days
beforehand, that it may be sent to the various parts of the diocese.
Moreover, this day is sufficiently appropriate to the blessing of
sacramental matter, since thereon was the Eucharist instituted, to which,
in a certain way, all the other sacraments are ordained, as stated above
(Question , Article ).