Is Confirmation the Catholic equivalent of a bar or bat mitzvah?

In the theological sense, a bar mitzvah is not a sacrament; therefore, it is unlike Confirmation because it does not confer grace. However, in the practical sense the two have a lot of similarities.

In the Latin Church, the sacrament of Confirmation is given to candidates beginning in their teenage years. It is seen as a sacrament of maturity. Once candidates receive the sacrament of Confirmation, they are supposed to take their rightful place as adult Catholics in the church by practicing stewardship of time, talent, and treasure.

The sacrament is often conferred after years of study, service projects, and spiritual preparations. It used to be the custom that candidates at the confirmation ceremony had to be able to know and respond to ninety-nine questions from the bishop. During the homily, the bishop would ask any of the candidates a basic question in the faith and receive a proper answer.

The same questions asked at Baptism (“Do you renounce Satan?” “Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?”) are asked again in confirmation. This time, instead of the priest or deacon, the bishop asks the questions and the response comes from the young person being confirmed rather than his parents or godparents, as was the case when he was baptized as an infant.

Along this line, bar mitzvah (for boys) or bat mitzvah (for girls) is a rite of maturity for Jewish teenagers. They must have general knowledge of their religion and its history, and know the holy days and why they are celebrated. Finally, the teens must be proficient in Hebrew and be able to say certain prayers and readings from Holy Writ in this language. Upon completion of preparation, the teens are tested by the rabbi. When they pass, the congregation celebrates bar mitzvah for boys and bat mitzvah for girls. After the ceremony, they are fully pledged members of synagogue.

Confirmation is more than a rite of passage; it is a vehicle to confer grace. Grace is transmitted through the laying on of hands, the prayer of the Spirit, and the anointing with the chrism oil. Chrism oil is one of three oils used in the celebration of the seven sacraments, the other two being the oil of catechumen, used in Baptism, and the oil of the infirmed, used in the Anointing of the Sick.

All three oils are blessed by the bishop at the cathedral during Holy Week known as the Chrism Mass. Chrism oil is special from the other three because it is mixed with a fragrant balsam. Not only is it used in Confirmation, but also in Baptism, in Holy Orders, and when a Church and its sacred objects are blessed as set aside for worship of God.

The effects of Confirmation when cooperating with the graces create the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, perseverance, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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