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Chapter 31: Confirmation, the Apostolate, and Personal Vocation

Question D: Why is strength the special grace of the sacrament of confirmation?

1. The teaching of the Church (see A above) shows that confirmation confers the Spirit especially to strengthen the Christian for courageous witnessing. Witnessing is one’s personal vocation, considered as one’s proper share in the apostolate of the Church. Strengthening graces are needed to fulfill any Christian vocation consistently, for none lacks suffering and hardship. The martyr is a witness, and every Christian witness will be a martyr (see S.t., 3, q. 72, a. 4).

St. Stephen, the first martyr, closely followed Jesus. He boldly bore witness to Jesus, commended his spirit to him, prayed for his persecutors, and died with resignation (see Acts 7.54–60). Sts. Peter and John before the Sanhedrin also boldly bore witness, for they were filled with the Spirit (see Acts 4.8–21).

2. Reading the signs of the times in the light of faith, Christians relativize time by the standards of eternity. The Christian sees through the world and announces its passing character (see 1 Cor 7.29–31). Not hiding their hope, Christians challenge worldly powers and their evil ways (see LG 35).

3. Holiness comes by doing one’s ordinary work in intimate association with Jesus according to God’s loving plan (see AA 4). Although not meant as a condemnation of anyone, such simple holiness is rightly perceived by the wicked as a condemnation. The world’s negative reaction is inevitable; every faithful Christian must be prepared for it (see Jn 15.18–25; 16.1–4; 1 Jn 3.12–13).

4. To fulfill one’s Christian vocation also requires strength because of the intrinsic difficulty of any such vocation. Self-interest must be subordinated to the needs of the kingdom, as in the case of John the Baptist, who was content to fade away to make room for Jesus (see Jn 3.27–30). One must be prompt in setting aside security in order to be in communion with Jesus, as Levi was prompt in giving up his job (see Mt 9.9–13; Mk 2.13–17; Lk 5.27–32).

5. The strength of confirmation also is required because every Christian vocation demands unswerving fidelity. With respect to the elements of one’s vocation, there is no room for experimentation and no room for writing off a commitment as a mistake and making a fresh start. True, the commitments which constitute one’s vocation always are open to further specification. Moreover, projects chosen to fulfill one’s vocation can be completed and sometimes may be abandoned. However, vocational commitments themselves specify what the Christian modes of response require of each individual. Hence, one cannot change one’s mind about any vocational commitment without violating the claims of Christian morality. Often, indeed, one’s eternal life is at stake in being faithful to vocational commitments.

6. One who loves God willingly strives to fulfill perfectly even a small role in his story of salvation, for every role is important (see 1 Cor 12.19–22). The many different and limited personal vocations prepare for a rich diversity of relationships in heaven. For human acts, especially those which are vocational commitments, are not just means to an end. They are made to last. The good deeds of those who die in communion with Jesus will remain with them forever (see Rv 14.13).

The strength which the Spirit conveys in confirmation need not be considered some sort of supplement apart from charity, but can be identified with charity itself enlivening faith and hope. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13.7). In committing oneself in vocational choices, one who loves considers needs and dares to try to fulfill them, humbly confident that God will supply. In facing unexpected difficulties, one who loves creatively excogitates new approaches, because love finds a way.