Session 14: The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation

Resources for participants

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

14A

  • What’s the most interesting or inspiring religious service you have you been to? What stood out for you?
  • Have you been at church when someone was celebrating a sacrament? Which one? What do you remember about the service?
  • Can you share any particular ways that Jesus has “spoken” to you or “touched” your life?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

14B

  • If you could make a new start, with God’s help, and change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • What excites you about the knowledge that you have been baptised or that you might get baptised?
  • What makes it hard for you to believe or to witness to your faith in front of other people?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

14C

  • Who is the wisest person you have known? What makes them special?
  • Have you prayed to the Holy Spirit? If you could ask for one spiritual gift (e.g. prophecy or compassion or working miracles or teaching) what would it be and why?
  • If you are confirmed: What do you remember about your confirmation? What difference did it make for you? If you are preparing for confirmation: Why do you want to be confirmed?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

READINGS FROM THE YOUCAT FOR THIS SESSION

If you are using the YouCat with your Sycamore group, please click here for general advice about the YouCat and how to use the readings. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

PLEASE NOTE: The readings for this session are longer than usual. If possible it would be better to split this reading over two weeks – Part A and Part B – so you can give proper time to each topic. Please find out from your leader or catechist whether they have been able to add in an extra week for this, and what the plan is for your group.

PART A:

  • #166 to #192 – the Liturgy and the Sacraments [14 pages]

PART B:

  • #193 to #207 – the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation [8 pages]
  • #310 to #311 – the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit [1 page]

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the YouCat and not to page numbers. The number in [square brackets] at the end tells you roughly how long this passage is in terms of the pages you need to read (excluding picture pages).

 

LONGER READINGS FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

If you have more time, and if you want to go deeper into the topic of this session, you can follow up by exploring the longer Catechism of the Catholic Church. See the standard online version here, and a digital “flip-book” edition here. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the Catechism and not to page numbers. Click on the links themselves to read the paragraphs in the online version.

 

KEY IDEAS FROM THE FILM

14A – The power of the sacraments and the liturgy

If there is one word that captures the idea of how God continues to reach out to us it’s the word “sacrament”. A sacrament is a visible sign of invisible grace. It’s a special prayer of the Church, a ritual, that unites us with Jesus Christ and fills us with his Holy Spirit.

The sacraments are at the centre of what’s called the Sacred Liturgy. This is the solemn, public worship of the Christian Church. The sacraments help us to worship God “in Spirit and in Truth”. They make us holy. And they give us the strength to love our neighbour and to witness to our faith.

The seven sacraments come from Jesus. He instituted them. They weren’t just invented hundreds of years later. They are part of his plan. And there is something objective about the sacraments. There is a grace, a spiritual power, that doesn’t depend on how holy or inspiring the minister is, or on the feelings of the congregation. The sacraments are bigger than us. They are a gift. They depend on Jesus Christ and on the faith of the Church.

At the same time, they are sacraments of faith. If we want them to bear fruit in our lives, to make a difference, then we need to have a living faith and to be open to the graces God wants to give us.

They are sacraments of eternal life. They give us a glimpse of heaven. We join with the angels and the saints in their worship of God. It makes us long to be with him for all eternity.

14B – How baptism can change your life

Why do Christians get baptised? Isn’t it enough just to believe in Jesus Christ? Well faith matters, absolutely. But Jesus himself is very clear about the importance of baptism as well. At the end of St Mark’s Gospel he says: “Anyone who believes and is baptised will be saved” (Mk 16:16). Baptism is the gateway to salvation. And at the end of St Matthew’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples to baptise people of every nation (Mt 28:19).

Baptism unites you with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection; the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within your soul; and you become a beloved child of God the Father. Your sins are completely forgiven, and the burden of Original Sin is lifted from your shoulders.

You are given the gifts of faith, hope and charity. You become a member of Christ’s body, the Church. You share in his priesthood: praying in his name, going out to serve others, sharing your faith with them.

Baptism is like a seal that’s burnt into your very being. You have an identity which can never be taken away.

Who can be baptised? Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and in the apostolic faith, who has repented of their sins, and who is trying to live the Christian life. So baptism involves faith, repentance and conversion. It can include children who are brought to baptism on the basis of the faith of their parents and of the wider church.

14C – Confirmation and the gift of the Holy Spirit

In the bible it says that our God is “a consuming fire” (Heb 12:9). He is not a tame God. Sometimes he burns and purifies. He is not in our control.

You see this is the sacrament of confirmation. It’s the fire of God’s love sweeping down upon our lives and filling us with his power. There is a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, just as there was on the disciples on the day of Pentecost.

It’s not the first time we receive the Holy Spirit, who comes upon us at baptism. But there is a new energy, a confirmation and a strengthening of his gifts. We are anointed with the sacred oil of chrism as we hear the words, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”.

There are great debates about the best age for confirmation. In the Eastern Churches, you are confirmed as a baby just after your baptism. In the Western tradition, it varies a lot, depending on what your bishop decides. It can be anywhere from seven or eight to your late teens.

But whatever the age, the meaning is the same. We are filled with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are their traditional names: wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, and the fear of the Lord – a fear that brings not anxiety but a sense of wonder and awe in his presence.

There is a well-known prayer to the Holy Spirit. It reminds us that we can talk to the Holy Spirit and pray to him, just as we can to Jesus and to the Father. It goes like this: “Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Amen”.