Being Catholic in the 1950s and 60s (4) – Confirmation

August 31, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Australia, Catholic Church, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir, Religious rites | 10 Comments
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Confirmation was once a part of the baptismal ritual; it took place immediately after baptism, sealing in the Holy Spirit and anointing the new Christian with a threefold ministry as priest, prophet, and king.

Long ago, Confirmation became a separate sacramental rite. For much of history, any priest could baptise and celebrate Mass, but only the bishop administered the sacrament of Confirmation. That was still the case when I was confirmed.

Confirmation is a ritual that involves bishop, priest and congregation bringing someone into a full membership of the Catholic Church. Postulants can be any age of course, but in most cases where a child has attended a Catholic school as we did, or received adequate instruction, they are aged around ten or eleven.

My older sister and I were confirmed towards the end of 1958. She was eleven and I was ten years old. The other children confirmed with us on that day were of a similar age. As with our First Communion, we wore white dresses and veils for the ceremony and sat together at the front of the church.

L to R:  Sheelagh, Pauline with our baby brother David, cousin Judith in front, Peter on the bike, me (Linda) & cousin Philip.

L to R: Sheelagh, Pauline with our baby brother David, cousin Judith in front, Peter on the bike, me (Linda) & cousin Philip.

The ceremony is a short one for each individual, but many children in the parish could be ‘done’ on the same day, making a long morning in church; I don’t remember how many we had. It involves the bishop anointing each person with the Oil of Chrism while saying, “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit”. The person responds with, “Amen”. The bishop then shakes their hand while saying, “Peace be with you”, and the person responds, “And also with you”. Then you sit and he goes to the next person.

We were taught that being sealed with the Holy Spirit turned us into “Soldiers of Christ”. In fact, I think Bishop McCabe actually said the words, “You are a soldier of Christ”, at our ceremony. This was to make us strong, as we may have to suffer hardship, torture and even death in defence of the Faith.



We were also given a Confirmation medal. I was proud to become a Soldier of Christ and from then on, one of my favourite hymns was “Faith of Our Fathers”.

We all had to choose a Confirmation Name, that of a patron saint, a friend in heaven, to model ourselves after and rely on for prayers. I chose the name Bernadette, as I loved the story of Bernadette Soubiros of Lourdes. For some time, I added Bernadette as a second middle name. I can’t remember who my sister chose, though it may have been St Agnes.

I received a book about St Bernadette as a Confirmation present from my parents. When we got home after the ceremony and Mass, Mum got out the camera and took three precious photos (they were expensive to buy rolls of film and then to get developed, so they were rationed out for important occasions).



Two photos were of my sister, then me, by ourselves, taken at the front corner of the house, then of all the children. Mum’s brother’s family lived with us then. On that day, they attended a different Mass because ours took longer. As a result our two cousins were not dressed up. However, they were included in the photo anyway. The motorbike (with a side-car) that we are clustered around was Dad’s work vehicle and, as the photo also shows, he was still building extensions onto the house.

(c) Linda Visman


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  1. Again loved reading this Linda. I can imagine the impact this must have had on you at that stage of you life. I liked that concept of you choosing a name and then modelling yourself on that person.

    • Thank you Don. Yes, it was an important part of my life then. We seemed to have been defined by our Catholicism.

  2. There are so many similarities with my childhood being confirmed in the Church of England. I was at high school so must have been about 13. We wore white dresses and a veil and Archbishop Loan officiated. We had attended a number of instruction classes after school at the church in Mittagong. There were no medals and no saints names but otherwise it sounds very similar. I had to get christened a few weeks before as I hadn’t been as a baby.

    This was in the 1960s, around 1964. Your writing brings back many memories.

    • Glad my stories have brought back your own memories, Linda. I am finding it of interest to re-visit my past and see what forces operated on me and my family then. 🙂

  3. I was never confirmed, so I suspect I must have Holy Spirit leaking out all over the place…family pictures, memories, precious things!

  4. My confirmation took place in England when I was about 8 or 9 and I chose Peter as my confirmation name. I remember wishing that was my true name as I thought it was more Posh than Terence.
    It takes me back to my pre atheist days. thanks Linda

    • Hi Terry! Great to have you visit. I like Peter as a name – my elder brother is Peter. I don’t remember what name he took at his confirmation name.
      Yes, these memories take me back also to the days when I was an engenuous believer.

  5. Yes, it is true that we were told that we were soldiers of Christ at our Confirmation. One thing you left out, was the slap on the face from the Bishop to each of the Confirmandi to signify their willingness to suffer for Christ. Despite texts which describe the bishop giving a ceremonial pat on the face to signify willingness to suffer for Christ, the bishop we had slapped us hard in the face. We didn’t forget his slap in the face! My twin sister and I were 10 years old when we made our Confirmation. We made our Confirmation on All Saints Day because the nuns told us they wanted to give us something to live up to.

    All Saints Day fell on a Saturday. (We did not go trick or treating the evening before on Halloween as my mother told us Confirmation was an important and serious sacrament and wanted us to spend the time contemplating and preparing ourselves). Unlike First Holy Communion, boys and girls made their Confirmation in different ceremonies. The boys made their Confirmation first and us girls (and family) had a long wait before our ceremony began. Meanwhile, they had us girls walking continuously around the church grounds following a cross held aloft by an altar server to signify that as soldiers of Christ, we would have to keep following after the Cross of Christ. I took the name Elizabeth, which later I identified with St. Elizabeth of Hungary, patron saint of Nursing, among other things. (I became a nurse). My twin sister took the feminine of Andrew, Andrea, for St. Andrew. We had been baptized in St. Andrew Church and attended the parish when very young. Denise was taken up by how St. Andrew was still preaching Christ after he had been crucified. We were all told we were soldiers of Christ at Confirmation.

    • Thanks for your comment Diane. They were interesting and in many ways formative times for kids. Being brainwashed is a form of child abuse as far as I am concerned. Those days thankfully over for me and good riddance to them. It has taken me50 years to finally be my own person.

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