Confirmation, 'Baptism of the Holy Spirit' confusion

I was baptized Reformed-ish. We were taught that baptism was not regenerative nor was it a special vehicle of grace (it didn’t “do anything”), but was an act of obedience to Christ; and if this act of obedience was the result of faith in Christ, we would receive the Holy Spirit (not because of the baptism, but because of the faith), and the Holy Spirit would then grant us assurance of salvation. I did not sense that I “had” the Holy Spirit; I didn’t have love, wisdom or peace, and I did not receive assurance of salvation in spite of much prayer. I thought that perhaps something had ‘gone wrong’ with my baptism; there was a similar situation in Acts where people received Christian baptism but not the Spirit, and some of the Apostles had to be called in to lay hands on them so that they could receive the Spirit. I was taught that there were no more Apostles (and no Apostolic Succession) so it didn’t seem likely that there was anyone who could help me, and if it was not God’s will for me to have the Spirit, this (among other things) was because I was just not Predestined.

When I became Catholic, I thought that Confirmation would clear up any “problem” with my baptism. I was hoping that it would be a happy day, but mostly I was praying that it wouldn’t trigger a stint of depression. Because I wanted to avoid an emotional high followed by a crash, I chose not to be received into the Church at the Easter vigil when there would be greater expectations and excitement. I did not want to remember the day as a source of disappointment. I was Confirmed quietly in a quiet month, and at the time I was quietly happy, which was nice. A couple of things didn’t go as expected but it was okay. After I saw the Easter vigil, though, the “couple of things” were overwhelming, and I wonder if it was a suffering caused by avoiding the cross - I tried to protect myself from potential emotional pain, and ended up finding emotional pain in another way?

I am too sensitive about my Confirmation/First Communion, as it seemed vitally important as the seal of my baptism and a remedy for an apparent lack of God. It felt almost like it ought to have been a wedding, and I had wanted to do it right, but at the same time I was trying to downplay it so as not to create any false hopes. I know that I ought to just be grateful to have received Confirmation and now have access to Confession and the Eucharist. I am so thankful to be a Catholic, but when I see how “normal” people celebrate these milestones, I feel absurdly sad and rejected, even cheated. (Just feelings, I know.)

Now I realize that, even within Catholicism, there is a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” that can come separately from the sacraments of baptism and Confirmation, and this does not come to everyone? Am I supposed to request it? In the Acts reference, it was obvious whether or not a convert had received the Spirit, but although I am told that I “have” the Spirit by baptism and Confirmation, I can’t tell.

You are here on the forum asking about God, you are in church, you are partaking of the sacraments, you have faith. All of this is gifts given you by the Holy Spirit. I would say you have Him in your life. If you are looking for a Pentecostal type speaking in tongues type experience, although possible, it is not something God gives everyone. Even so you still have the Holy Spirit and he will work in your life.

Try praying for God to reveal what HE wants in your life, rather than praying for what you want from God especially as it relates to how the spirit manifests in you.

I too will pray for you! :slight_smile:

Well, this risks violating a ban on the charismatic movement. We have to be extremely careful here. The preacher of the Papal household is Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. He is a Capuchin Franciscan who is charismatic. Here is an article he wrote on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Any Priest can do it, but normally only those who are charismatic perform it. All I can tell you is that, if you lose yourself and willingly submit to the Holy Spirit, your faith life will deepen and intensify. Greatly.

Yes, I can understand this “confusion” and I think it is helped by your not talking with a spiritual director, if may presume.

Also, I think some people have the “bells and whistles” of a Confirmation and others grow quietly into the Holy Spirit. I think God wants you to learn the quiet way and that might be why you chose a quiet alternate date for confirmation. At some level you know; you just don’t fully trust it yet.

I was expecting lights and tongues of fire at my adult confirmation and was very upset that things were not moving forward the way I wanted. In fact, some severe life changes happened in the next few years after my confirmation: both parents and a brother died, departure of friends, change of jobs, crazy people, confusion…until now, twenty years later that I can say that all of that severity and change was combined with a very quiet and slow drawing in of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enabled me to get through all of this loss. Now I can say that all of that crisis and change was essential to my spiritual growth; there may be more “pruning” in store.

Accept the Holy Spirit in its most quiet form. Who knows? Life gets noisy and you begin to appreciate the lack of histrionics and spectacle when you can find it. It’s like coming off of an addiction to your own adrenaline. God is always there. Sometimes the pruning helps us to find the flowers of faith.

The great thing about being Catholic is that we don’t need feelings in order to have faith. We know what the sacraments do. We know the grace they give to us. Catholic teaching spells it all out.

Of course, it’s nice to have those feelings and spiritual consolations. But they are not necessary. The sacraments work ex opere operato – out of the work having been worked.

If you have been baptized and confirmed, you have those indellible marks on your soul. You have the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s certainly a good practice to pray for those gifts and fruits to increase in your life. But you do not need to seek an emotional experience to validate those graces. They are already present.

That said, po18guy gives some nice links for further info on what the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” means. You can certainly pursue that if you desire. I would just encourage you to make sure you are approaching it as a form of spirituality that can help you rather than as some sort of necessity to make sure you feel the effects of the sacraments.


What the BITH does for some individuals, is to release the power of the gifts we received in our Baptism and Confirmation. Not all need it, but I most certainly did. And, we are called to know what our charism is and to use it for the building up of the Church - their very purpose. Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 12:41-49 speak to this.

“Baptism of the Holy Spirit” should not be confused with the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. In the early centuries following Pentecost, there were prayers or rituals which accompanied these two Sacraments. What was known as the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” was a prayer experience for adults. Today, we have the prayer of rejecting Satan and there is the lighted candle.

[FONT=Arial]The following book is a thorough study of “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” and the charisms in the early Church. It includes; Tertullian in his Catholic years, Hilary of Poitiers, Basil, Gregory Nazianzus, Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom, Philoxenus, John of Apamea, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Severus of Antioch, and Joseph Hzaazya. They represent Latin, Greek, and Syrian cultures, almost the whole of the Mediterranean seaboard.

Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Evidence from the First Eight Centuries
ISBN 0-8146-5009-0
by Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B. and George Montague, S.M.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]Today, “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” has been renewed by the “Catholic Life in the Spirit Seminars.” For information, one can check with the parish office or check with the diocesan liaison for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal within the Catholic Church. This liaison is usually under the diocesan vicar for spirituality. A phone call to the diocesan office will provide the information you need.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]This link is to a basic information book.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]This link is to the official website for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Use the menu on the left.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]If there are questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

I’m sorry for giving a delayed response.

Thank you for your response and prayers, Jon. No, I don’t want to speak in tongues (I don’t know what I want, and I still think I don’t have it, lol). I pray to know and to do the will of God, and for Him to give me love to love Him (and people) with.

I appreciate the link; I was drawn especially to the quote about the Holy Spirit, that rivers of life will flow from His heart. I did not realize that certain priests “specialized” in BITHS.

You may presume.

I had not thought of it that way, thank you for your insight. I had assumed that perhaps I was being cynical and somehow rejecting Love by choosing not to celebrate as “largely” as others. I’m sorry that you experienced so much loss, and all at once, but I am glad that it brought you near to God.

I love that part about Catholicism. I would be in trouble otherwise. :smiley:

A few years ago I was definitely seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit to feel assurance. I hope that my intentions are purer by now. :blush:

The book and links look interesting, thanks for the recommendation, and also for the offer to help with any questions.

I pray to know and to do the will of God, and for Him to give me love to love Him (and people) with.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ That is the Holy Spirit working in you my friend!:thumbsup::slight_smile:

Remember that we are on a path to Sainthood, most likely completed after we die. I almost feel like you are desiring to be a Saint now, which is a good thing, but it takes a lifetime to accomplish!

I will have to learn patience, then? :stuck_out_tongue:

**Humility & The Charisms
Humility guards the charisms. The charisms are works of the Holy Spirit, sparks from the very fire of God, given to us for the Church. What can we do to prevent this fire from burning out, and what can we do so that we do not burn our hands with it? This is where humility comes in. Humility makes it possible for this grace of God to come in and to spread out over the Church and into the whole of humanity without becoming scattered and lost and without picking up impurities in the spreading. The higher the voltage or the potential of an electric current passing through a conductor, the greater the resistance of the insulator needs to be to prevent the current running to earth and shorting out the circuit. The great insulator in the spiritual life is humility. It permits the divine current of grace to pass through a person without losing its power, and without provoking sparks and flashes of pride and rivalry, which would be far worse.

from Come, Creator Spirit - Meditations on the Veni Creator by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa p.188

The truth of Baptism is basically the opposite of the teachings found in the
beginning of post 1.

Baptism is definitely regenerative as taught by the Catholic Church.
It imparts or brings the *life *of Christ’s grace to our soul and therefore it erases Original Sin. It literally and effectively turns us back to God.

Not only is Baptism a special vehicle of grace, it is the first vehicle of grace. This is why the words of Baptism are so simple. [Name of the person] I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, being baptized is an act of obedience to Jesus Christ. It is an act which brings God into our souls. What actually happens is that God comes to us because God chooses to do so when we are baptized.

Our faith can be the size of a mustard seed when God washes Original Sin away. This is why the Holy Spirit comes to us in a special way – because the Holy Spirit gives us the grace or help we need to grow in our faith. Remember that Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit in His teachings at the Last Supper. We recently celebrated Pentecost, the “Coming of the Holy Spirit.”

As for automatic assurance of salvation – no way is there automatic assurance. We have a life to live in which we can choose the good of following Jesus Christ in our own particular individual life or we can choose sin.

What the presence of the Holy Spirit within us means is that the Holy Spirit will automatically provide His help–BUT it is up to us to actually use His help. Is this understandable?

No matter how old we are, we can always call on the graces of Baptism.

Through Baptism we share in the life of God. The term is that we are in the state of Sanctifying Grace. In other words, the presence of God is what makes us holy. It is the Holy Spirit Who gives us the first gift of His presence and then He continually gives us His grace through the following Sacraments.


Thank you for taking the time to provide such a thorough explanation!

I’m sorry if I gave anyone a red herring. I mentioned what my former denomination taught about the nature of baptism at the time that I received it, just in case it might be useful for someone to see what I was thinking at the time that I began to be confused years ago. I should have mentioned that I have learned what the Catholic Church teaches about baptism since then. I have two indelible characters now, Baptism and Confirmation, that I try to remember to renew daily.

There is no red herring. :slight_smile:
Sometimes, it takes a bit for our intellectual knowledge to reach our heart and then clean out the cobwebs (known as cowwebs when I was little.). I speak from experience.

In addition, by dealing with previous misinformation about Baptism, this may help someone who is currently dealing with the same thing. It is like imitating Jesus, Who patiently approached each individual according to her or his needs. It also helps to sort out what is really meant by the prayer experience known as “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” :smiley:

As to baptism being merely an empty test of obedience, I truly ewonder if any of the men who concocted such doctrines ever compiled a list of “other things” that our Lord commanded that had no meaning in themselves and were simply empty gestures made out of obedience? This is nonsensical. Everything He did and said had eternal import, as He taught only what He heard from His Father. Even God commanding Abraham to offer Isaac as a holocaust had a double purpose: an atonement as well as a test of Abraham’s obedience. Bathing or immersion had great significance in the Judaic culture of the time. Mary had to submit to the ritual bath in a miqvah before she could eneter the temple to present Jesus to the Lord there in compliance with Leviticus 12:2-4. Jesus, in John 3:3-5, teachesNicodemus that we are “born from above” (or, born again) through “water and the Spirit” - Baptism and Confirmation! Peter, on the day of Pentecost, spoke of Baptism and Confirmation Acts 2:38 "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul, in Romans 6:3 teaches that “We are baptized into Christ’s death.” so that we may have hope of sharing in His resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul speaks directly of Baptism and Confirmation: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

Through Baptism, we are born anew, we are forgiven, we enter into Christ’s death, we become members of Christ’s Body and we drink the Holy Spirit.

Simple act of obedience? Nonsense.

Well written.

And everything He did and said, if we adhere to it, can even make our time, or others’ time, on earth better…maybe not easier at first but definitely better. Christ is always reasonable. God’s laws always have logic, survival, and goodness at their core. When cults and splinter groups try to copy Christ’s Church, they go overboard into blind obedience and mindless acts of worship, rather than imitating and understanding the Real thing.

I wondered at the time, and now since I am still wondering, I will go ahead and ask:

I did this before baptism, too (prayed to do the will of God, to have love, etc.). Yes, I think that an attraction toward God comes from God, but in what way did the Holy Spirit uniquely work at my baptism vs. the gift of a Christian upbringing, since I was already concerned about the will of God (otherwise I would not have sought baptism)? In Acts, the apostles either knew or they asked whether or not someone had received Holy Spirit at their baptism; they did not say “Since you were baptized, He came, regardless of your/our impressions.”

(I am not saying that the Church teaches incorrectly, I’m only trying to understand.)

In Acts 10:44-48, the Spirit fell upon those to whom Peter was talking, and they were subsequently baptized. It seems that God works however He wills. Baptism then Confirmation is the normative means of receiving the Holy Spirit, but not always.

I had forgotten about that.

In my humble opinion, I would use the* Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition* to learn about the Catholic Sacrament of Baptism instead of Acts. If you have the Catechism, check out the “Index of Citations” starting on page 689. Acts of the Apostles starts on page 708. The way to check Catholic teaching is to start with the Scripture passage and look it up in the “Index of Citations”. Then go to the paragraph where the passage is used in some way. One thing to remember is that not every verse in Scripture automatically becomes a Catholic doctrine.

If you will be patient with me, give me the chapter/verse of Acts which you are dealing with and I will demonstrate the above instructions.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit