From a reader:
A bit related to your post about seeking Confirmation from another diocese, I was wondering what you thought of seeking out the sacrament of Confirmation for my children before they receive Holy Communion for the first time.
As I understand it, Holy Communion traditionally stood as the culmination of the process of entering the Church. Baptism – Confirmation – Holy Communion. Indeed, that’s the order of reception at the Easter Vigil and, I think, is the way those three sacraments are presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. With the movement of the reception of Holy Communion for the first time to an earlier age (by Pius X, I believe), was there any intention to also move Confirmation to a correspondingly earlier age? If not, would it be recommended/proper/pious to seek out Confirmation before First Holy Communion?
In the ancient Church and still in the Eastern Churches, those entering the Church would receive all three sacraments of "initiation". Thus, even the very young, even infants were confirmed.
When the numbers of people to be "initiated" became too great for the lone bishop to handle everyone, practical solutions were adopted and the sacraments were separated.
In the Latin Church we have been separating Baptism, Confirmation and Communion for quite some time now. The age of Communion has been moved to the "age of reason", to be be determined primarily by parents in consultation with their pastor.
The age of Confirmation has been pushed later and later. The 1983 Code of Canon Law c. 891 sets the age for Confirmation "at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age … ". In the USA the Latin Rite bishops set the age for Confirmation at between the age of discretion (considered to be about age seven) and "about sixteen years of age."
Many people argue that late teens is too late for the sacrament. They think it should be earlier. The idea is that the sacrament of Confirmation, the strengthening it gives, is really needed before the turbulent years of adolescence. Canon Law supports this possibility, but the local bishops conference might have set other guidelines.
I don’t see why there could not be an exception, but it seems to me that this should be worked out carefully with your pastor and, perhaps, with the bishop who would confirm.
So, unless you really have a compelling reason to do otherwise, how about following the directives of the bishops according to the program your pastor determines?
In the meantime, form your children well! Giving them the gift of Faith, the Faith in which we believe, will make their deepening of the Faith by which we believe that much richer and effective in their lives. This is your honor and duty.