Liverpool: reversing the order of the sacraments

The ancient Church, and in Eastern Churches today, the sacraments “of initiation” were given “continuously”, that is, all at once.  Even infants were confirmed after baptism and then given the Eucharist.   The separation of confirmation came about probably as a result of the large number of converts and children born into Christian families once Christianity was  legal and rapidly spreading.  The bishop couldn’t do them all himself.  Therefore, confirmation was delayed.

In some circles there is talk that the ancient practice should be restored.

From the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald comes this story.

Archbishop puts Confirmation before Communion

By David V Barrett

From next year children in the Archdiocese of Liverpool will be confirmed before receiving their First Communion, reversing the usual order of sacraments in the Catholic Church.

A leaflet being sent to all parishes in the archdiocese next week explains the changes. It says: “These three sacraments make up the process of belonging to the Church (called Christian Initiation). The sacraments weren’t always in that order, and adults preparing for initiation have always received them in the original order: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (Communion).”

From September 2012 children in the archdiocese who have been baptised will follow this order.

“Those aged eight by September 1 2012 will be invited to receive Confirmation and First Communion in the days between Ascension Sunday and the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) in 2013, and the same pattern will be followed each year after that,” the leaflet said.

The details are also on both the archdiocesan and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral websites. The decision to restore the order of the sacraments of initiation and to introduce a family catechesis approach, supported by parishes and schools, was made by Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool,?with?the encouragement of the Council of Priests, at the end of 2008.

The new procedure will involve families far more in the way children are prepared for the sacraments.

“Instead of teachers, catechists and priests teaching children and parents about the sacraments, they will help the parents to hand on their own faith to their children, fulfilling the privileges and responsibilities expressed in the Rite of Baptism. New resources will help parents to prepare their own children for these sacraments with the support of the local church community,” the leaflet says. [Some publisher will be happy.]

“These changes are meant to help us understand that sacraments are gifts of God’s grace, that parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith, and that we are all called to get to know Jesus better throughout our life’s journey.” [And that will be accomplished by reversing the order of the sacraments?  They want to confirm at an earlier age because confirmation "helps them know Jesus"? I am not convinced that that is the purpose of the sacrament of confirmation.]

The families of these children will be invited to explore and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with them during Advent each year, while teenagers and their families will be invited to explore and celebrate Reconciliation during Lent each year.

The next two years will be a transition period from the old process to the new. In 2011 there will be no First Communions in most parishes. Children in Year 6 (aged 10-11) should be confirmed; in 2012 this will be children aged 8 to 11. From 2013 onwards the norm will be that children aged eight will receive Confirmation and Holy Communion during the same celebration.

There could be good reasons to reverse the order of sacraments.  However, I hope that their reasons reach beyond “getting to know Jesus better”.

I am sure that their catechetical materials will be thorough.

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87 Responses to Liverpool: reversing the order of the sacraments

  1. CarpeNoctem says:

    I don’t have a problem with this. The challenge, of course, is catechetics. There’s good ecclesiology in not only putting them together, but also having First Communion (along with, obviously, Confirmation) in a Mass with the bishop.

    A critique I have is that I am wondering if the “age of reason” has not recessed a bit in recent decades to a bit older than we currently reckon it… maybe 4th grade (age 10)?

    Of course, if both sacraments were done at an early age, I regret to think that here in the states our religious ed programs (Catholic schools and other religious ed programs for those not in or not having Catholic schools) would be destroyed by not having the ‘carrot’ of a late Confirmation to hold them in formation. Maybe that’s not all bad, as these institutions are not in very good shape anyway, and this would simply hasten their torturously slow demise and clear the ground for something (not sure what?) new.

  2. Rich says:

    I wonder if the diocese is having a problem getting people married because the people stopped going to church after First Communion and never got confirmed.

  3. Our diocese has been doing the “restored order” for quite a few years now. I really don’t see a lot of difference, other than breaking the “Confirmation = CCD graduation” idea. Hopefully they’ll produce some good catechetical materials on Confirmation, because there is nothing available in the United States for that age. Plenty for teens, but nothing for 8 year olds. Personally, if they really think the restored order is so important, let’s just do like the Eastern Churches and go back to receiving Confirmation and First Communion as an infant.

  4. I don’t really have much opinion on the age…I can see reasons to go both ways. I like the idea of having parents help with/do most of the catechesis. That’s how it should be (and how it was for me, although for different reasons). My concern is their ability to involve the parents. My mom is a former DRE, and she left precisely because the parents wouldn’t take responsibility for their children’s formation. They thought it was all up to the Church to do that.
    It is critical that parents are involved, and this will likely help, but it will certainly be a lot of work. May God bless them in this endeavor.

  5. TNCath says:

    Rich wrote, “I wonder if the diocese is having a problem getting people married because the people stopped going to church after First Communion and never got confirmed.”

    There is much truth in that statement. There has been a lot of discussion about losing kids at First Communion and never getting them back until they decide they want to be married in the Church, if even then.

    My grandparents often spoke about when the bishop would come to their parish once a year, First Holy Communions would take place at the Sunday morning Mass and confirmation in the afternoon. So, this is not a new concept.

  6. Teresa-1962 says:

    Interesting. Our Bishop just announced that confirmation will not take place in 8th grade as it has in the past, but now in 10th grade. I think for too long american catholics have seen confirmation as ‘graduation’ from any religious eduation and children just stopped attending any PRE or CCD, as well as mass. I know we could all use more opportunities for good catechesis. Perhaps this will be a chance to educate the parents as well as the children.

  7. frleo says:

    I have to reaffirm what Fr. Cory said. We’ve lost those we normally loose after 1st Communion, but they have received the grace of the sacrament of Confirmation. The others don’t drop out after Confirmation in high school, they stay involved until they graduate.

    We do need some better materials and we need to keep talking about what having been confirmed means to us in our lives as Catholics as we continue our education and formation in the faith.

  8. a catechist says:

    Seems entirely in keeping with the CCC 1307, 1212, 1533.

    It’s ludicrous to think our youth don’t need to be strengthened with the Holy Spirit till several years after puberty.

    What’s grown up in the U.S. is a false ‘theology’ of this sacrament to make it the Catholic Bar Mitzvah: now you’re an adult in your faith. And a nasty practice has grown up in which a certain number of hours of approved community service has to be documented in order to receive the sacrament–at best, reducing it to earning a Boy Scout Eagle, and at worst, a sort of Pelagianism: earning a sacrament. And yes, kids get denied the sacrament if they don’t reach the target hours, or otherwise jump through all whatever hoops have become customary in a parish.

    What’s shocking to me in this article is that the priests support it. Good for them!!

  9. I’m all for correcting the order of the Sacraments. I mean after all, those being received into the Church receive Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion in that order, so why is it any different for everyone else? Let’s hope this becomes universal. Catechesis is a huge issue though which, particularly in the Western world, needs to be addressed urgently because it is just appalling at the moment. As I reflect, my Catechesis was practically non-existant. I didn’t realise Jesus was truly present in the Sacrament till many, many years after both my First Communion and Confirmation.

  10. MaryMaria says:

    These are the Sacraments of Initiation…..now which one is the most important or if you will the crown of the three…..the source and summit of our Catholic faith….The Eucharist….so shouldn’t we end with it???? I don’t know about age….that could be argued but I think that Confirmation (a sacrament looking for a home) should always be received before the Eucharist….it just makes sense!!!

  11. Mystically speaking, I’d have to agree that Confirmation definitely helps you know the Lord Jesus better! The strengthening effect and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are very real, and I suspect that very young kids will be a lot better disposed to receive all those graces. (Especially considering how quickly coarsened that childhood has become in our society. Get the graces young or you might not get their fullness at all.) It’s supposed to put the seal on Baptism, so it makes sense to do it next after Baptism. I suspect that giving it before the age of reason might actually help kids not get into as much sin and trouble upon arriving at the age of reason.

    But yeah, the announcement could have put it better.

  12. Hidden One says:

    @Suburdanbanshee: “But yeah, the announcement could have put it better.”

    I do not know, but it may have been worded the way it was so as to make it more palatable to “average Joe L. Catholic” – quite possibly a very prudent move. So long as the catechesis itself is good, I support the plan.

  13. Tim Ferguson says:

    I agree that the language of “getting to know Jesus better” comes across as the “hippie boilerplate” those of us who went through our childhood catechesis in the 70′s and 80′s are all too familiar with, however I think there is an element of truth there. In the sacrament of Confirmation, we are sealed and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and bound more closely to Christ and His Church (CCC #1303). That deeper infusion of baptismal grace and further incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ is, indeed, a means and an accomplishment of getting to know Jesus better.

    I agree with those posters above that with all the dangers children are exposed to at an earlier and earlier age, it makes sense to provide them with the sacramental grace of Confirmation at an earlier age, to strengthen them against the tide of perversion that society keeps introducing. Sometimes I think that our catechetical leaders have a tinge of Semi-Pelagianism and a heretical notion that a sacrament is only effective if the recipient has gained enough knowledge to understand it. Hence the cries in some corners against restoring the traditional order of sacraments, for fear that young children won’t understand what’s going on with their Confirmation.

  14. pseudomodo says:

    Ridiculous!

    The reason for adults to receive the sacraments in that order is that they are celebrated within minutes of each other and are set into the context of Holy Mass! No priest or Bishop is going to confirm people at the end of Mass. His reason doesn’t cut any ice with me.

  15. Daniel Latinus says:

    The thing in the article that worries me is the apparent lack of emphasis on the Sacrament of Penance. For years, we have had problems with First Communion before First Confession, and Confession never really becoming a part of children’s religious life.

    We’ve also got a problem with people whose religious instruction, and even church attendance, ends after First Communion. Some adults are trying to grapple with matters of faith with only a First Communion instruction, and over the last forty years, poor instruction at that.

    And as for Confirmation as an incentive to complete religious instruction, all I will say is that when my sister was preparing for Confirmation, the sacrament was administered before that end of the instruction classes. My kid sister was the only candidate to take the remaining classes after receiving the sacrament. And this was at an OF/EF parish whose people had to go to some trouble (and travel) to attend.

  16. PghCath says:

    I haven’t read much on the theology of confirmation, but I’m not wild about the idea from a practical standpoint. I was confirmed in 1998, when I was in 8th grade. Many of my classmates’ parents were “nominal” Catholics who didn’t attend Mass often but who kept their kids in CCD through 8th grade so they could be confirmed. Equating confirmation with “CCD graduation” is not ideal, but at least those kids were kept in the program through 8th grade.

    Beyond this, I think there is something important about choosing to be Catholic. It’s fine for an adult in RCIA to receive baptism, then confirmation, then the Eucharist – possibly all in one night. But I don’t see why that order should be normative for cradle Catholics who receive baptism shortly after birth and the Eucharist before the age of 10. The teenage years seem crucial for determining whether a cradle Catholic will remain in the Church, and it seems good to give kids an important faith event in their teenage years.

    That said, I do symphasize with the notion that we should not deprive kids of the grace of confirmation until they are teenagers.

  17. everett says:

    I’d like to echo the comment regarding the “Catholic Bar Mitzvah.” Far too often I hear people explaining that Confirmation is a time for youth to choose/”confirm” their faith in Christ/His Church. That this is a sacrament of maturity in making your faith your own. Problem is, Sacraments are less about what you do, and more about what God does in you. For a long period of history Baptism and Confirmation were done concurrently, and I believe this is still the case in the Eastern Rites.

    Having spent time working in youth ministry, I understand the idea of having some sort of event that gives the opportunity to come into their faith, but moving Sacraments around willy-nilly is not the solution. What’s really needed is better CCD/Catechesis/Youth Ministry. Less time spent on making students feel good/have fun, and more on actual theology and spirituality. If they need an event, have a special 8th grade retreat of some sort and another one in 12th grade. If you really want to be creative, use the Boy Scout model mentioned above and do something similar with youth group as far as ranks/badges (seems kitschy to me, but no worse than much of what currently passes for youth ministry), perhaps earned for various prayer activities or learning of theology. Just don’t go messing around with the sacraments as if they’re simply carrots to use to bribe youth to keep going.

  18. priests wife says:

    My sister had a sympathetic bishop confirm her oldest at 7 so when he received First Communion, he was confirmed. This might be a solution for the Roman-rite. Kids would get their classes and not start receiving too early. My kids have had all these sacraments since their beginning, and I am happy about it, but I see the ‘cons’ as well.

  19. Bring back infant confirmation! Children need all the strengthening they can get against the tidal wave of evil and filth that is aimed particularly at them. And it is necessary for parents to make raising their children up in the Faith their number one priority.

  20. pseudomodo says:

    It could be that the poor Bishop is simply throwing up his hands and declaring, “I am going to treat everybody like a convert whether they like it or not.” This is ridiculous. Rearranging the developed order for dyed in the wool catholics is crazy.

    So what if catechumens were received into the church all in one day? Do you really what to model a christian progression from birth to puberty on the relativly quick conversions of adults pagans?

  21. CDNowak says:

    Canon Law (891) states that the age of Confirmation is the age of discretion (synonymous with the age of reason). Likewise we find that the Canons on adult Baptism (including the necessity of following it with Confirmation and Communion) are applied to children who have the use of reason. (851 §1 and 852 §1)

    My understanding of the development of the current situation is that until Quam Singulari the order of Initiation was the same in the West as in the East, children would be Confirmed around the age of reason and receive Communion some time after their tenth year. Following the promulgation of QS it appears that, rather than bringing the two sacraments together, they were merely reversed. Since the promulgation of the 1983 code the age of Confirmation has varied (not only by Conference, but by Diocese and in some cases by parish).

    The element of choice has of the Catholic Faith has never been a part of the theology of the Sacrament. It is not we who confirm God, but God who (through the actions of the bishop) Confirms us.

    On whether the age of reason might need to be changed, I seem to recall Cardinal Cañizares Llovera saying that it ought not to be raised, but lowered. ahh, here it is

  22. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Sorry to say I’m not wild about this idea. As CarpeNoctem says: “The challenge, of course, is catechetics.” The article states: ““Instead of teachers, catechists and priests teaching children and parents about the sacraments, they will help the parents to hand on their own faith to their children, fulfilling the privileges and responsibilities expressed in the Rite of Baptism. New resources will help parents to prepare their own children for these sacraments with the support of the local church community,” the leaflet says. ”

    One can see the challenge is going to be parents. In a developed country of secular society like Liverpool, England, many of them are probably nominal Catholics as other posters have suggested. They may either take the faith in passing as an excuse to continue a family tradition and celebrate Christmas and Easter, or even worse not catechize the children at all. Furthermore, many of them likely received and stuck with the poor catechesis education of the 60′s to 80′s so guess what they will pass onto their children unless the priests are heavily involved?

    Another issue I have is with the children themselves. Being confirmed at a young age, without a family who is heavily invested in their faith, will mean absolutely nothing to them, just like the kids getting confirmed today, but even worse due to their younger age. A 8-10 year isn’t as cognescent about things as a 13 year old, and their interests are more juvenile vs. a 13 year old.

    In truth I believe that we should not only keep the delayed sacrament of confirmation but even delay it till the child is 16-18. By then the kids are more aware of themselves, can make some decisions for themselves, and they would know whether they care about the faith or not. Furthermore, each diocesan priest should speak to every child privately (with no parents) and give them a primer of sorts to indicate the responsibility of saying yes, ask them straightout whether they care about the faith, and if they want to be a full and participating Catholics hereby saying “Yes” to confirmation and the Church. Plain and simple if they don’t care, why bother coming to Mass and even calling yourself “catholic” and going through the “routine” they perceive it to be in their minds?

    I just hope the Liverpool bishops and priests are willing to keep tabs on, and work heavily with the parents to help them do this right. Otherwise this may just ruin the next generation’s faith life even more than the standard order of sacramental dispensation.

  23. cothrige says:

    I must say I very much like the sound of this, if only to discourage the abuses that seem to be prevalent, at least locally, during preparation for confirmation. As it stands now my children will have to be involved in very loose and dubious teen-oriented activities and groups in order to be confirmed, and these “preparations” are anything but oriented to forming a Catholic identity. The required community service is another problem in that it places the sacraments and the Church into a “social justice” framework and seems to be aimed at some sort of political agenda not having anything to do with the actual reception of the Holy Spirit. Removing this teenage atmosphere and focus from the reception of confirmation would do a lot to help diffuse what is fast becoming a counterproductive atmosphere surrounding the reception of the sacraments. As a matter of fact, considering the abuses and silliness forced onto us at our children’s First Holy Communion perhaps we should just return fully to the oldest method and give all three sacraments of initiation to infants so that we won’t be tempted to abuse them for our own entertainment and self-satisfaction.

  24. Fr Martin Fox says:

    I agree with it, but the catechetical planning is a challenge.

    Currently, parishes (around here) are aiming for catechesis on confession and first communion leading up to first reception of both toward the end of the 2nd grade. If confirmation precedes first communion, do we teach the children about all three during the 2nd grade?

    Or do we delay first communion to, say, 3rd grade?

  25. The poster above who mentioned Quam Singulari is correct. The historical (and I believe correct) order Baptism-Confirmation-Communion was the rule in the Latin Church (and all other Catholic Rites and Orthodox Churches) until 1910. And Confirmation, treated as admission to Communion was late, often in the teens. Pius X wanted children to “get in the habit” of going to Communion, so he moved it earlier, when they were likely to go more regularly.

    In the middle ages (on which I have published extensively), bishops confirmed all the children. In Italy and Spain when infants (as is still true in Mexico and much of Latin America) or immediately after baptism at Easter (followed by infant Communion) in Italy. In the north were dioceses where huge, he went around confirming, so this was often deferred to much later. And this postponed first communions. That drift later eventually become the rule.

    I am personally in favor of keeping the traditional order, with one change. Since Confession (Penance) is like Baptism a forgiveness of sins, it should be the first of the triad of sacraments if we do not go back to paedocommunion (as is the Eastern Practice). And make it late enough so that the one “initiated” really understands Confession and is able to do a full general confession. Perhaps not till they are in high school. While the Grace of the sacrament is real, it requires, in those of reason, cooperation of our free will. So make the practice: Penance-Confirmation-First Communion.

  26. michelelyl says:

    Over the past 15 years I’ve seen a growing trend in Faith Formation for children- parents have been bringing their children to the Church for Baptism when they are much older, for example, age 7-12. At my parish, we have these children go through preparation for Sacraments of Initiation from October – June. They are usually baptized at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday (Spanish Mass) and then, if it’s a year that the Bishop comes to the parish for Confirmation (rural area, Bishop comes here every other year for Confirmation) they then receive both Confirmation and Eucharist from the Bishop. If it’s not a year for the Bishop to come to the parish, they receive all three Sacraments at the Easter Vigil. They continue classes and receive the Sacrament of First Reconciliation at the end of the year in June. Also, many students come to us in high school who were Baptized as infants, and have not received any catechesis at all. They are placed in a separate class from October -June and also receive Confirmation and Eucharist either at Easter Vigil, or when the Bishop comes. These students do receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation the week before Easter Vigil, or the week before Mass with the Bishop. We also require that the parents take additional classes and attend workshops with the children to educate the parents. We have seen great success in these families continuing to attend Mass and continuing to bring their children to Faith Formation classes, without the ‘carrot’. Also, I do not understand pseudomodo’s comment- Confirmation is received before Eucharist at Easter Vigil, and at the Confirmation Liturgy.

  27. Gail F says:

    Young Canadian RC Male: I understand what you are saying, but you’re also making the mistake people are referring to here as thinking about confirmation as “the Catholic Bar Mitzvah.” My nieces are Episcopalian, and what they call confirmation is exactly that — the time when each teen is supposed to “agree” to the baptismal promises made by his/her parents — in other words, they accept being members of their church. But our confirmation is not that at all. Confirmation is when the CHURCH finishes taking YOU. It doesn’t really matter what you think about it, which is why it can be done to an infant. This idea takes a lot of people by surprise (and I can tell you, it’s quite foreign to the people who do confirmation prep at my parish), but it’s true.

  28. Nathan says:

    This is a very interesting discussion, and I am of (at least) two minds about giving Confirmation much earlier.

    Assuming that the Archdiocese of Liverpool is operating from good faith and orthodox theology, it seems that there may be a good case for confirming children at the time of their First Holy Communion, which Anita Moore highlighted. That approach comes down to the question “has the world become a place where even the young may need the sacramental graces from Confirmation?” If we are in a time where a seven or eight year old may have to actually engage in spiritual battle or defend, in their way, the Faith, or even have to be strong enough to suffer for the Faith, then perhaps there may be a need for them, like St Tarcisius or St Agnes, to receive Confirmation earlier.

    On the other hand, if heroic virtue in defense of the Faith is not required of such young children, there is a lot of wisdom in confirming children when they are older and are more intellectually able to cooperate with the graces associated with the Sacrament of Confirmation.

    While it is frustrating, I would be very careful in changing the age of Confirmation based solely on the practical and cultural aspects of later Confirmation. If we need to change the catechesis because many associate Confirmation as a Catholic “bar mitzvah” or “graduation” from having to learn your Faith, then we should make the effort in the catechesis. IMO, the deciding factor should be the balance between a child’s spiritual need for the graces of Confirmation and the child’s capability to use their intellect to cooperate with those graces.

    In Christ,

  29. Tim Ferguson says:

    I still see a lot of people talking about the fact that an early Confirmation won’t “mean” as much to the ones being Confirmed. I thought that the purpose of a sacrament was the infusion of grace, not what it “means” to the one receiving the sacrament. If that’s not the case, why do we baptize infants, when surely it “means” nothing to them at that point? Or do we truly believe that the sacraments are outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace – and give grace based not on our intellectual understanding of them, but based on our capacity and disposition? If that’s the case, I would think that most 8 year-olds have a greater capacity and disposition to receive grace because their senses and their intellects have not yet been as dulled (God grant it be) by years of exposure to sinful society. From that perspective, it seems to me, Confirmation has a greater chance of “meaning” something to your average 8 year old than it does to your average junior high or high schooler.

    Similarly, catechesis is important – highly important. But making the sacrament some sort of carrot to keep kids coming to catechism is just simply wrong.

  30. amenamen says:

    Explore and celebrate?

    “The families of these children will be invited to explore and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with them during Advent each year, while teenagers and their families will be invited to explore and celebrate Reconciliation during Lent each year.”

    This sounds a little peculiar to me. The vocabulary is odd, but the unspoken message is odder still, and yet all too familiar.

    The letter seems to take for granted that people will only go to confession once, or maybe twice, a year. The eight year old confirmandi will be “invited to explore” in Advent, in preparation for Confirmation and First Communion in May or June. When they become teenagers, they will be “invited to explore” annually during Lent?

    There is widespread neglect of the Sacrament of Penance in many places. But perhaps the state of catechesis is better in Liverpool than in other places.

  31. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    One reason the Byzantine Rite baptizes, confirms, and communes infants in one service is because no person, no matter what their age, can understand the Mysteries of our Faith. Reason, in Byzantine Theology, is not necessary for the reception of the Mystery of Mysteries which is the Eucharist, because no one can ever fully comprehend the depth of this sacrament. Plus, the Eucharist will nourish the child throughout his early childhood. When children do reach the age of reason we celebrate their first confession instead. While it may seem odd to celebrate an act of penance the positive reinforcement in going to confession is instilled in the child of God.

  32. Joshua08 says:

    As others have said, this is not a reversing of the order but a correction. The common practice is a reversing of the order and against all tradition in the Catholic Church…a sad and unintentional consequence of St. Pius X ordering first communion to be given at about 7 as a presumptive age of reason. There is a rumour that he planned to fix the issue of reversing the sacramental order by moving confirmation back, but if that be true he died first. It is historically and theologically unfitting and inappropriate to give Communion before confirmation and Canon law shows the bizarre consequences of such a practice. A bishop can set an age as high as 16, but if my 6 month old baby is in danger of death and priest can confirm him, but not give him communion, and Rome has, in the past, ordered bishops to give the sacrament earlier in particular cases.

    At the very least the order should be correct. Confirmation and then communion. What I would propose is the medieval practice (in Northern Europe). That was for the baby to be baptised soon after birth. The bishop came visiting every so often (depending on how dutiful he was) and confirm all the babies, 2yr olds whatever that had not been already. So confirmation would not be at baptism (unless the bishop baptized), but it would be at a very young age, as close as possible to baptism while still having the bishop do it. And no, I do not propose that bishops do confirmation the way they did in medieval northern Europe and Britain. Then they rode in on their horses and mothers held out their children and the bishop confirmed as he rode by (though a few holy bishops were known to get off their horses). No need for that kind of haste

    I suppose we could go back to the medieval (early to high, not late) practice of Italy and have all baptisms on Easter, Pentecost (maybe Epiphany?). The bishop would officiate and do the first baptism or so, and then go sit down. Priests did the other baptisms and then handed the babies to whomever was near (who then became the godfather/mother) who gave the baby to the bishop who confirmed him. But this would involve unduly delaying baptism.

    Hence my recommendation of the Northern practice

  33. roberto says:

    Here in South America the family catechesis approach has been tried and is found lacking. It only works in committed Catholic families who have already been well catechized. You will find that a great number of families that send their child to catechism class do not fit that description. We have gone back to the old style catechism class even incorporating some of the question and answer format which supports the clarity of what is taught. Of course that doctrinal clarity must go hand in hand with mystagogy.

  34. Leonius says:

    Having experienced the catechetical materials of the Bishops of England and Wales myself firsthand I would expect them to be syrupy and shallow with lots of emphasis on nice guy Jesus and having a good time.

    Just the very words in the statement make me sad, children don’t need to be invited to explore, if you leave them to explore they are just going to get lost, they need to be taught the Truth, they need to be led to Christ not invited to aimlessly explore.

    This is destructive of unity and should be challenged. When are the Bishops going to learn what Aristotle taught thousands of years ago, that constant changes of the laws simply destroy the power of the laws altogether so that everyone starts just doing that they want and then chaos ensues, the cohesion of the community breaks down, which is the same as the community ceasing to exist at all.

  35. KAS says:

    I would very much like to see the order of the sacraments restored. When we studied the order of the sacraments in graduate school (shared seminary and university) Father lectured on the proper order of the sacraments and the historical reasons why that order was altered in the West. We also discussed how restoration of the order of the sacraments, due to the historical reasons for the changes no longer being valid, would aid in ecumenism with the Orthodox and be closer to the practices of the Early Church. Furthermore, RCIA keeps the ancient order of the sacraments for all converts over the age of reason–which means a 10 year old (random example) can enter the church through RCIA and be confirmed years before his born-Catholic peers. This is an issue and often leads to violation of the RCIA program (over age of reason=7 yrs) by people denying the 7-15 year old the entire RCIA program so as to prevent issues with parents of kids born Catholic.

    Theologically it is extremely difficult to give a good theology for the separation of the sacraments of initiation from one another, ESPECIALLY confirmation which lacks a sound theology in the light of the theology of Baptism which is well developed.

    Rather than violating the canons on RCIA, in the spirit of true ecumenism and historical Christianity, and in keeping with the established theology of Baptism, restoration of the ancient order of the sacraments is desirable.

    It may be valid, but it is not desirable to continue to re-order the sacraments of initiation and to give them separately–it certainly has NOT led to better catechesis, nor a better understanding of the individual sacraments by the laity.

    anyway, that is my $.02 worth.

  36. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Gail F, thank you for the reply. Glad you do understand my point. I made such a point for two reasons that are semi-intertwined.

    The main reason for my plan is that the majority of catholics in the “secular” countries also fall into that trap of the “Catholic bar/batmitzvah”. The kids go off to high school or university, didn’t really “get it” at 12/13 years old and end up falling away from the faith. If the age is moved back to when they are kids, there’s an even worse chance they won’t get it, if their families aren’t properly catechized or the priest is closely involved. So I’d rather that they at least outright say “I don’t care about my religion” when they are older vs the trap we so avoid. Also while yes, the Church calls you, if you don’t get that and what Confirmation entails, it’s not really useful if the church calls you and you reject it either out of poor understanding or willingly. I’d say most kids probably fall into the former, but I wouldn’t be suprised if a good number fell into the latter too with the way society is anti-Catholic and does everything to sway kids to it.

    The second reason, I myself fell into that trap. Even at 12/13 I didn’t quite get it myself. I think I even forgot one of the lines I was supposed to say when I got the chrism on my forehead. While high school kept me tame as it was private all-boys catholic and I altar served, it was more because of environment and because I got good grades to satisfy my parents (and obey my Catholic mother to come to mass every sunday) that I was “acting” Catholic, at least superficially. I went to university and it pretty much fell by the wayside between laziness and partial freedom not being under my overburdening (but loving) parents. Now after rediscovering my faith the past year and a 1/2, I get what I accepted when I said yes at confirmation, as a rational and more mature adult, even if I don’t have the full physical means to be independent and fully do Christ’s works on my own free will.

    That is why I disagree with moving back the age and extending it, if there is not solid catechesis from the clergy and with the parents combined on this issue. If the catechesis, clergy, or parents aren’t solid or aren’t in it, then moving back the age or keeping it where it is won’t matter.

  37. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    Young Canadian Roman Catholic Male,

    Is it possible to restore the Mysteries of Initiation to their proper order in the Latin Rite and simultaneously catechize the children at their various grade levels in the classroom? This is what the rest of the non Latin Rite Catholic Church does.

  38. Papabile says:

    Here’s an interesting note from Rome viz. this matter.

    Prot. N. 2607/98/L
    December 18, 1999

    Your Excellency:

    This Congregation for Divine Worship expresses its appreciation for your kind reply concerning the request of a child of 11 years resident in your Diocese along with her parents, for reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation in anticipation of the local policy of conferring the Sacrament no sooner than the sophomore year of high school.

    In light of Your Excellency’s considered response, this Dicastery considers it necessary to respond in some detail to the considerations you raise, and so the case was submitted to a renewed and attentive examination. The Congregation was anxious to communicate the results of this study as soon as possible asking you to note the authoritative nature of the conclusions contained therein.

    At the same time this Dicastery has considered it important to respond to the considerations raised by Your Excellency in declining to dispense the girl from the Diocesan Policy in order that she might anticipate her reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation. This Congregation wishes, however, to preface its further comments with the observation that Your Excellency’s refusal to grant this dispensation must be seen as having the juridic value of an administrative act denying an anticipated conferral of the Sacrament. Among the responsibilities entrusted to this Dicastery is the authoritative examination of appeals against such administrative actions (cf. Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus, arts. 19, § 1, 63).

    In reply to this Congregation’s decision that appropriate steps be taken to provide for the girl’s confirmation in the near future, Your Excellency had proposed essentially two arguments:

    1. Though willingly admitting that the girl is well instructed and that her parents are very good Catholics, you point out that “instruction is not the sole criterion for recognizing the opportune time for confirmation … The evaluation is a pastoral one which involves much more than just being instructed”.

    2. Your Excellency indicates that the Diocesan Policy establishing that conferral of the Sacrament is to be no earlier than the sophomore year of high school is within the right inherent in the law in light of the legislation complementary to can. 891 for the Conference of Bishops to which you belong.

    With respect to Your Excellency’s first point, it is no doubt true that there is a pastoral judgment to be made in such cases, provided that by “pastoral judgment” one is speaking of the obligation of the Sacred Pastors to determine whether those elements required by the revised Code of Canon Law are indeed present, namely, that the person be baptized, have the use of reason, be suitably instructed, and be properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises (cf. can. 843, S1; 889, §2). This Dicastery notes from the testimony submitted by the family, as well as that provided by Your Excellency, that it is clear this young girl has satisfied each of the canonical requisites for reception of the Sacrament.

    In regard to Your Excellency’s second point, while it is clear that the Diocesan Policy is within the right inherent in the law in light of the complementary legislation for the Conference of Bishops to which you belong for can. 891, it is also clear that any such complementary legislation must always be interpreted in accord with the general norm of law. As has been stated before, the Code of Canon Law legislates that Sacred Ministers may not deny the Sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them (cf. can. 843 §1). Since it has been demonstrated that the girl possesses these requisite qualities, any other considerations, even those contained in the Diocesan Policy, need to be understood in subordination to the general norms governing the reception of the Sacraments.

    The Congregation considers it useful to point out that it is the role of the parents as the primary educators of their children and then of the Sacred Pastors to see that candidates for the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation are properly instructed to receive the Sacrament and come to it at the opportune time (cf. can. 890). Consequently, when a member of the faithful wishes to receive this Sacrament, even though not satisfying one or more elements of the local legislation (e.g., being younger than the designated age for administration of the Sacrament), those elements must give way to the fundamental right of the faithful to receive the Sacraments. Indeed, the longer the conferral of the Sacrament is delayed after the age of reason, the greater will be the number of candidates who are prepared for its reception but are deprived of its grace for a considerable period of time.

    In conclusion, this Congregation for Divine Worship must insist, given the concrete circumstances of the case under consideration, that the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation be extended to the girl as soon as is conveniently possible.

    In order to complete our documentation concerning this question, this Dicastery would be grateful to Your Excellency to receive notice of the agreement you will have reached with the family for the administration of the Sacrament.

    With every good wish and kind regard, I remain

    Sincerely yours in Christ,

    Jorge A. Card. Medina Estévez
    Prefect

    Francesco Pio Tamburrino
    Archbishop Secretary

    Published in Notitiae 35 (Nov.-Dec. 1999)

  39. Ttony says:

    There is an English expression “He’s got previous”. This is criminal cant and means that a person has “form”; that he has committed a particular crime before. Archbishop Kelly has got previous. He did this in the neighbouring Diocese of Salford when he was a mere Bishop.

    The discussion above majors exclusively on the sacramental and theological implications of Confirmation before Communion (which does all participants credit). In the hands of an ideologue, this change becomes a powerful weapon of the “Spirit of Vatican II”, using what are, to most lay Catholics, abstruse theological explanations, to destroy popular Catholic culture and that which links religious praxis to every day life. Every day life continues, but religious praxis is destroyed.

    “Spirit of Vatican II” Catholicsm in England and Wales has, at Episcopal Conference level, given up on the Faith as something which belongs to all of God’s people and has converted it, completely unnecessarily, into a theological and ideological ghetto of the ideas and aspirations of the 1970s. The Episcopal Conference itself has allowed itself to be taken over by a combination of a few elderly ideologues, and a larger group of younger employees who are unemployable outside the narrative they have created for themselves to live in. The analogy of the parasite springs to mind.

    Archbishop Kelly is about to destroy the vestiges of cultural Catholicsm in what was the most strongly Catholic diocese in England and Wales. But as he has spent the last forty years attacking every other aspect of what, until 1970, everybody would have recognised as, and called, Catholicsm, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

  40. Gail F says:

    Young RC Male: I agree with you totally, but I think the problem is a lot bigger than when someone is confirmed. There are all sorts of pastoral issues, but one that leaps to mind is that it would be far too easy for parents never to take their kids back to a church again after the infant triple whammy! Most children confirmed in the RCIA are there because their families are committed to being Catholics. One can be fairly sure they will be catechized. When there is a cultural acceptance of religious obligation, you can do all three sacraments right after birth — as history and Orthodox practice attest. But as you know, we don’t have a cultural acceptance of religious obligation or identity, and that’s the root of all these different replies. What works in one place is a failure in another. Our constantly futzing around when the sacraments are first given is a symptom that there is something wrong in Catechesis-land, and even more, there is something wrong with the whole church. Many, many people are trying to fix that, with some real success, but I think it’s going to be a while before there is a real fix. We all have to muddle through as best we can in the meantime. That’s my theological opinion, anyway. :-)

  41. momoften says:

    Experience (BAD EXPERIENCE) has shown me that they probably DON’T have the proper materials to give to the children to prepare for Confirmation (or the parents) We instituted lowering the age for Confirmation in our Diocese and STILL no books for preparation- they DON’T EXIST …hmmm what good planning. It has been over 5 years now… As far as decimating the religious ed programs, yes, in the older grades it has decimated it. After all once the children receive all the sacraments the parents (SADLY) figure they are done, because after all it is a nuisance to take their children to catechism classes. (YES, this has happened here) Although the argument is…why would a parent want to not allow the graces of the sacrament at a younger age (true) I say this: WHY ISN’T THERE A STANDARD AGE LIKE MOST OF THE OTHER SACRAMENTS WHEN CONFIRMATION IS TO BE ADMINISTERED? We have flip flopped so many times at the requirements to receive Confirmation in our diocese I WANT TO SCREAM!
    GRRRRRRRRR

  42. Papabile says:

    The following is the particular legislation in the United States regarding Confirmation. With that said, the universal norm still must be followed should a properly educated person request the Sacrament.

    Believe my, my 7 year old is ready, knows what Confession is there for, and has been suitably prepared. When the answer likely comes back “no” to the request for Confirmation, I will likely engage canonical counsel.

    That this is even a question is annoying. The norm follows:

    Canon 891 – Age for Confirmation

    On November 15, 2000, the Latin Rite de iure members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved complementary legislation for canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States.

    The action was granted recognitio by the Congregation for Bishops in accord with article 82 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus and issued by decree of the Congregation for Bishops signed by His Eminence Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, Prefect, and His Excellency Most Reverend Franciscus Monterisi, Secretary, and dated May 9, 2001.

    Complemenary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 891, hereby decrees that the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Latin Rite shall be conferred between the age of discretion and about sixteen years of age, within the limits determined by the diocesan bishop and with regard for the legitimate exceptions given in canon 891.

    As President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I hereby decree that the effective date of this decree for all the Latin Rite dioceses in the United States will be July 1, 2002.

    Given at the offices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC, on August 21, 2001.

    Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
    Bishop of Galveston-Houston
    President, USCCB

    Reverend Monsignor William P. Fay
    General Secretary

  43. CDNowak says:

    The frustrations expressed by many at the frequency of change does suggest that something needs to be done to stabilize the age. The fact is: the age, other than the age of reason, is only supposed to be changed by the conference of bishops. So the current variety of practices within any given country a deviation from canon law. To practically correct it, however, would take a revision of the canon in question (891) to admit no exception to the canonical age. Deus volente!

    The response from the CDW posted by papabile along with the unofficial statement that the age of reason should be lowered suggests that Rome would prefer the Sacrament of Confirmation younger rather than older. However, without direct action from Rome, obstructions will continue to be raised for this Sacrament because the culture has become disconnected from the theology.

  44. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Personally, if they really think the restored order is so important, let’s just do like the Eastern Churches and go back to receiving Confirmation and First Communion as an infant.\\

    Amen, Fr. Cory!

    In the Eastern Churches, Confirmation/Chrismation is normally administered by the Priest.

    A happy pastoral challenge, however, especially in mission areas: preparing older children for Baptism. Is there any material for this?

  45. garysibio says:

    My wife used to be a DRE. Her biggest problem was getting the parents to see the sacraments as something spiritual and not a rite of passage and a reason to party. This would take that away. On the other hand, sacramental prep was the only reason many parents sent their kids to CCD. While this might seem to be reason enough to keep things as they currently are, these kids are almost never brought to Mass. What good does a couple of years of catechesis do them even if it is good catechesis.

  46. Supertradmum says:

    I am all for the Byzantine Tradition of giving babies all three Sacraments of Initiation at once. Why not grow up with all these graces?

  47. Precentrix says:

    It seems to me that there are at least two separate issues here. The first is the restoration of the sacraments to their ‘proper’ order, along with the age at which it seems appropriate to confer them. Personally, I am fully supportive of a return to the praxis of the Eastern Churches, because of the vast amount of grace which could be received by such innocent souls and prepare them to face the world. Since none of us ever understand fully and since, honestly, most young children are able to grasp better than most adults the mysteries of our Faith, what is the point of delaying reception of the sacraments? I have personally known children as young as two who clearly demonstrated faith in the Real Presence, for example.

    The second issue is the catechetical one. Catechesis needs to be ongoing; too often it is limited to preparation for the sacraments – at most a year before first Holy Communion and a year before Confirmation. This may not be the case in the USA, but it cetainly is in Britain. At the same time, the parents who shold be their children’s primary educators have themselves suffered from this lack of catechesis. I have no solution to this problem, though one effort I have encountered focused on teaching parents how to teach their children – also an underhanded method of catechising the adults.

    What I’m trying to say, though, is that these are two separate issues.

  48. KAS says:

    Catechesis is a problem in ALL the parishes with some exceptions but not many considering the over-all state of catechetical understanding among Catholics.

    However, regarding catechesis, it matters not at all when sacraments are given because no matter when you schedule the sacraments, whether at the time of baptism like catechumen and infants (eastern rites), or later on as in the Latin rite, the lack of catechesis remains the SAME.

    It would be better to restore the order of sacraments as one correction. Then, educate the parents if you want the children educated.

    These are two separate problems and it seems sacrilegious to USE the sacraments as a means of violating free will and forcing people to come to catechism classes. The sacraments are not carrots, nor are they rewards–they are GIFTS.

    Educate the parents and remind them of their responsibility before God and how they could spend eternity in hell if they chose to skip training their children in the faith. You can’t make teens live it, but if you did your parental duty and taught it to them at least they know it to come back to it.

    But Sacraments are holy and really should not be used to force people to do anything. Refuse totally if the people are not Catholic in practice, but don’t dole the Sacraments out like candy rewards for cooperation. It belittles the value and sacredness of the Sacraments to treat them in this way.

    anyway, another $.02 worth.

  49. Thomas S says:

    Father Z and fellow readers,

    Does anyone have any recommendation on books about Confirmation? It seems to be the least understood Sacrament for many Catholics. I myself am a fairly well-read and educated Catholic, but this discussion has compelled me to read up on the subject for better understanding.

  50. momoften says:

    While it may seem I am totally opposed to a restored or proper order, I am not,BUT I am frustrated by the politics involving sacraments. For those that say there is a proper order of Sacraments–There is no “Proper” order. If we consider the evolution of Holy Communion since the time of the early Church it has evolved (thank God) into a more frequent and earlier age. (of which the Vatican is considering lowering still)do we want to return to the ‘proper’ form for reception and frequency of the Blessed Eucharist…no., and I daresay you would consider it the proper form. Just because it was done in the past doesn’t make it proper. The issue should be a more uniform standard for reception of confirmation…and fitting to the needs of those in the Church today. I am torn. Of course why would anyone want to reject an earlier age(for confirmation) so that the younger ones can increase in graces – but at the cost of them perhaps receiving no more religious instruction. Yes, it is the parents responsibility to make sure their child is educated about their faith….but the reality of today’s parents ….really….is they themselves just don’t consider that a priority. For now, I do wait until they are older…but I am pressured, and so will probably end up having the sacrament done elsewhere. I feel like a criminal.

  51. Supertradmum says:

    Having taught Confirmation classes to teens and junior high students where the parents just dropped off their children and youth to classes and Mass and never went in themselves, and, when after Confirmation, the youth never returned to Mass, staying at home with their parents, I do not see the advantage of CCD classes, or other Confirmation classes. If the parents do not take responsibility, what is the sense in holding off Confirmation just to keep the youth in the classes longer? It is a stupid logic and doesn’t help at all with conversion. Waiting for the years of 12-18 is too late, as our children are exposed to such horrendous pressures, especially sexual in nature, that they need those graces and gifts as early as possible.

    It the family is not a practicing Catholic family, the youth should not be confirmed, unless they themselves will continue to practice despite their parents-and they does occasionally happen.

  52. Supertradmum says:

    sorry about the typos. I have strong feelings about these points, especially after having been literally yelled at by a mother who was not a practicing Catholic, “What are you teachers going to do to keep my children going to Mass?” I was so amazed, it took me a minute to reply that that was her responsibility and not ours as CCD teachers. Until teachers and pastors stop pretending that lengthening the wait for Confirmation keeps kids in the Church, the better we can really teach those who want to be Catholics, and not just those who know they have to be confirmed just in case they want to get married in the parish, if they so desire, without keeping up with their Faith. Sadly, many pastors cannot see that the family is where sacramental nurturing occurs and not the schools or once-a-week classes. In fact, I have had, in the past, to argue with pastors who wanted to let teens be confirmed, when they had not been living their Faith, receiving the sacraments, especially Confession, regularly, etc. The Confirmation Mill, as I call it, adds numbers to the books, but does not lead to bodies in the pews.

  53. Supertradmum says:

    Subdeacon Joseph,

    I am so glad we agree on something. By the way, my son was charismated in the Byzantine Church, as we not living in a place where there was a Latin Rite Church when he was coming up to the age for charismation as our family saw it, at 13. We were Byzantines for several years with the permission of the Bishop, although we did not canonically switch rites. The priest, his wife, and children are still very good friends, although we moved from that remote, rural area nine years ago. I am all for the triple giving of the Sacraments of Initiation for the same reasons that you indicated above, plus the bad theology which has circulated in the Latin Rite concerning the bar-mitzvah attitude towards Confirmation and other problems, as stated or not stated.

  54. PghCath says:

    The Archdiocese of Liverpool released some humorously odd videos explaining the new confirmation process here.

  55. abiologistforlife says:

    I’m split on the issue.

    On the purely theological / tradition side, I think the “Confirmation earlier” people have the formally better argument.

    BUT…

    if I’d been Confirmed at the same time as my First Communion, I probably wouldn’t be Catholic now. It was the necessity of reneweing the baptismal promises that made me really think through what I believed and why. The 2 years of catechesis — the only [mostly*] good catechesis I can remember ever getting — helped a lot too; but ultimately I wanted to really make sure what I believed before I got up and said that I believed it. And I think that’s what first got me being serious about it.

    *Barring a few problems; in the Marian section, one of the volunteer teachers claimed that the belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary was “silly”.

    The responsibility of parents is of course critical — but many of them were extremely poorly catechized as well, and so may be passing on stuff that’s wrong or only half-true.

    @Supertradmum: “Waiting for the years of 12-18 is too late, as our children are exposed to such horrendous pressures, especially sexual in nature,”

    I’d actually make the exact opposite argument; that a 10th grade confirmation means the “wave” of more intense catechesis starts about 13-14, which is right about the point people are hitting puberty, so that may be the time people really need to hear about chastity.

    (Also, I’m really quite recently out of that age bracket, and I wouldn’t say my experience was *nearly* as bad as all that. Maybe in more “blue” states things are different…)

  56. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    This is a welcome correction of what has become really a novel practice which created a perceived theological distancing between Holy Baptism and Confirmation. God willing we will see it restored universally across the Latin Church.

    I’d like to see paedo-communion restored as well so that all Catholics would receive the Sacraments of Initiation in the same way and the proper unity of the Mysteries would be made more clearly manifest. Baby steps are good, though…

    I am told by someone that there were plans to implement this after Vatican II, but were scrapped. He had heard this directly from Archimandrite Boniface Luykx, of blessed memory.

  57. bookworm says:

    For what it’s worth… I kinda lean toward LOWERING the Confirmation age and instead of (for lack of a better term) “marketing” it to the kids as a Catholic bar mitzvah or rite of passage, market it to PARENTS as the sacrament that helps strengthen, or “immunize” if you will, their children against the temptations of the world and the attacks of the devil. I know it doesn’t literally “immunize” against temptation completely — the child has to cooperate with that grace — but you get the general idea.

    Because my daughter is autistic, I worried for many years whether she would “pass muster” in conventional sacramental preparation programs and be able to prove her understanding of the sacraments. As it turned out, she didn’t have much of a problem at all.

    For First Communion she attended a regular 2nd grade CCD class with a high school girl serving as a sort of one-on-one aide to help her out. I helped prepare her for first Confession by taking her to our parish priest on Saturday afternoons and doing practice runs starting about a year ahead of time. For Confirmation, I sat in with her for the CCD classes. In both cases, I talked to the DRE and the class catechist ahead of time and explained the situation. Neither one had any problem. In fact, the DRE prior to her confirmation told me that since we were faithfully attending Mass every Sunday and she knew all her prayers, she was already way ahead of a lot of the other kids.

    When she was still a toddler, my husband went through a phase of fascination with the Greek Orthodox Church and we attended Divine Liturgies regularly for about a year. (Daughter and I would then go to Mass on our own) At the Orthodox church we attended, there were several developmentally disabled teens and adults whom we got to know. (This was shortly after our daughter was diagnosed as autistic.) Their parents explained that they received all the sacraments as infants and one didn’t have to understand the sacrament to benefit from it, any more than one had to understand nutrition or dietetics in order to benefit from eating food. That idea kinda made sense to me and still does.

  58. Mitchell NY says:

    I don’t know but shouldn’t we all be doing the same thing? I think the Vatican should weigh in and this is just another example of Dioceasan control over things and doing things independantly from Rome. Maybe there are good reason but bring it up at a Synod. I would think some people will change their parish because of this.

  59. skellmeyer says:

    Father Z., am I mistaken or do you seem somehow disconcerted or upset about the idea that confirmation should precede First Eucharist” [Nope. Read what I wrote.]

    If you are, may I remind you of what it says in the Rite of Confirmation #3? [Have at!]

    “The initiation of children into the sacramental life is ordinarily the responsibility and concern of Christian parents. They are to form and gradually increase a spirit of faith in the children and, at times with the help of catechism classes, prepare them for the fruitful reception of the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.” (emphasis added)

    Catechism class is not sacramental prep, it is assistance in these ancillary aspects.
    Parents are supposed to do sacramental preparation, including Confirmation prep.
    CCC #2225 says this when it speaks of parents “initiating their children into the mysteries of faith.”

    Furthermore, as you know, every Magisterial document ALWAYS lists the sacraments of initiation in order: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist.

    Notice that the leaflet virtually quotes the Confirmation #3 rubrics verbatim:

    “Instead of teachers, catechists and priests teaching children and parents about the sacraments, they will help the parents to hand on their own faith to their children, fulfilling the privileges and responsibilities expressed in the Rite of Baptism. New resources will help parents to prepare their own children for these sacraments with the support of the local church community.”

    Speaking as someone who has worked on a professional level in more than one parish, I can see with perfect confidence that Confirmation classes for children are almost always a complete waste of time. Teaching the parents to do this, requiring the parents to do their duty as parents – this is a step in the right (and the rite) direction.

    This warrants a HOSANNA! from every orthodox person who reads it.

    All they are asking is that EVERYONE – pastors, DREs and parents – SAY THE BLACK AND DO THE RED. You, of all people, should be celebrating. [I am sure you are very excited that you think you caught me in something. Look again.]

  60. PaterAugustinus says:

    I also found Fr. Z’s consternation odd…

    Most especially, even though I know how shallow many modernist’s meaning can be, when they say things like “getting to know Jesus better,” I’m very surprised that Fr. Z should speak as if this were *not*a central aspect of Confirmation. [I did? What sort of apology will be due to me if I didn't?]

    First off, every Sacrament is intended to help us know Jesus better… both immediately, as we meet God in the Sacrament, but also continually and indirectly, as the Sacrmanent enables us to grow closer to God through the spiritual life, which is fed and confirmed by the Sacrament.

    Second, the Holy Spirit’s mission to the Church is precisely for the purpose of “leading them into all truth” and more fully revealing Christ to us. As Jesus said of the Spirit: “He shall give testimony of Me.”

    Of course Confirmation “sets the seal” of salvation upon us and enables us to participate in the charisms, strengthens us in our ascetic discipline and illumines our prayer. He seals us with the seal of adoption and grants us to call upon God as Father. And, at what point did any of these things stop being directly involved in coming to know Jesus better… certainly the essence of our Faith? Granted, our “knowledge” of Jesus is more than intellectual knowledge… it is the kind of knowledge that comes with familiarity, intimacy, union. And that is definitely the Spirit’s role in our spiritual life, and the point of Confirmation.

    As others have pointed out, Confirmation before Communion is the Apostolic Tradition, and long the universal practice of East and West. It is by far the more sober practice in Orthodox thought. So, this should be a welcome development.

  61. DcnDoug says:

    We changed the order for children’s initiation to this more proper and traditional order a few years ago here in the Diocese of Phoenix under the leadership of our good and holy Bishop, Thomas Olmsted. Children receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation in 2nd grade and then Confirmation and First Eucharist in the same Mass in 3rd grade. This brought us into line with canon law (#891) and the Rite of Confirmation both of which establish 7 as the normative age for Confirmation. It also helps us make the clear connection that Confirmation is the completion of Baptism and both are preparation for the fulfillment of Christian Initiation, Eucharist.
    Previously in our diocese, Confirmation was received in 10th grade and was seen by far too many as a teenage rite of passage rather than a holy sacrament. The real rite of passage in our culture is a drivers license
    It seems to be working well, we had plenty of good catechesis to prepare the families, catechists, teachers and clergy. This link will provide more helpful information http://www.diocesephoenix.org//fc/CatecheticalLeadership/SacramentalPolicies/Confirmation/SacramentsInitQAEnglish2005.pdf

    Thanks for the discussion
    Deacon Doug Bogart
    Diocese of Phoenix

  62. skellmeyer says:

    Well, Father Z, you have to admit that when you speak of “reversing the order of the sacraments”, your phrasing is passing odd.

    The bishop is RESTORING the order of the sacraments.
    The sacramental order is ALREADY reversed, thus he isn’t reversing anything.
    So why do you speak of “reversing”? [You are over-analyzing the word I used.]

    I was under the impression that EVERY sacrament – being a direct encounter with God – helps us to know Jesus, yet you are “not convinced that that is the purpose of the sacrament of confirmation.”

    We all know confirmation perfects the gifts of grace given in baptism. How is that perfection NOT something that “helps us know Jesus”? What’s the emoticon for a highly quizzical expression? For that’s what’s on my face right now.

    So, if you intended to give HOSANNAS! with your comments, all I can say is, that was not the impression I carried away.

    I didn’t see ANY words of praise here – a sardonic comment about publishers being happy, a rather pointed remark about “reversing” and another sardonic comment that questioned the purpose of a sacrament.

    There was ZERO reference to the Rite of Confirmation #3, which would have been VERY appropriate, there was ZERO reference to your favorite phrase about black and red…

    What part of your commentary have I misunderstood? [Most of it, it seems! In most places, including Liverpool, most people receive First Communion and are later Confirmed. Now they are are talking about 'reversing' that order, that is Confirming before First Communion. Call it restoring. Call it reversing. Whatever. You are reading too much into the word "reverse".]
    Where is the ringing endorsement of this episcopal step to actually do what the rubrics call for?
    That’s what I expected to see… so …. where is it?

  63. skellmeyer says:

    Oh, and lest I forget … could you explain your very last line?

    “There could be good reasons to reverse the order of sacraments.”

    There could be good reasons to reverse the order of sacraments?!!?!?

    How about “God bless the Bishop for doing what the rubrics require, what the CCC says, what Rome has been asking for, what Pope Benedict expressly mentioned in his post-synodal exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, #17-18?”

    There could be good reasons?

    THAT’S not you being a tad put out? [Hardly! Sorry to disappoint you. o{]:¬) ]
    If you say so, I can hardly disagree, …. but, but, but … Father…. you sure do use words different then most people do…. [Perhaps you need a couple additional hobbies.]

  64. Sixupman says:

    Taught at junior school the nature of the sacraments, then first Confession, then Communion, then Confirmation. Taught right and wromg, class taken to Confession fortnightly. That is how it should be, but children are now not taught about sin and it is rarely, now, referred to from the pulpit. The Liverpool bishop is plain wrong, but what is new?

  65. John Nolan says:

    I made my first Confession and Holy Communion at the age of 7 and was confirmed the following year (1958 and 1959 respectively) which was normal in those days. Anglicans were confirmed at around the age of 14 and only then allowed to partake of the “Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper”. The current Catholic practice of separating the two sacraments by seven years seems perverse, particularly so since most children over 11 in England and Wales will not be at a Catholic school.
    From what I have read of Bishop Thomas Olmsted, anyone who follows his example will not go far wrong. We could do with men like him in the English Bishops’ Conference.
    As an aside, the present watered-down rite of baptism is a cause for concern. The changes to the Roman Ritual since V2 represent a case of unilateral disarmament when the threat has never been greater.

  66. PghCath says:

    As always, these comments have been highly informative. They even changed my mind on this issue. The Diocese of Phoenix document posted by Deacon Doug gives a particularly compelling account of the theology of confirmation (namely, as with all sacraments, the grace of Confirmation is an outpouring of God’s love, not something we earn).

    I hope the Church returns to its traditional practice.

  67. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    Supertradmum,

    I’m glad we finally agree too! :)

  68. FrFenton says:

    pseudomodo says:
    26 January 2011 at 11:00 am
    It could be that the poor Bishop is simply throwing up his hands and declaring, “I am going to treat everybody like a convert whether they like it or not.” This is ridiculous. Rearranging the developed order for dyed in the wool catholics is crazy.

    So what if catechumens were received into the church all in one day? Do you really what to model a christian progression from birth to puberty on the relativly quick conversions of adults pagans?

    Rearranging the developed order occurred when St Pius X lowered the age for First Communion. There was no corresponding lowering at that time of Confirmation. The Roman Catechism (from the Council of Trent) states that there is good reason for Confirmation to be given at the age of reason.

    Being in a Diocese where the order has been restored for several years, I see the difficulties in breaking people of the attitude that Confirmation = Graduation. [And we MUST do that. The sooner the better.] What I think is ludicrous is waiting until 10th grade, as was done in my parish. I, for one, am all for giving our children the plenitude of the grace of the Holy Spirit long before puberty’s hormones arrive.

    Confirmation is not the pinnacle of Christian Initiation. It is not the person “confirming” that he wants to be Catholic. It is God confirming (strengthening) him. As someone else stated above, reception of the Holy Eucharist is summit of Sacramental life. Baptism, Confirmation, and yes Confession are all to prepare us for Holy Communion. In my Bishop’s document “A Reflection on the Sacrament of Confirmation”, His Excellency also reminds us that there could be found no reason to deny children the Sacrament of Confirmation beyond the age of reason. Why, for instance, should one child, who is eight, be Baptized, Confirmed and receive Holy Communion, while her classmate, who was Baptized as an infant, is denied the grace of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation for another 6 to 8 years????

    In my diocese, those who are of the age of reason begin their preparation for Confirmation by monthly Confession for at least 10 months beforehand. While no one can be forced to go to Confession, it is strongly suggested. Sadly, many have gotten away from the practice of frequent Confession.

  69. Supertradmum says:

    Some commentators above have referred to “puberty”, which has nothing to do with the age of reason and has nothing to do with the facts of sexual information in our culture being thrown at very young children, even in Catholic elementary schools with sex ed given before puberty. Plus, the age of puberty varies greatly, from age eleven to fifteen, depending on genetic and ethnic backgrounds. Puberty has nothing to do with the Sacraments, especially Confirmation.

  70. Rachel K says:

    Dear Father, My husband and I lived in the Archdiocese of Liverpool from 1988 until 2005, initially as students in Liverpool and after our marriage in another town in the diocese. We now live in an adjacent diocese, next to Salford Diocese where Archbishop Patrick Kelly was Bishop before his tenure in Liverpool began. We were in Liverpool during the end of Archbishop Warlock’s time there and have therefore some experience of the history of the place! There are a few important points I wished to make re the subject of order of sacraments. Ttony stated that “he’s got previous”, meaning that Archbishop Kelly did the same thing in Salford when bishop there. More worryingly, in Salford during his time the common practice was that children received First Communion BEFORE their First Confession, a practice which Archbishop Kelly brought to Liverpool and which was the case there until fairly recently as far as I am aware. I’m a teacher by trade and know Catholic teachers in both places, so was aware of this being the case. I understood that this initially was a short-lived scheme carried out during the Second Vatican Council but revoked before the end of the Council in 1973 or 4. I can find no theological justification for this- if the child is of the age of reason and can receive communion, surely they can be sinning and responsible for it? It shocked me to consider that this possible sacrilege could be encouraged as policy and many other sensible, orthodox Catholics in the area think the same.
    So, disconcerting as the re-ordering of Confirmation might be, it worries me more that it may happen without sacramental confession. Also that the theology behind the whole thing is probably suspect, knowing what else went on/goes on in Liverpool. Nathan says- “Assuming that the Archdiocese of Liverpool is operating from good faith and orthodox theology…” well, my mouth fell open! I’m sorry to sound uncharitable, but the phrases “Archdiocese of Liverpool” and “orthodox theology” do not go together!! Liverpool Archdiocese is the second largest in England next to Westminster, with a long, strong history of the faith which is built on two historical pillars- the surrounding rural area was a stronghold of resistance during the reformation, due to the many faithful old Catholic families living there. The region is full of ancient manor houses with priestholes and we have many local saints from this period who suffered terrible martyrdom for the faith. Secondly, Liverpool Catholicism is basically Irish, due to the influx of Irish immigrants over a long period, not only during the potato famine. So the Diocese has a history of faithful Catholics who have suffered hardship and persecution and have stuck with the faith.
    However, over the last decades, the Archdiocese has been a stronghold, through its hierarchy, not the laity, of liberalism and sometimes bizarre innovation, eroding the faith to an almost suicidal degree. One of the great sufferings inflicted on Catholics here was the RE scheme, written by the Diocesan catechist team and now used in other dioceses, called “Here I Am”, known in various circles as “There You Go”! It was/is so bad that one courageous priest of the Diocese wrote a critique of it, detailing its many failings in presenting any semblance of the Catholic faith. For this crime the priest was banished to the badlands where he remains, the only saving grace being that he still writes a column in a national Catholic newspaper, benefitting many of us here- the diocesan paper no longer wanted his wisdom!
    Another management technique brought by Archbishop Kelly from Salford was the practice of closing, and selling, many churches, despite the fact that they may be listed buildings or tied to legal niceties such as being left with funds in perpetuity to the local Catholic population.
    Having been involved in marriage preparation courses in the diocese over the years, my husband and I have heard firsthand priests from Liverpool telling engaged couples that it didn’t matter if they were living together or already had children because the Church had now changed its mind about all this and got real…

    So overall, just wanted to make you and the readers aware that probably the new ordering of the sacraments of initiation has nothing to do with theology or even Catholicism- it’s probably just another new-age fad that we will have to suffer in place of the true faith. Please pray for us in the UK, especially in the vicinity of Liverpool- the influence of the Diocese and its policies is wide, sadly. Faithful, orthodox Catholics there suffer terribly. Thankyou Father for all your sterling work for us all. God Bless.

  71. Supertradmum: Indeed it doesn’t. On that score, however, I recall my horror in a parish where, one after another, the teens who had been prepared for confirmation and who needed their last “exam” by the priest said – and I am not making this up – said, one after another, that the purpose of Confirmation was to make them an “adult in the Church.”

    GAH!

  72. Supertradmum says:

    Dear Father Z,

    GAH double–heard the same thing! Thanks for this posting and your wise comments. I need a cuppa Mystic…

  73. Supertradmum: Get some of their chocolate covered beans too. They ‘re swell too.

  74. FrFenton says:

    Well, Supertradmum and Father Z, Puberty has nothing to do with Sacraments is correct. But, one must not forget that it is a time of great upheaval and sometimes a sense of awkwardness in the child, as well as a time when new temptations are presented. Would not the grace of Confirmation be a help to this time? You see, I believe the Sacraments actually do confer grace to us. Therefore, I believe that Confirming at a younger age (say the age of reason, as the Catechism of the Council of Trent suggests) will provide the child with the underpinnings of virtue. Give a child the grace of Confirmation at 7 or 8 years of age, gives children several years of that grace operating in their lives before being exposed to vice and temptation. [Seems like a pretty good plan.]

  75. AnnAsher says:

    What is the purpose of any Sacrament if not primarily to imbue and strengthen us with God’s gift of grace? Since it is- I believe- about Grace then I don’t know why we would withold that gift from any child until some magical universal age. First of all- I say give them all the weapons to fight evil as soon and as often as we are able. Children are not standard issue specimens. They grow and learn and gain in wisdom and ability to use their gifts at different rates. Secondly the result of holding off on Confirmation until Sally is “ready” or in 8th grade or 10th or whatever… Lends the impression that Sally is done. She has graduated – no more to learn. Most Parishes today do not offer any catechetical program after Confirmation, further expanding this notion of graduation. Bishops even come and tell them now they are “Adults” in the faith. What?! So now, the new adult, full of teenage hormones and angst feels empowered to choose her own cafeteria style Catholicism. I know you don’t want that to be true- but we have all seen it. Or Sally, is very serious and very sure and four years later doesn’t go to Mass anymore because she is too busy and she “finished” that Church thing. By giving Confirmation earlier (preferably in infancy) the child grows up with an attitude and experience of the Faith life necessitating constant renewal, fervor, learning, growth in holiness. I’m preparing my soon to be nine year old as the Canon says they must be at least 7 in the Roman Rite. I’m not preparing her simply by memorizing the answers in some preparation book- though we will do that also. I’m preparing her by stepping up the already lived and constantly learned faith life. By increasing her own responsibilities- she now recognizes on her own when she should go to Confession and chooses to do so freely at least once per month. We are focusing this years study in the Holy Spirit more. I told her what it means to choose Christ and His Church and I told her I expect to see her giving Mass more deeply her attention- I expect growth. However we could have and would have done all this anyway even if she were Confirmed in infancy. I will present her to my Bishop- if He refuses we will come back next year even more “prepared”. My children know that their LIFE is a preparation.

  76. pop says:

    Fr. Thompson what you state is what I understand occurred with Pope Pius X. My understanding is that the good pope did not intend to have the order of initiation disturbed.
    As we know, sacraments are not tools of blackmail……. confirmation at a later age in order to keep them coming.
    And as far as the “keep them coming” attitude, one might simply examine the eastern churches.

    Some very early church tradition would have a candidate strip down and step into the pool. Then after stepping out of the pool, the person would receive an anointing from the bishop. Thus there was a continuation of action. i.e. baptism and confirmation as one simultaneous event. That is in my opinion, a very serious problem inherent in the practice of the Latin Church today.

    During baptism we speak of the person receiving the Holy Spirit. We “mark” the person as christian. We pray a rite of exorcism and we anoint the child. Immediately after we baptize, we anoint with the Oil.

    In the case of an infant and in children under age, we present the child to the bishop at a much later time. The bishop anoints the child and the child “again” receives the Holy Spirit.

    May I ask just what is it we are doing? Does the child receive say 1/2 a dose of the Holy Spirit at baptism, and the other half at Confirmation? I’m being a bit sarcastic of course, but what are we doing by splitting into two events that which is really one.

    So should the sacrament be returned to what I believe is the proper order, unless and until canon is changed , we deacons would no longer baptize. (of course anyone can baptize in an emergency)
    That might be inconvenient in those parishes w/o the availability of a priest on a regular basis.

    Then too, as was the case in the very early church, the deacon could perform the baptismal portion of the continuous celebration. But again it would be the priest who would preside.

    Like in so many other situations, it seems we have come up with ingenious explanations for later in life confirmation…… soldiers, adults in the faith; A sign of maturation; graduation from ccd (:>(

    When we do liturgy, we do what it is that we believe. When we upset the flow of the sacrament of initiation, what theology is it that we are doing?

    Pope Pius X wanted children to receive the Grace of communion at an earlier age. Indeed, the child needs, as do we, the Grace of the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ.

  77. skellmeyer says:

    The old formula used to be that Confirmation made you a “soldier of Christ.”
    How is that different from being made “adult in the Faith”?

    The sacrament of Confirmation PERFECTS the graces of baptism – it doesn’t supply any NEW graces, it just completes and perfects the original baptismal graces.
    How is that not a maturation of grace?
    If the grace is matured within me by the sacrament, does that not make me an adult in Christ?

    I’ve never used the “adult in Christ” phrasing to teach Confirmation, but I fail to see the problem with it. Perhaps Fr. Z. could expand on his extemporaneous “GAH!” , as it doesn’t appear very explanatory. [I dunno. It seemed at the time to say it all!]

    Further, how can doing what the Church asks (putting the sacraments in the correct order again) be some kind of “new age” thing?

    When the Holy See made it clear that we could kneel to receive at the Novus Ordo if we chose, and no bishop could stop us from doing so, was that “reversing” anything?
    Were we “going backward”?
    I know a lot of kumbaya-Catholics who used that phrasing to describe it.
    I’m really surprised to see you defending that phrasing…

    You let slide a comment from a reader about the CORRECT order being somehow “New Age”.
    Why? [I'm a busy guy!]

    You could have handled this with a lot better grace, Father, by simply saying, “Well, I hadn’t noticed that the pamphlet was, in fact, echoing the rubrics, and I’m glad to see the rubric brought forward.”

    Instead, you get upset for someone having noticed your failure to remember that particular rubric. It’s no shock you wouldn’t remember it – I don’t know anyone who even knows it exists. [I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.]

    Try doing a Google search on the wording of the Rite of Confirmation #3 sometime. It appears fully quoted EXACTLY NOWHERE on the Internet. Nobody teaches it, nobody every HAS taught it.

    But it’s in the rubrics.
    And now it’s here, and out of all the websites on the Internet, your blog has it.
    Due to your handling of the situation, there’s no credit to you, I’m afraid.
    I can’t help that. [Aren't you special!]

  78. skellmeyer says:

    Canon law says anyone of the age of reason must be treated as an adult for purposes of requesting reception of the sacraments.

    Would it be appropriate to say GAH! to canon law?
    Especially canon law upheld and enforced so recently and so strenuously by the CDW?

    What do you do when your liturgical expert doesn’t appear to like some portion of the Church’s rubrics?

    Fr. Z., how is the distaste you are showing right now for a practice that is nearly as ancient as the Church different from the distaste of any kumbaya-Catholic for any other liturgical rubric, including the distaste shown for the EF form as a whole? [Don't be ridiculous. I am fully in support of lowering the age of confirmation, and I always have been. I have been for years. Postponing confirmation until mid or late teen years has always seemed to me to be an imprudent practice in these increasingly difficult times we live in.]

    I can understand being unhappy with having Confirmation AFTER the Eucharist, but why on earth would anyone dislike restoring the order…. why would a TRADITIONAL Catholic have a problem with restored order? [You have, this whole time, been indulging in rash judgment.]

    The current order has only been around for a century, and I understand (but am not certain) that confirmation in the teen years was introduced to the United States by Archbishop Fulton Sheen (which I think speaks against the probability of his eventual sanctification). So, it’s not like being deeply attached to the current ordering of sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation) makes any more sense than being deeply attached to the Novus Ordo makes.

    I just don’t understand why you’re so negative towards the thing. [I'm not, and never have been.]
    Using Confirmation as a carrot is stupid.
    Claiming Confirmation graces aren’t necessary until teen years is impossible.
    Arguing that parents can’t do it is ridiculous (as if the volunteers in CCD know any more? Or the DRE is more capable than the child’s own parents?)

    If parents can’t do it, it’s because priests haven’t been able to teach the parents, as the documents insist they should. Or the priests haven’t allowed the parents to BE parents, as the documents say the priests MUST. Either way, the failure of parents is not just the fault of the parents, is it, Father?

    And it isn’t like the CCD teachers or the DRE or you or the bishop has a right to try and replace the parents, is it Father? None of you have that right. Indeed, none of you are capable of doing so. The documents talk about that as well, don’t they, Father?

    So, exactly WHAT is wrong with parishes actually teaching parents how to pass the Faith on to their own children and then getting OUT of the way so the parents HAVE to do it?

    Sorry, Father, but this is a soapbox for me – that’s why I wrote a book on Catholic education, particularly this aspect of it.
    This IS one of my many hobbies. [I suggest that you get down OFF your soap-box right away and cool down.]
    I would like to know, from a priest, why priests have so much difficulty letting parents be parents? [Another rash judgment. I think, for example, that one of the most neglected, and yet important, documents we have is "The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality", which stresses the rights and obligations of parents in this sphere. I believe, friend, that you had better put away your soapbox now. This has gotten old.]

  79. skellmeyer says:

    Well, you are a busy guy, never too busy to fisk an article you do or don’t like, but FAR too busy to read lowly comments from your own readers…. You are, indeed, special, Father.

    I’m not special – I’m just a lousy lay person.
    But according to canon law, I have a right to petition priests and bishops for knowledge about the Faith, and so I petition you, Father.
    I would like to know why you are so negative towards restored order.

    You haven’t said anything … you’ve just made sardonic little quips and turned your nose up.
    What IS the problem?

  80. skellmeyer: You still don’t get it, do you? You have now pushed this beyond a point I consider acceptable. My problem is now you. You have begun to hijack this combox, and that never settles well with me, no matter what the subject. Moreover, you have done it making false accusations.

    I am not against reversing the order of the sacraments, that is having Confirmation at a younger age – before or at least closer to First Communion, if that will be a better way to give children and young people what they need for spiritual strength in these difficult times. I would continue to insist on First Penance before any of this.

    I trust that what they do in Liverpool, or anywhere else, will be done with great care so that the sacramental preparation is good. It would certainly be best for parents to be principally involved. Sadly, most parents are themselves less than optimally catechized. That has to be dealt with too. Can they do it? Time will tell.

    There it is. And this, with you, is now over. I hope others can engage in some good discussion about the interesting development in Liverpool, or anywhere else this is going on.

  81. Mark Pavlak says:

    skellmeyer, maybe sit the next couple plays out, if you know what I mean. Take a breather.

  82. Stephen Matthew says:

    For my own part I would rather the order be Baptism, Confirmation, First Communion, with First Confession before Confirmation when the individual reaches the age of reason between Baptism and Confirmation.

    I would suggest in the American setting that the 1st grade could focus on the basic, fundamental elements of the Christian faith. The 2nd grade would be the time for preparing for and making a first Confession. The 3rd grade could focus on Confirmation. The 4th grade could then be dedicated to the Eucharist.

    As it stand now both Confession and Communion are squeezed into the 2nd grade and neither is done any justice by it.

    I would also urge that where possible Confirmation be given by the Bishop, and that to the extent possible a time between Easter and Ascension would seem ideal, with Pentacost obviously being the greatest date for this (my own parish has long enjoyed the privildge of having the bishop Confirm on Pentacost). Similary the same could be said of first Communion.

    I can also see advantages in other arrangements. Both Confirmation and Communion being done together would have argumetns in its favor. First Communion taking place at Easter also seems to offer some arguments. Even including the children in Easter Vigil would seem to present certain opportunities.

    The key seems to be offering Confession ASAP once a child reaches the age of reaso, for at that age they become fully capable of mortal sin and its consequences.

    As soon after the age of reason as a child is prepared and disposed toward it, the sacrament of Confirmation would then be appropriate.

    The first Communion would similary be appropriate as soon as a child is prepared and properly disposed. However, because of the need to discern rightly regarding the Eucharist for those of the age of reason, the preparation for this sacrament needs to be particularly careful.

    In the normal process of CCD or a Catholic School it would seem to me a full year would be needed to lay the ground work, and then another year, at least, to prepare for each Sacrament. In cases where a child is prepared sooner, obviously there is no reason to hold them back. Also, the role of the parents as primary educators could be far more easily emphasised with younger children than with older.

    I will also advocate Confirmation before puberty on the grounds of children needing all the graces possible as they enter into that difficult time.

    If any sacrament must be delayed on account of individuals not being fully prepared and rightly disposed, it would seem that the Eucharist would be the one that must be treated with such care. After all, it is the only one I recall involving eating and drinking judgement on yourself if you are not discerning it correctly.

  83. Ttony says:

    Fr Z: “I trust that what they do in Liverpool, or anywhere else, will be done with great care so that the sacramental preparation is good. It would certainly be best for parents to be principally involved. Sadly, most parents are themselves less than optimally catechized. That has to be dealt with too. Can they do it? Time will tell. ”

    Father, it is also necessary for his priests to be optimally catechised by the Bishop and based on the last time this Bishop imposed this praxis on a diocese entrusted to him, neither they, nor their catechists were, and in consequence neither are the parents: not surprisingly the children, at the end of this long chain, remain profoundly uncatechised.

    Lex orandi lex credendi: if the reordering/reversal/restoration is a good thing, then its fruits will be good. If it isn’t the best thing, but the people who are doing it are doing it from a deeply Catholic understanding of the Faith, then the fruits will be good but it will become clear over time that it isn’t the best way to do things.

    If the people who put this in place are doing so because they want to undermine the traditional sacramental theology of God’s Church, then the fruits will be very poor indeed.

    Read what Rachel K says above, and, if you go to Salford, the Archbishop’s previous diocese, si monumentum requiris, circumspice.

  84. cl00bie says:

    These are the Sacraments of Initiation…..now which one is the most important or if you will the crown of the three…..the source and summit of our Catholic faith….The Eucharist….so shouldn’t we end with it???? I don’t know about age….that could be argued but I think that Confirmation (a sacrament looking for a home) should always be received before the Eucharist….it just makes sense!!!

    And this is part of the problem. We don’t end with it. We begin with it! We get to make the last sacrament of initiation (the beginning of their lifetime journey with Christ) one they can continue to receive every week.

    As a side note, I begin facilitating RCIA in my parish for the first time this Sunday. I don’t believe I’m prepared enough. Please pray for me.

  85. Supertradmum says:

    I have just heard that the Diocese of Chicago, in an experiment in Lake Forest, that Confirmation will be delayed until senior year of high school. This is horrible! Why would they decide to withhold the Sacrament, just to keep people in the classes? I am shocked.

    God bless the Bishop of Liverpool. Religious education fails because youth do not have the graces. I think the Pope should ask all bishops to push back Confirmation to a very young age. Why are we not seeing that children, as statistics prove, see their first pornography online at the age of eleven? They need the fullness of the Baptismal graces, earlier and earlier. I can’t get over this right now.

  86. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    Supertradmum,

    “Confirmation will be delayed until senior year of high school.”

    I would argue that this is simply another manifestation of a certain stream of Western sectarianism which rears its head frequently in Europe and North America, in this case in one of its progressivist forms.

    Sectarian attitudes (another way of describing the “hermeneutic of rupture”) manifest themselves in practice through all sorts of abuses of the Church’s liturgical, theological and canonical heritage. They are often expressed architecturally, iconographically, musically, in the celebration of the Church’s sacramental mysteries, in catechetical classes, etc etc. Such an attitude says: Whatever we are doing or saying need have no reference to the Great Tradition…that is, the shared Catholic patrimony of East and West.

    Certain forms of sectarianism can also, of course, appear in traditionalist forms, but that is not the case here. (Recently, for instance, we had some guests at our parish mission who were Latin Catholics, and one refused to participate fully in our services but rather read their Latin Missal throughout the Divine Liturgy.)

    Such an abusive practice which you mention is so completely at odds with Holy Tradition across the communion of Catholic sui juris Churches that I would argue that it constitutes a rupture (material, not formal of course). It is this kind of thing that is so very damaging to Christian unity and simply needs to stop or be stopped.