Confirmation programs – recommendations?

I got this by e-mail.  Perhaps you readers can help.

Hello Father Z,

I am a Confirmation teacher at my parish, and I have a dilemma.  Our current curriculum is very, very bad.  We just got a new Director of Religious Ed this year, and I am hoping to be able to convince her to change the program for next year.

I don’t know if you have ever heard of it, but our program is called Confirmed in a Faithful Community (sic).  In case you haven’t heard of it, I will give one example: in the chapter on (I think) liturgy ("Celebrating with Symbols and Rituals") we (the catechists) are instructed to "create an opening ritual for this session…that reflects the unique characteristics and history of their group." (emphasis mine).  In the following section, misleading entitled, "The Meaning of Ritual," we find such exercises as "ask them to cup their hands in front of them, bow their heads, and look at their cupped hands.  (Mention to them that there is something inherently prayerful about this posture.)…Then have the participants kneel.  While they are kneeling, ask them to place their foreheads against the floor.  Note that Muslims use this position in their daily prayer to signify submission to God."

Note that, of all of the positions the candidates are "invited" to "experience" the only one that is actually Christian is (as you could probably guess) the orans posture.  Of all of the postures and rituals in "The Meaning of Ritual" the only posture whose meaning is actually given is the Muslim one.

I’m going to stop now, in the interests of length and not giving myself a stroke.

What I am asking of you, Father, is two things:

One: could you kindly remember CCD teachers at the altar next time you offer the Mass?
Two: could you let me know what Confirmation program you would use/recommend?  If I’m going to go in to my meeting with the DRE, I’d like to go with more than "these books are wretched, please burn them."  As much as possible, I would like to be helpful, and not just critical.

Thank you so much for your time, Father.  God love you.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. EJ says:

    The Faith and Life series by Ignatius Press is excellent, replete with beautiful traditional artwork and photographs, and most importantly, it is solidly orthodox. Students study tenets of faith such as “ex cathedra” teachings, papal infallibility, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching from the eighth grade (usual confirmation level) book and its materials. When my new pastor and his new DRE unfortunately replaced this series with the fuzzy-wuzzy garbage which was imposed, I chose to discontinue my teaching there because I could not stomach the new materials. I believe that the series has been updated, but I haven’t seen the updated books yet. Good luck!

  2. Flambeaux says:

    If just using the Baltimore Catechism isn’t an option, you could look into the programs put out by Catholics United for the Faith or the one put out by The Priory Press (produced by the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great).

    CUF’s Faith & Life Series:

    The Priory Press:

    N.B. Please don’t confuse The Priory Press with Priory Press. The latter provides outstanding materials for Gregorian Chant and can be found at but is not, to my knowledge, affiliated with the former or with the O.P.’s.

  3. Papabile says:

    I know a religious order (and I forget which one at the moment), used to practice precisely the posture of touching the head to the floor when before the Blesses Sacrament exposed. This existed before the Council for about 150 years. I will try to look this up at home.

    I have in the back of my had that since the Council, this order pretty much self destructed when they went crazy.

    Who knows, maybe they were Christianizing a pagan practice?

  4. Pierpaolo FInaldi says:

    There is a course in the UK called Evangelium which is very strong on doctrine and very beautifully illustrated. Although not specifically for COnfirmation it is modular and can be used for confirmation by following the modules suggested in the leader’s guide. It’s written by two young traditionally minded English priests and has had quite a bit of success in the UK and in St Louis in USA. see

  5. Transitional Deacon says:

    The St. Martin de Porres lay Dominican community in Kentucy (New Hope PUblications) has a good text on confirmation:

    All of their texts are very good.

  6. Chris says:

    I’ve been using Midwest Theological Forum’s Introduction to Catholicism. It is an orthodox and engaging text and I’ve found it to be very helpful (the rest of MTF’s Didache series is also excellent).

  7. Maureen says:

    There are any number of Christian prayer postures. Was it St. Dominic who used seven or eight different ones?

    But this book obviously isn’t interested in teaching Christian anything. Bleh.

  8. Craig says:

    I have experienced that program before, its worthless for Catholic believers. Not to be to blunt, but I take Catechises very seriously, anything that threatens the faith of my Catechumens and Candidates is trash in my opinion.

    Try these folks, you will be very happy. Scripture, Catechism, Liturgy on and on.

    The program allows you to set your own pace, order, size, etc. Its very heavy of Doctrine, but in a way that educates everyone.

    I will pray for your program

  9. Renee says:

    I would also recommend the Faith and Life Series. You might also want to check out the Image of God series. Both are available at

  10. Wm. Christopher Hoag says:

    As I Parish Catechetical Leader, I was faced with the issue of poor catechetical materials for sacramental preparation when I undertook a while back to overhaul the sacramental prep programme in my parish in order to bring it into line with the GDC, CCC, and diocesan guidlines. In the end, my confirmation coordinator and I decided to develop our own programme rather than go with any existing one.

    Let me say here that one major item of the prep revision was to remove sacramental prep from the day school and CCD classes, establishing a single, separate programme where day school children, CCD children, and home school children come together in one environment. This programme would involve monthly sessions and a retreat scheduled over six to eight months. My parish confirms in Grade Eight (though I am a very strong advocate of restored order as Bishop Olmsted has done it in Phoenix). The programme would also directly involve parents in the preparation as they are the primary educators of their children. Sponsors would also be involved.

    Using Rev. Lawrence Lovasik’s Saint Joseph Confirmation Book (New York: Catholic Book Publishing) as the main text, we developed a series of individual session topics based upon the essential knowledge required for the sacrament in light of canon law and diocesan guidelines. During the monthly sessions, children would meet into small groups with which they remained for the whole programme. These groups were composed of youth from all through backgrounds mentioned above. The emphasis was on knowledge of the sacraments of initiation, reflection on the Rite of Confirmation and the propers of the Ritual Mass for the sacrament, and the fundamentals of mature Catholic life. We consciously avoided any mention of Confirmation as the “last” sacrament of initiation (theologically and canonically it is not) or as a sacrament of Christian “adulthood” or “graduation” (theologically it is a sealing of baptism and is conferred on infants in the Eastern Church).

    The programme works very well, and I hope that ,after a few years of minor adjustments, it will be published. I would be very happy to share it in its current state with any interested persons. The programme currently exists only for the OF although I do hope to devise a version for the EF.

  11. anne scanlon says:

    I work as a DRE in two parishes…and agree with the reccomendations of Faith and Life for first through eighth grades and the Didache series is the best program written for high school in decades. We broke down the Intro to Catholicism and use it for the two year preparation for Confirmation. In addition we use the Seton Home Study book on Confirmation…it is the most comprhensive material available…..Praying for you…..

  12. JohnE says:

    I was invited to be a sponsor for a teenage boy who is being confirmed next month. While it is too late for this year’s program, I am wondering if anyone has any experience with a Confirmation program that teaches the boys and girls separately to some degree. My impression is that many Confirmation programs are written with a slant towards more of a feminine spirituality — for example, more “how does that make you feel?” types of discussion questions. Especially if a teacher wants a discussion on chastity and sexual morality, a mixed audience of teenage boys and girls is a good way to ensure a lecture, few questions, and little discussion. I think even other topics would be better learned and discussed in same-sex classrooms. There’s just too much concern over self-image for most teenagers, especially when many of the opposite sex are present, and perhaps even more so for boys where spiritual and religious matters are often seen as “girly”.

  13. Wm. Christopher Hoag says:

    Faith & Life is a basal text series. It does not have a sacramental prep text, although its Grades 1 & 2 books heavily emphasise the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist. I use Faith & Life as the basal text for my CCD programme. It is best English-language series available but still has numerous deficiencies when examined in light of the GDC. It is definitely improving though!!! I would not use anything else available for general youth catechesis!

    Since the release of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church there is no justification to use the Baltimore Catechism No. 3 as a primary text in catechesis. The Compendium is far superior and contains contemporary teachings absent from Baltimore No. 3. BTW, I do use the Baltimore Catechism for First Communion as the primary text for my First Penance/First Communion programme, supplemented with the Mass Book from the Image of God series from Ignatius Press.

    The Lay Dominicans in New Hope KY do have excellent texts for Confirmation and First Communion!

  14. Anthony says:

    I would like to point out that the act of prostration is used frequently in
    the eastern (Byzantine) liturgy. Examples to be found during Great Lent are
    at the great entrance of the Liturgy of the Presanctified and at the Prayer of
    St. Ephraim the Syrian, two name just two.

    The sacred scriptures are full of references to prostration; it is not
    just a Muslim act of prayer.

  15. Timmay! says:

    Regarding the position with your forehead to the floor… My Byzantine Catholic friends have told me that is a common practice in their tradition. That is how they prostrate themselves, as opposed to laying flat on the floor as in the latin rite. I believe they use a similar position in the Chaldean rite.

    Just because the muslims use that position does not mean they created it, nor does it make it ‘theirs’. Use it as an opportunity to briefly mention other Catholic traditions.

  16. Wm. Christopher Hoag – our parish is also re-evaluating our Confirmation program and something like what you are doing sounds a lot like what we have been searching for. Can you please e-mail me with more details?

    For the record, our own Confirmation program uses the Catholicism & Life and Catholicism & Reason books (CR publications) for a 2 year program for high school students. The books are solid, no problem there, but there is no overall connection in our program to the actual preparation of the sacrament of Confirmation. Plus, while it has in the past been only for “CCD kids” (with Catholic high school students exempted from ANY prep… don’t get me started…) we do want to move to a more integrated parish-wide program. The Catholic high school parents are, understandably, confused about why this is necessary and why their students need to take two years of Catholic education that has “nothing to do with Confirmation”. While I want to maintain the high level of doctrinal content, I can also see their point to the extent that our program is not very well outlined and, as I said, doesn’t really even address the actual issue of CONFIRMATION preparation in it. I may doubt the quality of some of the “religious education” that the Catholic high school students may be getting, but there are more fundamental problems with this program that are affecting my ability to persuade those families that Confirmation prep is NOT duplicating what they’re being taught in the Catholic schools.

    Anyway, I digress. We have looked at other programs, and books. I am honestly not that impressed with the Ignatius books, or with the New Hope book – they are good doctrinaly, but they are not enough for a parish program, only as a supplement perhaps. And even then, they, well, just aren’t really adequate in their professional appearance to be taken seriously by the students. Image isn’t everything, but for this younger gereration it does matter! I have also looked at the ACM material geared for RCIA, and while that is good content, again it isn’t really a Confirmation preparation program’. Other Big Box religious education publishers (Benzinger, RCL, Sadlier, etc) have been flinging free copies of their books at me, and I have to admit that they at least have good structure/format and are professionally printed. But of course they are unthinkable for use in an actual parish, for the reasons given by your original e-mail author! Beware monopolistic companies that claim to want to “form your parish in faith” – faith in what? Poofy bunnies? Argh.

    It seems that more and more parishes of good repute are just creating their own programs to fill this void of decent catechetical Confirmation programs geared for parishes with students from multiple backgrounds. Many of us just do not have the time or the ability to pull that off though.

    Keep the ideas coming please!

  17. Flambeaux says:

    Wm. Christopher Hoag,

    I would like to look over what you have in its current state.

    Feel free to email me at flambeaux_bearer [at] yahoo [dot] com.


  18. Lee Gilbert says:

    Here\’s the url for The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic

    Personally I found this liberating and I think your students would also. Of course, praying while kneeling is optimal, but the students\’ prayer time can greatly expanded and deepened if their repetoire of postures and ways of praying can be expanded. They can pray while kneeling, but also they can prostrate themselves on their bedroom floor. They can pray while pacing the room, while riding their bicycles, while waiting in line at the cafeteria at school. They can pray the Rosary. They can pray short ejaculations. They can pray always.

    Assuming that your DRE is not going to give you another text book- at least not this year, since the parents have already paid for the one you now have- continue to use the text, but minimally. Where it has good, solid stuff, use it- that way the parents cannot complain of your not using the text they paid for. Where it is lacking, find good, solid stuff online or in old texts books and copy it. Wing it. Use your imagination. Be orthodox and creative at the same time. For example, where it gives the one, muslim posture, give them nine ways more.

    There is tons of good stuff online. Send them short excerpts from the lives of the saints and inspiring stories during the week, to arrive every Wednesday for example. Show them how to find good, inspiring orthodox stuff to read. Pile them in a van and take them to local Catholic bookstores. Send home a note to the parents suggesting good family reading or ideas for birthday and Christmas gifts. IN OTHER WORDS YOU ARE IN NO WAY BOUND BY OR LIMITED BY THE TEXT. In effect, you can essentially discard it while providing superabundant orthodox and inspiring teaching- as if from a firehose.

  19. Craig says:

    On the prayer position, I believe the original letter is quoting the book, they themselves made no judgement on the position, but the program the are using said it was a Muslim position.

  20. Prof. Basto says:

    Use the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  21. TNCath says:

    Add me to the list of those who vote for the Faith and Life Series by Ignatius Press. While the Baltimore Catechism is good for First Sacraments, the Faith and Life series provides a sound format based on grade levels and is about as orthodox as it gets. The Compendium of the Catechism is good as well for upper grades (7th and 8th graders), but might be a bit much for the lower grades.

    Be careful, though, that your diocese has the Faith and Life series on its list of “approved texts.” Some dioceses don’t and the wrath of the Relgious Education police in some places can be quite unpleasant. Some pastors are reluctant to adopt it lest their respective bishops side with their diocesan DRE. In our diocese, the Faith and Life series was “approved with reservations,” which, of course, meant that, while they found it doctrinally sound and complete, they didn’t like the format because it was considered too traditional and was “lacking an expression of the Church’s social Gospel. Isn’t that ridiculous?

  22. simeon says:

    I think that a comparison to other religions’ practice is sometimes helpful. Showing that we, like other religions, have ritual postures can be beneficial.

    I wonder if they mention how many other religions have ritual languages… Will they mention that Muslims, Hindus, Jews, etc. pray in archaic languages?

  23. The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic is an interesting and
    useful text; and it was ediited with very lovely
    color reproductions of the manuscript illutrations by Fr.
    Simon Tugwell, as The Nine Ways of Prayer of St Dominic. Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1979. It is unfortunately out of print, I think, but used copies
    may be found.

    Although the form identified with the Dominican Order presents
    the Ways as “of St. Dominic,” this document is actually, in
    origin, borrowed from what is probably the first booklet
    every written for lay people on now to pray. The original
    audience was probably lay confraternity members in north
    Italy in the early 1200s. And the original manuscripts had
    images of lay people praying. I discuss the original (and
    reproduce some of the pictures, in my book _Cities of God:
    The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125-1325_:

  24. ASD says:


    I teach 8th grade catechism at an OF parish. The materials provided to us are from a series call “Blessed Are We” (BAW). (For description, see BAW is silly, so I ignore it. Instead, I check our syllabus each week to see what topics we’re supposed to be discussing, & I research the topics myself. I guess that some people will think my approach isn’t very good. Maybe I should try to discuss my objections with the Director of Faith Formation. I would rather not do so. Instead, I quietly try to educate 6-12 8th graders every year.

  25. Kate Asjes says:

    Seton Home Study School’s confirmation books are THE BEST product out there.

  26. Not Getting Creaky Just Yet says:

    (Fixed spelling on screenname too)

    I think the series my DRE bought for the parish is mostly silly. I think they hired a bunch of random writing/English majors and gave them a subject list and a list of words for each expected age group. I suspect that at least some of the writers of the first grade text aren’t even Catholic, just from little cultural hints scattered here and there.
    That having been said, the text is written at the students’ grade level. We practice reading aloud in it, some weeks. I also lecture. I also have written explanations. Once in a great while I show a movie. And I try to make sure the craft projects these 6 and 7 year old students do are related to the doctrines they are learning…since the diocesan curriculum here makes first grade to be a kind of Cook’s Tour of Catholicism.
    The most intelligent–nay, brilliant–thing my DRE has said about these books is “Not all of what you need to teach is in the book.” Truer words were never spoken. (I miss the old book that had illustrations that were pictures of classic artworks instead of the cartoonish drawings and occasional photos the new one has.)
    You don’t have to stick on what the text of the books say, you are the teacher and you are responsible for making your class be orthodox in content. You don’t have to follow the suggested lesson plan with its pointless things like “let the children stand in a circle and go around shaking all of their hands.”
    After a year or so you can keep your ears open and see what the follow-on teachers say about your kids. If you say you wonder just what they remember, the next-year ladies and gentlemen will happily mention things.
    After saying that you should take initiative to supplement your text (no matter how silly!) with orthodox materials from other sources, the only really valuable thing I can add is this: find the age group you’re comfortable with and stay with them. In this way you can repeat the successful presentations and projects and activities from year to year while discarding the unsuccessful ones.
    My dad always said about Cub Scouts that if the boys do crafts, the parents feel reassured that their children are getting program. With appropriate word changes, I think the principal applies to CCD.
    My best to all.

  27. magdalen says:

    I also taught middle schoolers CCD and researched each area using proven
    orthodox materials. My services are no longer required. Things like
    lets draw petal and then stand together to make a flower from the book
    given me to use just did not cut it in my opinion.

    I got permission from an archbishop in another diocese to have my
    children confirmed there. I prepared them at home using a number
    of materials. I used the Basic Catechist course of Fr. Hardon as my
    outline. And I have the confirmation book from the lay Dominicans as well.

    Now at my parish–the kids had some social justice retreat. I wonder
    if they know anything of the faith?

  28. Bill Haley says:

    Wm. Christopher Hoag,

    I work as a DRE in the Diocese of Phoenix. We use the same St. Joseph Confirmation Book. I would be delighted to see what you have done. You can email me at

  29. Matt says:

    This could not be more timely.

    Would anybody be aware of home schooling material for grade school children?

    Thanks and regards,

    Matt of South Kent

  30. Michael says:

    Dear CCD teacher,

    They even got the Muslim posture wrong. The Muslims borrowed that forehead-to-the-floor practice from the Syriac Christian community – priests, monks, laity – that they interacted with. We still do that to this day, even adapting it for Latin devotional prayers (such as the Stations of the Cross – where Latins kneel, Syriac and Indian Catholics prostrate with forehead to floor).

  31. Matt says:

    I am sorry the above post should mention – home schooling CCD.

    Not the general topic.


    Matt of South Kent

  32. CK says:

    Hi,I homeschool my 3 kids grade 8, grade 5, grade 2. We use the Faith and Life series. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) I am learning right along with the kids b/c I grew up in the 70’s. ’nuff said. The Faith and Life series is very good. Our parish has a strong confirmation program, and the F/L went right along with it for us this year. In my homeschooling, I also use the St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism. A great book that I also used with my 8th grader this year is Catholic Apologetics by Fr. John Laux. It is a great book, very advanced.

    Matt of South Kent: We use Kolbe Academy, and really like it. My brother and his 4 kids use Seton Home school, and they like that.

  33. Marcin says:

    I would like only to re-iterate: the Muslim deep bow to the floor is nothing else but immemorial custom of the Eastern Christians – great metany (megale metanoia), used liturgically relatively often (part. in the Great Lent), and of course out of personal piety.
    I suggest, that those of us who catechize, once they find the mention of this gesture as Muslim one in their program’s books, use this fact as a great teaching point about Christian East. The sight of great metany in the church can be really perplexing for an average Joe (Roman) Catholic.
    Besides, Muslim religion is nothing else than regurgitation of main early Christian heresies plus great deal of judaisation.

  34. Fr. Thomas LaHood says:

    I second Prof. Basto. I teach 8th grade CCD myself. I use the Compendium.
    We had our last lesson this evening. We finished the book with ten minutes to spare.

  35. I would agree that it is beneficial to separate the boys and girls for some subjects. We always do a male/female retreat in our confirmation program. This is a two day retreat where we do join introductory meetings and take meals together but do the rest of the session with the boys and girls separated. It is the only way to seriously discuss chastity.

  36. Timothy,

    You are absolutely correct. The Muslims assimilated many of the common prayer gestures and postures of the Byzantines…in part because so many worldly Byzantines converted to Islam under its vicious yoke!

    May I only make the observation that if the Latin Church simply followed the recommendations of Vatican II, these children would be confirmed just prior to their first communion? I think the latitude given to bishops in terms of the age of confirmation is simply ridiculous. Some of the Fathers asserted that one cannot even claim the name of Christian unless he or she had been chrismated/confirmed! SO the idea of waiting until the teenage years is misleading concerning the nature of the sacrament.

    Returning to the classroom, I would recommend something that covers salvation history – the Bible. Talk about the sacraments in relationship to the Old Testament types. You could try Dr. Scott Hahn’s OT study:

    Also, I have found that icons are a wonderful catechetical tool for instructing youth. They are much more visual learners these days…

    God bless you for your work and concern for the youth!

    In ICXC,


  37. Patrick says:

    Our good confirmation catechist is not alone. My good friend is facing similar difficulties at his parish, and now has decided to pack it in. He receives children who barely know three of the sacraments, let alone the Ten Commandments and the Four Marks of the Church.

    We use Faith and Life and the Baltimore Catechism at our parish, I have used them teaching third through seventy grades.

    Does anyone out there have experience with priests refusing the prospective confirmand the chance to select their own confirmation name from the canon of Saints? They are doin that at my friend’s parish, it is causing some comment and discontent.

    God’s Peace to all

  38. When my parish was using heretical texts, I dropped them, and used my own notes, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Compendium, Catholicism for Dummies, Spirit of the Liturgy, TOB For teens (editing out the stuff I didn’t like of course). Needless to say I wasn’t asked to come back to the parish and teach again.

    Seperating Boys and Girls is an absolute must for Morality talk. I see no way around it.

    All the texts that have been suggested are good. I say avoid RCL like you would a plauge. (That was the text I dropped). The texts that I used for my HS Confirmation class were above them, I’m not going to deny that, but I think they were better off because of it. I always made synopsis of whatever the class topic was. I’m willing to share these notes and materials, just e-mail me at Jcpanther24 at aol dot com.

  39. Craigmaddie says:

    Does anyone know of any good resources for songs that I could sing with kids? I am working within the framework of a program called Alive-O. The songs are rather…hmm…and I’d rather find something enjoyable and orthodox that I could sing on the guitar with them.

  40. joe says:

    As a catechist for 2nd Year Confimation (our parish’s program is two years, encompassing 7th & 8th grade) I’d like to chime in support for Faith & Life (the revised version). I supplement this with “Ye Olde Baltimore Catechisme” #3 and the Compendium.

    Our parochial school is run by the monumentally excellent Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart (the ones who run the hospital in California to where Fr. Fessio was…er…assigned for some time) and they are solid, filled with zeal and faith and “steadfast adherence to the Magisterium.”

    As a result, we have a very active Youth Group, and the number of confirmandi who continue in the faith is encouraging and surprisingly so! I cannot recommend this highly enough.



    P.S. If anyone ever suggests “Faith First” don’t walk, SPRINT away.

  41. joe says:

    P.S. When the time comes to discuss chastity and sexual morality I am ADAMANT about speaking to the boys and girls separately.

    “Girls, boys will do or say whatever they have toto have sex with you. Whatever they say will be lies. If he says he loves you, hold him at bay with a blunt object.”

  42. Richard says:

    I have to share this story. The husband of the couple who provided instruction for my son’s class told me this while we were standing in a life chain a few years ago. His wife had asked our parish’s DRE to suggest some additional readings to supplement to confirmation textbook. Our DRE’s response was that the instructor’s manual had a lot of helpful ideas. LouAnne’s response was that she’d read the manual, but “it’s a little too ‘Kumbaya’ for me.”

    She found her own supplemental materials.

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