From a reader:
A bit related to your post about seeking Confirmation from another diocese, I was wondering what you thought of seeking out the sacrament of Confirmation for my children before they receive Holy Communion for the first time.
As I understand it, Holy Communion traditionally stood as the culmination of the process of entering the Church. Baptism – Confirmation – Holy Communion. Indeed, that’s the order of reception at the Easter Vigil and, I think, is the way those three sacraments are presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. With the movement of the reception of Holy Communion for the first time to an earlier age (by Pius X, I believe), was there any intention to also move Confirmation to a correspondingly earlier age? If not, would it be recommended/proper/pious to seek out Confirmation before First Holy Communion?
In the ancient Church and still in the Eastern Churches, those entering the Church would receive all three sacraments of "initiation". Thus, even the very young, even infants were confirmed.
When the numbers of people to be "initiated" became too great for the lone bishop to handle everyone, practical solutions were adopted and the sacraments were separated.
In the Latin Church we have been separating Baptism, Confirmation and Communion for quite some time now. The age of Communion has been moved to the "age of reason", to be be determined primarily by parents in consultation with their pastor.
The age of Confirmation has been pushed later and later. The 1983 Code of Canon Law c. 891 sets the age for Confirmation "at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age … ". In the USA the Latin Rite bishops set the age for Confirmation at between the age of discretion (considered to be about age seven) and "about sixteen years of age."
Many people argue that late teens is too late for the sacrament. They think it should be earlier. The idea is that the sacrament of Confirmation, the strengthening it gives, is really needed before the turbulent years of adolescence. Canon Law supports this possibility, but the local bishops conference might have set other guidelines.
I don’t see why there could not be an exception, but it seems to me that this should be worked out carefully with your pastor and, perhaps, with the bishop who would confirm.
So, unless you really have a compelling reason to do otherwise, how about following the directives of the bishops according to the program your pastor determines?
In the meantime, form your children well! Giving them the gift of Faith, the Faith in which we believe, will make their deepening of the Faith by which we believe that much richer and effective in their lives. This is your honor and duty.
I am not sure about all of Canada, but my son received both Confirmation and first Communion at age 6. I believe that most parishes here (Newfoundland) have Confirmation and first Communion at the same time.
Many diocese(s) have delved into the “Restored Order” concept, which restores the reception of the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist at the same time and in the “original” order. Whilst it was ushered in with great fanfare, it has been an underwhelming success in most places that I have seen it implemented. Either the children seem “too young” to be confirmed, or “too old” to be receiving First Communion. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a Size 12 girls First Communion Dress?
And then there is the real sticking point for most CCD programs… Confirmation is the “Carrot on the stick” to keep your kids in CCD through High School…if they are Confirmed in Second Grade, there would be empty CCD classes from the Third Grade up….
If you aren’t aware of this, Google “Restored Order”.
The following link to EWTN may answer your questions as well…
In light of my above posting, take a look at question #15….
Why does there need to be a set age, Why are we not having the person along with their parents choose when the appropriate time is. I watch our 8th graders go through every year and cring as many are just going through the motions because its what the 8th grade does. Some were ready long before 8th grade, some probably need some more time.
Because CCD programs, like parish music programs, are a GIANT industry promoted by big-name publishers, complete with “Training Sessions, “Workshops”, showcases of “Materials”, “Certification”…etc…etc…
I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here, but what would be the purpose of a CCD program if not to prepare your children one-step-at-a-time for the Sacraments via an eight-year long program? If there are only three years of CCD that publisher loses out on 5/8 of their market. That’s why the lack of enthusiasm.
Question #15 is spot on.
It is the parent’s responsibility to form children in the faith, not the DRE.
When parents are not forming their children, are not praying at home, etc., then the exact age of reception becomes a secondary issue.
I made my 1st Holy Confession and Holy Communion at the age of 12, then my Confirmation just before I was 16,I was the oldest in both classes. We had learned from the Baltimore Catechism #3 and were now solders of Christ, and were to defend our Catholic faith.I remember the ceramony so well and also the Bishop’s sermon. I am now 73, must have made a great impression on that 16 yr old. ssoldie-TLM-Trad
Whatever the reasons were for allowing holy communion before confirmation, I don’t believe those reasons exist anymore. What has been the result? Many thousands, maybe millions, who have never gone on to be fully initiated into the Church. In their mind confirmation is no longer necessary because they are already able to receive holy communion. Maybe a return to liturgical authenticity is needed, that is, a return to the proper oder of the sacraments: baptism, confirmation and holy communion. Why deny these graces to infants?
I have experienced the flip flopping of the age of Confirmation. Nothing is SOOOO irritating as seeing it change from 8th grade to 11th grade to 3rd grade!!!!! Speaking as a parent with experience. My preference would be 8th grade.(no earlier than 6th grade if I had to have them receive earlier) I would like to see the child REALLY participate in the Sacrament with the knowledge of the Sacrament. About 3 years ago Our bishop changed the age from 11th grade to 3rd grade for Confirmation and First Communion(2nd Grade was First Communion before) . I was and still am furious. Why? He didn’t even have a curriculum in place to catechize the 3rd graders! He went from a rigid (but poorly taught) structure, to oh well…3rd grade is where we should be. Guess what happened to the religious instruction classes in the older grades after they received all their sacraments? Dropped down out of site….few kids, as compared to before. Change is not always good. Meanwhile, I homeschool, and I take my children out of the diocese to receive Confirmation…not my preference, but I have very strong feelings..
In the Byzantine rites babies are baptised, confirmed, and receive first communion at the same time. In my experience these people as adults are better informed about the faith than Romans who go through all the sacramental prep of CCD and youth programs. It goes back to what LCB said, “It is the parents’ responsibility to form children in the faith, not the DRE.”
In response to the Devil’s advocate, CCD does not have to be about sacramental prep. After receiving the sacraments of initiation we are called and obligated to enter ever more deeply in the mystery of the Church; CCD could help with this. However, it is not by any means the ideal. Once parents are educating their children in the faith the way they should be, there isn’t a real need for CCD. Don’t think that will happen in my life time though.
The proper order is confirmation then first communion. There is also this rampant error about what Confirmation is, that it is the adult accepting the faith for himself. In reality, the deepest mystery in the sacraments is the Eucharist, and it seems bizarre to have a higher standard for confirmation. If we do the sacraments earlier, in their proper order, then we might move away from the perversion that confirmation is graduation in religious education, and hopefully establish a more continual formation
Anyhow, Rome weighed in in a case of someone younger than the age set by the diocese
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.
It bears to mention that in the East, the PRIEST is the one who usually gives the Holy Sacrament of Chrismation. Would we be willing to have Fr. ___ give the Sacrament to our youth? (I personally have no problem with it, as priests do Confirm the RCIA members.)
This would mean even LESS (I don’t know how to bold or italicize on this blog) contact with the Bishop than there already is, unless he starts touring the parishes as is done in the East.
I made my First Communion in 1962, when I was 7.
I was Confirmed in 1966, when I was 11…I always remember what the requirements said back then…’have to be at least 11 years old or in the sixth grade’.
I agree with Fr. Z’s thought: Confirmation should be given before adolescence.
I believe the reasoning here, for those who go to Catholic elementary schools, is to get them before they drop out of sight.
As to the age of Confirmation, it depends on the size of the school. At my school, it was a two year cycle, so that the 7th and 8th grade were confirmed together, and we had to travel to the Cathedral. At my sister’s school, it was a three year cycle, (6, 7 and 8) and there were enough kids that the Bishop actually came.
I think this is better than when my mom was confirmed in 3rd grade.
In the traditionalist sedevacantist parishes that
I attended before I went back to Rome, confirmation
was administered during the early teens. To the best
of my recollection, children of junior high school
age receive the sacrament.
Personally, and this is only an opinion, I think
that the age for confirmation should be during
the teenage years. When the bishop smacks you
on the cheek, it means that you have become
a soldier for Christ. By being chrismated/confirmed,
the child has become a full member of the Body of
Christ which is the Church Militant.
Pope St. Pius X moved the age of First Holy Communion
down to “the age of reason” because it was
traditional at that time for children to receive
that particular sacrament at a later age. Pius
X also stated that confirmation should be
administered around the same time if the child
had been well versed in the catechism.
Personally, I believe that whether to confirm
or not to confirm should be left to the ordinaries
in charge of individual dioceses. However, I personally
believe that administering it at a much older
age gives more time for formation in the faith.
Because the parents are NOT taking on the responsibility of primary educators of their faith-
shouldn’t we be worried about those not educating their children at home that they be educated through the church based programs? AND….if the kids don’t come…whose fault is that? Parents.(because of their faulty reasoning of..the child has ALL the Sacraments…he’s good to go) Is the Church going to continue to ignore possibility of future generations of dumbed down Catholics? Reality check here…I am saying we should be focused on WHAT NOT was done in the past, but what we need to do NOW to increase the education of future Catholics. I believe that may be in making Confirmation around 7th or 8th grade.
I believe my mother and her two next oldest siblings (1 and 4 years younger, respectively) received 1st Communion and were confirmed all at the same time (as preteens, I think). Of course, that was Depression/WWII-era Ireland and they lived in a rural area. That was when the Bishop was going to be coming around – his next visit was an unknown long time off.
From what I’ve observed and heard of in the northeast US, the trend in recent years is to move Confirmation to older kids – from 7th or 8th grade to 10th or 11th. Idea being (something like) to hold onto them in formation (at Mass and CCD) longer. Too many (and their families) were treating it as a graduation – I’m 14, I’m confirmed, I don’t have to go to Mass anymore! Like getting a driver’s license and seeing only the liberty, not the responsibility. So, the reasoning goes, emphasize Confirmation as meaning you have the responsibilities of an adult, and confirm those who are a little closer to adulthood.
Maybe compensating for the ‘graduation, not a child anymore’ mentality by moving the Sacrament closer to the age of secondary school graduation and the age of realizing some privileges and responsibilities under civil law is the wrong approach. I don’t know.
Like many things, it’s at least partly a question of catechesis. A lot of us struggle with understanding the Eucharist even though what it is has been made fairly plain to us. Do most of us have even that clear a formation on what Confirmation is?
Fr Z says, “So, unless you really have a compelling reason to do otherwise, how about following the directives of the bishops according to the program your pastor determines?”
I would offer that returning to restored order is a compelling reason. Given that your child has already received first communion, I don’t think pressing for an earlier confirmation is necessary. However, if you can obtain for your child the sacraments of initiation in their proper order, I would deem it a compelling reason to query your pastor and bishop about.
In my diocese the rule has been as long as I can remeber to have the Bishop come for confirmation and first Holy Communion. My bishop always says that it is a special joy for him to be able not only to confrim the Children, but also to give them their First Holy Communion. Seems to work here, yes CCD classes fall off after 2nd grade due to this, but that is because the classes are not that good so the students very much dislike the classes, they used to be better imho and there were more kids in it up through middle school atleast.
“…would like to see the child REALLY participate in the Sacrament with the knowledge of the Sacrament.”
Sacraments are an outpouring of grace from God. Our ability to “REALLY participate”, whatever that means, in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, unction, and even the Eucharist is irrelevant. We ultimately receive the grace and healing of the sacraments when they are given to us regardless of what we understand about them or our participation in their administration.
None of my children have had any knowledge or ability to participate when receiving the sacraments baptism, confirmation, unction, or the Eucharist. They received all of these sacraments long before the age of reason. Does it make their reception of the sacraments less meaningful since they couldn’t participate? No. Furthermore, they are and will be catechized, but not to lead up to a sacramental event (confirmation or first communion), but because that is what we must do as catholic parents.
If traditionalists are keen to adhere to ancient tradition, then they need to work to restore the tradition of administering baptism, confirmation and Communion to infants.
I really don’t buy into the “sacramental prep” argument about CCD, either. I live in Mississippi, where the VAST majority of regular church attendees are Evangelical Protestants. These Christians do not treat their children’s Sunday School classes as “sacramental preparation”, yet they have absolutely NO problem with maintaining attendance all the way through the 12th grade and beyond. How many Catholic parishes do you know who have hundreds of entire families (children and adults) in CCD-style classes every single Sunday?
I think there is something to be learned from these Evangelical brethren: We Catholics should seriously consider shifting our priorities from sacramental prep. to catechesis and Scripture study in our parishes. Just my two cents….
I wrote “We Catholics should seriously consider shifting our priorities from sacramental prep. to catechesis and Scripture study in our parishes.”
I MEANT to write “We Catholics should seriously consider shifting the priority in our parish CCD programs from concentrating solely on sacramental prep. to also covering catechesis and Scripture study.”
Someone–I’m sorry I cannot find it now–made the point that Church law protects the right of the faithful to ask for sacraments, and to receive them if they are properly disposed and not impeded by law.
When a parent came to me about first communion for his daughter in, I think, 1st grade, I judged the child to have sufficient reason, and catechesis, that I said yes. I will do the same with anyone else who asks for that, and the same for confirmation.
Also, a pastor can confirm any baptized person at any age, in emergency–even an infant.
While I’m not going on a crusade about it, I, too, think restoring the older older is a compelling reason. Consider that for a moment: without going so far as to say it’s immutable, ought we not have great deference to (a) what no one disputes was the way the early Church did it, and (b) would seem to be what Divine Providence intended and (c) is what Eastern and Orthodox–who share our sacramental faith and tradition–universally maintain?
I understand the arguments saying, well, tradition and liturgical logic aside, this is what we’re used to, and this has practical benefit. But I would caution: be careful! I cannot tell you how frequently that argument is used to defend distortions in the proper celebration of the Mass: not using Latin, chant or incense, rushing things, not fixing problems because “we’re used to this now,” and so forth.
I am 100% for children or teens being confirmed when they are good and ready. Unfortunately, in many cases, sorry, but that might not be until the kid is 21 years old!
I have watched way too many junk confirmations occur – I have heard my own co-confirmands (back in the 80s) get all excited about all the cash they were going to score because of confirmation, with many of them being offered elaborate gifts by their parents just for making it through. And most of them look at it exactly as someone mentioned above – Whew! Glad that’s over, now I don’t have to go to mass anymore. Given how secular our culture has become, the teen years are nothing but a big extended me-fest, and fitting confirmation into that dynamic seems woefully wrong and unrealistic.
On the other hand, I have met many homeschooled kids who were truly ready to be confirmed at young ages. Regretably, in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, the parents of these children have faced nothing but problems and fighting over wanting it done earlier. One family even attempted to go outside of the Milwaukee Archdiocese for their 12 year old, but they were “reprimanded” for the attempt, and they aborted the plan.
Here in Milwaukee, you get confirmed at age 16 (as it has remained since 1985, when I was confirmed). This age presents problems in and of itself – For exmaple, as was the case for my homeschooling family friends, who, when told they their child HAD to participate in the DRE’s parish confirmation program, humbily complied. Only to discover that complying meant their daughter had to go to a weekend-long overnight retreat with boys and girls spending the night together. When they went back to fight it, they were in for the fight of their life. Eventually the fight went all the way to Archbishop Dolan, and the family did, in fact win. But it left them feeling low and feeling that no one cared about their Christian duty as parents to be their child’s first educators.
As someone born in the 1960s, I have never heard of confirmation first, then first communion. I think that makes a ton of sense. And to the person who said – try and find a 1st communion dress for a 12 year old – just get creative or allow a child who has alredy made the responsible and mature step of being confirmed wear something a bit more adultlike for the occassion. In saying this, I recall the 1920s photos of my grandparent’s Lutheran confirmations in 8th grade – it was a big deal for that occassion to be allowed to wear stockings and high heels with their white dresses. There should be the same kind of allowance today. There’s no rule that a 12-year-old needs to wear a first communion veil (although the chapel veil crowd will probably take isse with my saying that.)
My wife and I are Latin my Son’s Godparents and our Goddaughter are Eastern. My son was baptized in our Latin parish when he was about 2 months old and he was confirmed we he was about 13 months old when our Goddaughter was baptized. The priest did her baptism, and then confirmed (chrismated) and communed them both. Even at that young age I could see a difference in him after his confirmation.
While I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary I do think it is a good idea for the children to receive the sacraments of initiation in the “proper” order. I’m actually seriously working to switch sui juris Churches so that I can guarantee my other children receive the sacraments as infants/children.
As a recent confirmandi, I agree that the Confirmation should be moved. It has WAY too much of a “graduation”-ness to it. Esp. when the candidates wear those ridiculous polyester grad robes.
We belong to a parish that uses restored order. I am looking forward to it, because it makes me have to a good primary teacher to my children.
My pastor says it is a violation of canon law for children to receive Communion before age 7. Is that true?
My son was six when he made his first Confession and First Holy Communion. He understood and loved exactly what he was doing. I have never heard of the canon law concerning age 7. Also, in the Byzantine Rite, babies receive all three Sacraments of Initiation, as others have pointed out here. That to me is the best tradition of all. All that grace given freely to a baby so that he can grow up strong in Christ.
apologies for the sentence fragment–add to the last sentence, “is the greatest gift in the Byzantine Rite.”
Anita, the law states that Catholics who are ascribed to the Latin Rite can be admitted to communion when “they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity and are able to receive the Body of Christ with faith and devotion” (c. 913, 1) Children can receive the Eucharist at an earlier age if they are in danger of death and “can distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food and receive communion reverently” (c. 913, 2)
Pope Pius X established the norm that the age of 7, when children are presumed to have reached the age of reason, is the appropriate time to admit them to the Eucharist.
The current universal law for the Latin Church establishes no specific minimum age. Particular law for the diocese may do so. Even if there isn’t a diocesan law, the pastor is the one who determines when a child has “sufficient knowledge and careful preparation.” So, in the absence of particular law, if the pastor determines that no child under the age of 7 is capable of the sufficient knowledge and preparation, then it is meet and just to obey him.
This only applies to Latin children – most of the other Eastern Churches admit children to the Eucharist at the time of baptism. Those Eastern infants and children should not be deprived of reception of the Eucharist even if they are attending Holy Mass in the Roman Rite. (Practically speaking, however, it is wise for Eastern parents to speak to the Latin priest before Mass if possible, and explain that they will be bringing their children up for Holy Communion)
I am sure that it was not your intent, but your phrase “returning to restored order” gave me chills. All I could think was “Oh great, here we go again”.
I remember reading the history of the early church and if memory serves, confirmation was actually part of baptism. The bishop would ride through town every few weeks or so and confirm all of the newly baptized babies. As the church grew, and the bishop became more and more distant, the age became later and later.
My great-grandmother received her First Holy Communion and Confirmation a day apart at age 12 in 1909.
An elderly (Age 85) friend of mine received his First Holy Communion at age 7 and Confirmation at age 12.
I received my Confirmation at age 17 in 1984.
Good points above about parents taking responsibility for catechizing their children (this does not let DREs off of the hook however as they need to reinforce what is taught at home), and the note on the publishing industry and profits hit close to home as I once worked for a publisher.
I am 20yo, and although I went to a ‘catholic’ school, I have only just been confirmed. I definetly needed the grace I have now when I was about 13- which is the age I think confirmation (I always call it conFORmation) should be given. This is a very important age and IS THE age of reason. it is at this age that the sacraments of confirmation and first holy communion can be understood and be usefull to the young person. I think this is an important age- at least for a boy. Its the age where you start to think and grow up.
Kristen – “As a recent confirmandi, I agree that the Confirmation should be moved. It has WAY too much of a “graduation”-ness to it. Esp. when the candidates wear those ridiculous polyester grad robes.”
Aaarrrggghhh! Did you have to remind me? When my class was confirmed (7th or 8th grade, I can’t remember which), we (boys and girls both) wore these coppery red robes. I think the idea was to suggest the Holy Spirit coming down in tongues of fire, but really, we looked like a bunch of batteries!
I find the whole requirement of the “use of reason” for the Sacraments of Initiation rather perplexing.
As mentioned in the CCC, the whole reason for the delay of Confirmation in the Latin rite pertained to desire to retain the local bishop as the minister of the Sacrament.
Apart from the practical matter of maintaining a venerable tradition of episcopal celebration, why should there be any delay in confirming someone who is already baptized? How does the use of reason somehow enhance their reception of the mystery? Are those who are “confirmed/chrismated” at infancy somehow missing out because they cannot at that moment assent to the sign? Is that not what Godparents and post-baptismal catechesis are for? I believe St. Cyril of Jerusalem noted that one cannot claim to be a Christian without the anointing of Holy Chrism! If we truly believe in the objective power of the sacramental mystery, why delay either Confirmation or first Holy Communion for that matter?
The ancient order of initiation very clearly parallels the consecration priests in the Old Covenant: washing, anointing, clothing and sacrifice. By virtue of our initiation we are made members of the priesthood of the faithful. The culmination of our initiation is therefore our participation in the Paschal Sacrifice. It seems much of the original significance of this connection has been lost due to much more recent and apparently overarching “age of reason” and “rite of passage” concerns, which can hardly be considered to be pastoral in nature.
I love the idea of sacramental preparation. But clearly, that’s not the whole story, because back in the early Church, they didn’t even start explaining the Mysteries (ie, the Sacraments) until after you got Baptized, Confirmed, and had Holy Communion. Literally, it was, “Now that you’ve received these Sacraments, we’re going to tell you what just happened and why.” Sacramental preparation was studying the Scriptures and the non-Sacramental stuff about the Church. Receiving the Sacraments was the beginning of really studying and learning, not the end.
So clearly, we should be Confirming kids really early, and at the beginning of their CCD classes. And sacramental preparation should involve everybody in a parish fasting. :)
Yes, I’m joking; I know we can’t go all the way back to the early Church. But sometimes the way we do this stuff in America is way out of line with the mind of the Church as a whole.
I respectfully disagree with you, Fr. Z (just this once!). I’m no canonist, but I think you’re misreading the 1983 Code, Father, and the related Conference decree. It is NOT an exception to seek confirmation about the age of discretion and prior to being admitted to Holy Communion. Quite the contrary, it is, since 1983, the law–a law that many have either not noticed or simply do not obey. While it is within the competence of the diocesan bishop to set age-specific norms for the preparation of candidates for confirmation, no bishop is free to attempt to establish a minimum age for the reception of the sacrament that is higher than that set by the general law unless the conference of bishops has determined another age. Has the U.S. determined another age? No, they haven’t. This quirky age range language is rather an attempt to please everyone and no one since the conference was so divided between those who were opposed to establishing a minimum age above the age of discretion and those who were in favor of such an establishment. At least, this is my understanding. Perhaps, you would be so kind, Father, as to ask you canonist friend, Ed Peters (I hope I have the name right) to render his opinion?
I definitely didn’t intend to give anyone chills. I meant it simply in the sense of the restored order of the sacraments of initiation. Did it seem to have another connotation?
I live here in the Philippines. I was born in 1967, baptized in the same year and was confirmed in the same year too. I was confirmed as an infant.