Archd. Denver restores order of the Sacraments of Initiation

archbishop-aquilaThis comes from the National Catholic Register.

Archbp. Samuel Aquila of Denver has decided to make some changes.

Making Benedict XVI’s Dream Come True in Denver

On Pentecost Sunday, Archbishop Samuel Aquila made history in the U.S. by announcing that the Archdiocese of Denver would be the first U.S. Latin-rite archdiocese to restore the order of the sacraments of initiation to Baptism, then Confirmation, and finally Holy Eucharist.

As the Register reported on Saturday, the age for Confirmation will be lowered to third grade and received right before First Holy Communion at the same Mass, reversing a century long custom in the Latin Church in favor of a traditional order for receiving the sacraments that dates back to the Acts of the Apostles.

In this Register interview, Archbishop Samuel Aquila shares that he decided to restore the order to help as many Catholics as possible in his archdiocese “reach heaven” with the graces of Confirmation. And by doing so, he’s fulfilling a dream pope-emeritus Benedict XVI has had for the entire Latin-rite Church.


Read the Q&A with the Archbishop there. It concludes:

Thanks so much, Archbishop Aquila. As a final comment, can you share the personal impact that then-Pope Benedict XVI made on you regarding the restored order?

During my 2012 ad limina visit while I was Bishop of Fargo, I shared with Pope Benedict and the other bishops present what I had done to restore the order of the sacraments of initiation for children baptized in infancy. After my presentation, his response surprised me, “You have done what I always wanted to do.”

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  1. Ages says:

    This is great for prospects of unity with the East, as this is one of the issues of contention. Confirmation is not just a “Christian Bar-Mitzvah”, it is an important and necessary sacrament which should be received as early as possible and yes, before receiving the Eucharist.

  2. Imrahil says:

    Forgive me, but I think

    1. this is one of what was once called fausses idées claires which the movement for orthodoxy and return to tradition does not do well to mix itself up with;

    2. if it’s not just about the “general First Communion age”, but parents are also forbidden to bring their un-Confirmed children to Holy Communion privately, then the move would be of doubtful legality (sure you can fulfil First Communion requirements before being a third-grader);

    3. it’s particularly sad that Confirmation and First Communion are not only reversed, but actually merged into one ceremony: this sure loses on the popular understanding of each Sacrament as a separate one; in addition, it would around here be perceived as a Protestantizing move, because that’s the way the Protestants do it;

    4. (dear Ages,) the Eastern practice is all Sacraments-in-one at Baptism, and also I doubt that Easterners have any particular beef with particular Westernisms in our liturgy – if they have such beef, it is with everything specifically Western not excluding the unleavened bread; at least some of them might also accept the integrity of the rites (as we do with theirs); the main beef sure is with plain old Catholic teaching (such as the Filioque and Papal infallibility), on which we can’t move a yota anyways.

  3. OdeM says:

    The date on the article is MAY. 26, 2015.

  4. Chiara says:

    I’m with Imrahil on this, particularly on Item #3.

    As her sponsor, I attended Confirmation classes with my Goddaughter a couple of years ago. She was 14-15 at the time, as were the other 40+ teens in her class. We spent over 9 months in study, prayer, and reflection. The kids had extensive weekly homework and semi-monthly class meetings. We all attended Mass together and learned, questioned, and discussed the blessings and duties of being a Confirmed Catholic. We also spent the day before Confirmation in retreat.

    Nicole and her friends thoroughly enjoyed the classes, which were imaginative, engaging, and orthodox. IMHO, the DRE did her job very well. They carefully studied and selected worthy patron saints, and they learned their duties as faithful adult Catholics. Those young people knew exactly what they were doing and why.

    At the same time, another Goddaughter, my 8 year-old Flor, was preparing for First Confession and First Communion. She attends her parish school. Between her trained, Diocesan-certified religion teacher and her devout aunt (who is raising her), she was also very well prepared and understood exactly what these Sacraments were. She knew how she was to approach Jesus, and the importance and graces of the Sacraments she was honored to receive.

    Respectfully, I think receiving the Sacraments of Confession, Communion, and Confirmation at the same time is a bit of overload for a young child. I understand this is done in the Eastern Rites at birth and why they do so. But I think there are many advantages for our Latin Rite children to have a bit of space before they receive Confirmation. It takes a lot of preparation for just one of these Sacraments. I see no good reason to rush and “streamline” the process.

    Additionally, I found it was beneficial for the teens to prepare together for Confirmation. They learned their duties in a more adult manner. It was not just a matter of going through another ceremony. It was also an opportunity for them to be together in wholesome company, spending time with concerned Catholic adults. They learned how to engage the secular world as faithful Catholic adults, and they also learned the rewards of serving God in their own parishes. The phrase we heard over and over again was “heroic virtue”. I still ask Nicole is she is displaying heroic virtue (I know – I am a very tiresome Godmother!)

    In my area, when kids reach the teen years, there seems to be little interest in them from the parishes and the Diocese. There is precious little to engage them as Catholic young people until they reach college age, when, if they are lucky enough to go to our local University, they can join the fabulous Newman Center (ranked 18th in the nation!)

    In fact, when their Confirmation classes were over, Nicole sincerely missed being with the other kids at the parish and learning apologetics and about the saints. This is from a girl who is very popular and involved at her high school, and who has a job and an active social life.

    So, with respect, Father, I do not understand and am unconvinced of the compelling reasons to change the current schedule of children receiving First Confession at around age 7-8, First Communion around age 8-9, and Confirmation at age 14-16. The standard I have personally witnessed in the Cleveland Diocese seems to be quite high and thorough. The ages our children receive the Sacraments are appropriate, and they are well prepared.

    Blessings to all here – Susan, ofs

  5. DavidJ says:

    In today’s world, with the need for sacramental graces so great, I feel that any delay is ill-considered.

  6. Veritatis Splendor says:

    Bishop Libasci (D. Manchester, NH) is also restoring the traditional order over the next years. He is also making catachesis family based and revitalizing youth ministry at the same time. I think that the arrival of St. Stanislaw, our 10 month old Fraternity parish (where confirmations are going to start at age 9), is what permitted him to start acting, though I hear that the diocese has been investigating the possibility for about ten years.

  7. Thorfinn says:

    There are human or naturalistic considerations that could be argued either way (is early teen confirmation an in depth encounter with Christ at a pivotal time in a child’s life, or the last time they go to church before they think about getting married?)

    Instead, Archbishop Aquila presents spiritual considerations about the need for & impact of divine grace & the preservation of the teaching on the sacraments received from the Apostles.

    ++Aquila’s full letter (as noted, from 2015):

    “it would around here be perceived as a Protestantizing move.” – We should be ashamed as Catholics if Protestants are more faithful to our beliefs than we are and change our ways.

  8. Tony Phillips says:

    They did this in Liverpool a few years ago–see here: I thought I’d heard they’d reversed it but it’s still up on the diocesan website, as far as I can see.

  9. TomCom says:

    Let’s give credit where credit is due. Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix began a multi-year process to restore the order of the Sacraments of Initiation in 2005, and presumably it was complete by 2008, though I can’t find any references to confirm (pun intended). It’s great Denver is doing this, but they’re not the first.

  10. Sawyer says:

    The traditional sequence is also being restored in the Diocese of Honolulu.

  11. TomCom says:

    Also, Bishop Olmsted wrote a pastoral letter at the time that I recall being a good explanation for the restoration. For some reason it no longer appears on the diocesan website but a parish still hosts it.

  12. Cincinnati Priest says:

    I won’t argue the theological merits on this one.

    However, on the purely pastoral side, like so many things, has positives and negatives.

    On the positive side, would eliminate the silly “confirmation makes me an adult in the Church” mentality that has so entrenched itself into American parishes. May also help eliminate the “I’m done with ‘Church’ once I’m confirmed” attitude.

    On the negative side, it does deprive teenagers of an opportunity to interact with the bishop and listen to his preaching, which (to be realistic) they might otherwise never do.

  13. Federico says:

    @Chiara, @Imrahil,

    The Church’s law universally encourages reception of Confirmation ‘about the age of discretion’ (c. 891) which is generally accepted to be around 7 years of age (individuals will vary — parents must exercise judgment). The USCCB implemented particular law setting a range from age of discretion to 16 years old. Why would you delay the graces of a Sacrament a single day longer than necessary?

    The law requires only ‘suitable preparation’ which dicasterial praxis has consistently interpreted to mean understanding the nature, effects, and gifts of the sacrament. Anything more than that is not necessary.

    I am frustrated with parishes (around the world) that conflate catechism with sacramental preparation. The faithful have a right to the sacraments, and any preparation requirement beyond the minimum of canon law is an abuse. The faithful have a duty to pursue (and pastors have a duty to provide) catechism; this, however, cannot be a conditio sine qua non to the reception of sacraments.

  14. Semper Gumby says:

    David J: Good point.

    Chiara: It is indeed rewarding to grow in the Catholic faith with a godson/daughter and make a retreat together. Though, your referring to the carefully considered and prayerful actions of Archbp. Aquila and Pope Benedict XVI as a “rush and “streamline”” is a mischaracterization. Pax.

    Veritatis Splendor: That is good news.

  15. Lepidus says:

    I’m good with the theological explanations. From the practical standpoint, this seems like it would have worked a lot better back in the days when the vast majority of Catholics sent their kids to Catholic schools, so (assuming a decent religious education program) they would at least get 8 years of age-appropriate classes.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear Federico,

    exactly: why should a sacrament (First Communion) be delayed any longer than necessary when the children in question are already ready to receive it.

    You will notice that the Confirmation age is still “third grade” (at around 9, I guess), not the 7 which would be Age of Discretion.

    [Though the CIC does say “around” the age of discretion “unless the Episcopal Conference decides otherwise”.

    I’m totally with you that delaying the Sacrament ever more (“so that People are older still, and more may possibly deny it, so that it become more of a personal decision”) is wrong. Whether 7 years is ideal I doubt too. Somewhere in the realm of 10-12 would seem reasonable.

    The law requires only ‘suitable preparation’ which dicasterial praxis has consistently interpreted to mean understanding the nature, effects, and gifts of the sacrament. Anything more than that is not necessary.

    I notice that “understanding the nature, effects, and gifts of the sacraments” is actually a quite lot of a Thing even where First Communion is concerned. Given that it’s our Lord Christ Who is consumed there, that requires, among other Things, and understanding of his hypostatical Union (though not the technical term) and of some of the stories told about him in the Gospel.

    Frankly, “understanding the nature, effects, and gifts of the sacraments” of First Communion preceded by First Confession – which requires also an at least rudimentary training in morality – that alone suffices to require that (outside perhaps real emergency situations) the receiver is at least half-catechized.

    The content of Confirmation is the perfection of Baptism and the enlisting in the rank of fighters for the faith, among other things. One ought to know the faith before one fights for it. Consequently, Confirmation maybe does not require a real thorough catechization; but it does require that the confirmand does have completed his 101 level of catechization.

    The alternative, if you think of it, is giving all three Sacraments together; as the Easterners do, and as we do in immediate danger of death (I believe). But outside such emergencies, our Western practice does make sense. They are, after all, three Sacraments. God gives, after all, enough grace to keep the faith even for the only-baptized.

    The tendency of children not to visit catechism classes once the Initiation sacraments are given does have, of course, to be taken into pastoral account, all the more since (as I said) much of the catechism is needed for adequate sacramental preparation; and that would be abuse only if the catechism class is bad or excessive or if parents aren’t granted a backdoor. As long as they only say “this is how our parish does it; well, if you don’t want to take part, I will not of course deny the sacrament, but” it is not, in my view, abuse (even if this does set a pressure of conformity).

  17. billy15 says:

    “I am frustrated with parishes (around the world) that conflate catechism with sacramental preparation.”

    Very good point. As to the concerns that @Chiara and @Imrahil made, there’s no reason why strong catechesis and fellowship cannot continue AFTER Confirmation at a younger age. There’s no reason why the bishop can’t visit with teenagers after Confirmation (at a younger age) either. Also, I have a big problem with this:

    “in addition, it would around here be perceived as a Protestantizing move, because that’s the way the Protestants do it”

    Wherever “around here” is, you surely need more catechesis in the area to teach others that this is not a “Protestantizing” move… it’s a Catholic move. You mentioned in your point #4 the “Eastern practice”. It looks like you’re only talking about the Orthodox. Many Eastern Catholics, such as the Byzantine Rite for example, receive all three sacraments together in one ceremony. They even have a “Frist Solemn Communion and Reconciliation” at the same age many Latin Catholics receive their First Holy Communion. Catechesis continues throughout their young lives, even though they’ve received the sacaments of initiation at infancy.

    So please, don’t call this move by the Bishop (2 years ago) a “Protestantizing” move; that’s extremely condescending to Eastern Catholics everywhere. This was the order of receiving sacraments even in the Latin Church. To suggest that kids are going to be denied learning things about the faith because they’ve received the graces of the Sacrament of Confirmation at age 8 or 9 is absolutely ridiculous. instead, it speaks more to the fact that the status of our catechism classes are sorely lacking if we can’t keep kids around to learn their faith without the “incentive” of confirmation at the end of 8th grade. All Catholics need catechesis at all points in their lives. Receiving Confirmation at age 8 or 9 does not mean the intensity of catechesis classes in junior high and high school will be lacking. If they are, the parish needs to fix their program.

  18. MjMcC says:

    I have the happy privilege of living within the Denver archdiocese now and have longed for the restored order for the sacraments since I began teaching high school theology in the early 2000’s. I saw the theological benefits to connect Confirmation once more to Baptism. And on top of that to receive your First Communion from the bishop? Priceless. And so meaningful.

    But then I helped with Confirmation preparation for a small group of high school students in my parish in Colorado. And then I watched as my wife prepared 6th graders for Confirmation. And the reality of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s not so much the children that need to be prepared for reception of the sacrament, it’s the PARENTS!

    What good is it to prepare a child for a sacrament, when their parents have never prepared them to be a Christian? When parents take the child to Mass maybe once or twice a year? When parents, when they do go to Mass, won’t receive Holy Communion because they refuse to go to Confession and amend their lives?

    As a former teacher, I saw this beginning some time in the 1960’s: We drop our kids off at the public school and then we don’t have to worry about teaching them ourselves. Let the professionals do it. Then it spread to the Church: We drop our kids off at CCD and then we don’t have to worry about living and teaching the faith ourselves. Let the professionals do it.

    So maybe it doesn’t matter so much when we Confirm our young people. Maybe it matters a whole lot more how we parents live and pass on the faith.

  19. Imrahil says:

    I did not call it a Protestantizing move, I said it would be perceived as such, at least in Germany. Where the word “Confirmation” has two translations, one, “Konfirmation”, for the Protestants, and one, “Firmung”, for the Catholics, and “Konfirmation” is usually taken as the Protestant equivalent for First Communion, not so much Firmung, because it has as Chief element the first reception of what they call Evening-Meal.

    And in fact, with that I was chiefly referring to the idea of putting the two Sacraments into one ceremony.

    When I said “Eastern practice”, I did not refer to the Orthodox only… except in reply to the dear Ages’s assumption regarding “prospects of unity with the East”. Of course the Easterners, including the Catholics, have their practice. That does not mean, at least not necessarily, that it must become our practice.

    Dear Thorfinn,
    We should be ashamed as Catholics if Protestants are more faithful to our beliefs than we are and change our ways.

    I agree to the statement. I disagree to the underlying assumption that it actually is about them being “more faithful to our beliefs than we are”.

    There never has been an actual “belief” around that people would need to be Confirmed before receiving the Blessed Sacrament. All there has been is an extrapolation from what is in those that receive all three initiatory sacraments at once the natural order; if St. Pius X. really did introduce the idea that nothing actually stands in the way of giving Communion to the un-Confirmed (wasn’t that at least occasionally also the practice before his time?), it simply was a good idea, even though a new one. (As was his idea to no longer have the Ultimate Sunday after Pentecost be outranked by the feast of St. Sylvester Gozzolini.)

    That being said, I am not against Confirmation at age 8-9 (it maybe is a bit early, in what is merely my persional view,certainly not ten or eight years early, though). I just don’t see a point, in this case, in denying First Communion to those aged 7.

    There’s no reason why strong catechesis and fellowship cannot continue AFTER Confirmation at a younger age.

    That is, of course, true.

    And I hope I have made clear that positive-side effects to catechesis are a minor issue – except where necessary to the preparation of the actual Sacraments (which, though, as I have explained, is not in my view as little an issue as some might think.)
    All the same, if we do think about this minor side-issue, Bismarck once said that politics is the art of the possible; and so is pastoral work. There is not an actual reason why strong catechesis shouldn’t continue after Confirmation; but for the time being, it just won’t.

  20. Federico says:


    I am thrilled you (I assume, based on your tone, you must be a pastor) don’t require families to attend your classes or provide an alternative (I don’t like your characterization of it as a ‘backdoor’). We each have our biases and mine, as a canonist, is that this is not a common experience for Catholic faithful. I have represented families throughout US dioceses who were faced with ‘do it this way, or you can’t have the Sacrament’ attitude.

    Many times, this was done by lay DREs (in my experience there’s no worse clericalism attitude than, paradoxically, that of lay parish employees/volunteers) and required nothing more than a call to the pastor; occasionally, the pastor was adamant it was ‘his way or the highway’ and required a letter to the bishop; in a few cases, sadly, even diocesan bishops get stubborn. If you pore through the CLSA Roman Replies you will find many such cases reported — the tip of the iceberg. I genuinely applaud you for your attitude.

    As far as the level of knowledge, I think you are overstating what is required. I think nobody truly ‘understands’ the sacraments and our struggle to wrap our small intellect around them is lifelong. The bar is low (borne out by our jurisprudence); the Sacraments are treasures to be generously shared. Sometimes when I represent a non-catholic who is somewhat baffled by an inflexible RCIA program (‘failure to attend the xyz retreat will mean you have to repeat the program and will not be able to receive baptism and confirmation’) I like to cite Acts 8:34-38.

    As far as 7 years old…that age is consistent with this father’s experience. It has not been difficult for my children to reach the understanding and preparation for confirmation at 7-8 years of age (we covered the material in the St. Joseph Confirmation Book by Lawrence Lovasik over the course of several evenings at home).

  21. Poor Yorek says:

    I find appealing a stronger unity between the three sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist. Whilst not suggesting a rigorous singular one-to-one correspondence, the triune traditional aspects of our Lord, Prophet; King; and Priest; are strongly witnessed when the Initiative sacraments cohere. Just my 2 denarii.

  22. Joseph-Mary says:

    Another thing to note from the Archdiocese of Denver: The Archbishop will consecrate the Archdiocese to Our Lady of Fatima on October 13th. And there are ongoing events to celebrate the Centennial in the Archdiocese.

    I am pleased to have the age of confirmation brought down…in places with very poor catechesis the teens learned little past the pizza parties anyway. In my former parish we had years with NO confirmandi because they did not make it until the age of 17 or 18.

    The young people are leaving the Church in droves. So far all of my young cousins have left the Church and, if married, are married outside of it. It breaks my heart. Even with years of RE, they did not learn the value of the Sacraments or understand the Holy Eucharist much less fall in love with Christ.

  23. Imrahil says:

    Dear Federico,

    no, I am not a pastor, and I would never dare impersonate one, so please tell me which things I should specifically Change in my tone to avoid the impression.

    All I am is a Catholic who allows himself to have his thoughts (which are just that; though even so not entirely worthless)… including about the pastoral work of our priests, because they are, after all, an important part of Church life.

  24. Imrahil says:

    May take on that a Pastor who receives a sincere Statement by the parents that they have perpared their child for the sacraments should, after perhaps a testing, allow the child to proceed is based on what (according to my, need I say, non-expert readings of canon law) a Pastor should do, not what I think pastors usually do. And of course not what I did myself, being no Pastor.

    [Although what I actually was myself is a voluntary Confirmation catechete (long ago), and I at least tried to insist on the Sunday Obligation and at least the Content of the Apostolic Creed and the structure of Mass, while putting on a rather lax attitude about all the other parish-and-social-stuff-activities officially required in the program, especially for the ones among my catechizands that were altar servers.]

    Though that may be at least in part because they are not asked. Let’s face it, in ordinary circumstances and assuming that the pastor does make good catechesis (does that belong to “ordinary circumstances”, now? – let’s leave that question open), sticking to the usual proceeding is probably the easiest way for all parties involved.

  25. Imrahil says:

    As for the “failure to attend” thing,

    I can’t understand that sort of Thing in the Catechumenate, because at present, People don’t just enrol themselves into the Catechumenate if they don’t mean it.

    I can understand it in the catechesis of children because they tend to have a large tendency of what we in German call Mitläufer effect; and if a child doesn’t show up, the pastor must realistically ponder the possibility that he or his parents don’t mean it. If the child does show up, there’s still the possibility that they don’t mean it; but those in responsibility don’t have something to go on.

    However, as we are in the Catholic Church and not some Prussian-style bureaucracy, that should in my view always be subject to “dispensation”, probably including talking with the pastor personally.

  26. KatieL56 says:

    Many years ago in the 1960s, while attending school in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I had my first communion at the usual time, 2nd grade. The following year, when I was in 3rd grade, all the students who had received first communion, that is, grades 3 through 8, were notified that the then-archbishop (later Cardinal) Krol would be administering the sacrament of confirmation for all who wished to be confirmed. I did. I was, then, 8 years old.

    And while this may be just something unique to me, I have to say that I believe that early confirmation was and is the reason that I have never, unlike many among my family and friends who were confirmed later, fallen away. Confirmation (“I’m a soldier in Christ’s army, confirmation made me so”) and the gifts of the Holy Spirit took hold at a time (my confirmation took place in 1965) when the world was changing rapidly and even 8 year olds were being exposed, and would continue to be exposed, to shattering changes both in the world and in the Church itself. I believe that if I had had to wait until the more common timing then of even 8th grade (as my one year younger brother, fallen away now) did, that the sacrament coming at the time of both hormonal challenges, developmental ‘chaos’, and the vast liturgical changes, would have meant that I had less understanding of the sacrament, less understanding of the Faith, and a weakened foundation that would likely have, as it has done for so many, shifted and fallen.

    And so I firmly support the idea of having the sacraments earlier; and why I am glad that my own grandsons now (who were baptized AND confirmed in the Maronite Church 2-1/2 years ago) will not have to face the ’11th grade confirmation year’ that in my observation of the last few decades, while it is worthwhile for a few, seems to come ‘too little and too late’ for many, many others. Hmmm, if I could win the lottery (I’m only asking for the 1 million, I’m not greedy), Denver is looking like a great place for worship!

  27. Imrahil says:

    For what it’s worth which isn’t much,

    I totally agree to the dear KatieL56 that Confirmation should be given before the onset of puberty.

    Around here, the traditional order was:
    3rd grade (age 9): First Communion,
    4th grade (age 10): Confirmation,

    and the confirmand would get a watch for a present because he wouldn’t need one before.

    That sounds kind of a good arrangement, to me.

    Though maybe Communion and Confession could be one year earlier, which then even with the earlier schooling we have now would mean that they are still at least 7. And given that children are schooled up to one year earlier than they used to be, maybe Confirmation could be proceeded to fifth grade.

    I know that I thought I would be Confirmed in 4th grade because my father had told me so; and some trouble might have been spared to me. I was then Confirmed in 7th grade. By now it’s 8th grade.

    Still, that there has been much too much of a delay does not change my view that the two Sacraments should be, for those that don’t receive it with their Baptism, received in separate ceremonies, and that Confirmation requires more catechesis than does First Communion.

  28. Aquinas Gal says:

    It’s from 2015. But I support this fully because it’s unquestionable that the correct order of the sacraments of initiation is Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. The Eucharist is the fullness of Christian initiation and to do it any other way is not adequate. The problem started when St Pius X lowered the age for First Communion (which I think was a great move but had this inadvertent effect).

  29. billy15 says:

    “I did not call it a Protestantizing move, I said it would be perceived as such, at least in Germany. Where the word “Confirmation” has two translations, one, “Konfirmation”, for the Protestants, and one, “Firmung”, for the Catholics, and “Konfirmation” is usually taken as the Protestant equivalent for First Communion, not so much Firmung, because it has as Chief element the first reception of what they call Evening-Meal.”

    I understand, Imrahil. Fair enough. I see you’ve expounded on your points more in other recent comments, and they make sense. I was just confused by your references to Protestantizing and Easteners at first. I was just having a discussion with someone on this article yesterday that was totally oblivious to Eastern Catholics. There always seems to be a lot of confusion among the Latin faithful, and I try to clear that up while I can. My grandmother has been doing it since she was 9 years old. She’s too tired to do it now, so I try to pick up where she left off!

    In any case, I think we can both agree it’d be good for these kids to get the graces from the sacrament around 8 or so instead of putting it off until age 14 or later because that is supposedly the only way parents will keep their kids in the Religious Education program at the parish.

  30. ReginaMarie says:


    While Eastern Catholics do Baptize, Chrismate (Confirm), and Commune children soon after birth (all occurring at the same Liturgy)…these do remain 3 distinct and separate Mysteries (Sacraments). I wasn’t sure if in saying “the Eastern practice is all Sacraments-in-one at Baptism” you were implying that these 3 Sacramental Mysteries were combined into or treated as one in the Eastern Churches, which they are not. Just wanted to clarify.

  31. asburyfox says:

    I completely support the restoration of the sacraments of initiation. Confirmation should come after Baptism with Holy Communion being the summit of the sacraments of initiation. My only disagreement is the idea of having confirmation and first Communion in the same ceremony. They should be separated. I actually think the age of reception for first Communion should be moved up a little. If confirmation is at age 7, the age of reason, I think receiving Communion should be moved up to the older age of 9 or 10.

  32. ReginaMarie says:

    “As a mother will not deny her children food until they understand what they eat, so too the Church will not deny the spiritual food of the Eucharist until a person understands.” (St. John Chrysostom)

    “That infant and children not yet come to the use of reason may not only validly but even fruitfully receive the Blessed Eucharist is now the universally received opinion.” (Council of Trent)

  33. Fr. Aaron Sandbothe says:

    Why should they be administered in separate ceremonies? Adult imitation has all three Mysteries administered together. It is the common patrimony of the Latin West, Byzantine East, and Syriac Orient to administer all three together regardless of age. It would not be an innovation for the West to adopt this practice, rather it would be a return to the common practice of all Christians.

  34. Nan says:

    The younger, the better, so long as the children understand. My formal religious education ended at age 7. We left the Church before I received my first communion. Because I had made my first confession and had the mass lesson, Father was able to convince mom to take me to the Church to receive communion.

    We went to the Church on Saturday morning and I received communion in an otherwise empty church. Father was vested for Mass and the only reason mom was there was that she had driven me.

    When people joke about children starving for Mass, I beg of you, give them the smackdown on my behalf. It’s no joking matter. There are children starving for Mass. I was one of them

  35. Ages says:

    Irmahill says “it’s particularly sad that Confirmation and First Communion are not only reversed, but actually merged into one ceremony”

    Why? The ancient practice was to baptize, confirm, and commune a convert all at once. If a person has put on Christ in baptism, why should he delay in receiving the Holy Spirit and the body and blood of the Lord? To separate it into a series of “coming of age” rituals seems like sentimentalism.

  36. Imrahil says:

    Dear billy15,

    thanks, seems we kind of agree :-)

    Dear ReginaMaria,

    allow me a very little sigh: discussion would be so much easier if you didn’t always have to state the obvious.

    So, yes, of course the three Sacraments are considered three Sacraments by the Easterners, whether Catholic or Orthodox.

    Rev’d dear Fr Aaron Sandbothe, dear ReginaMarie, dear asburyfox, dear Ages,

    please let’s not confuse two entirely different arguments.

    If what you say is that the West should adopt the Eastern practice (and no, Fr Sandbothe, it is not common patrimony “of the Latin West” also), then the question is whether the West should adopt the Eastern practice. I grant that there are arguments for it. But in any case it would then obviously be necessary to go the whole hog and administer all the three Sacraments at Baptism. If we had been discussing that, I might have said that the West too has ist points. But we weren’t discussing that, or did I miss something? We were discussing under the assumption that Confirmation is delayed after Baptism, whether First Communion should be necessarily delayed till afterwards. Seems like the contrary, actually, to me.

    As for the “sentimentalism” of a “series of coming-of-age rituals” the dear Ages complains about:

    First Communion is not, at least not really, perceived to be, was never meant to be and is not to be a coming-of-age ritual. Which is why a First Communicant is also called a Communion-child. He remains a child. Which is also why even the moderners who appear to wish to delay Confirmation until 18 or 21 by the looks of it (and yes that’s wrong) apparently never have tried to delay First Communion.

    Confirmation, on the other hand, doubtlessly does have acquired a sort-of second meaning of a sort-of coming-of-age (which, understanding it remains secondary, one might even say is not entirely off-bounds, but that, again, is a different discussion). Hence the charge of coming-of-age sentimentalism is properly, if anything, against those who want Holy Communion reserved for those that have passed through Confirmation, rather than the contrary.

  37. hwriggles4 says:


    Thanks for mentioning that children are starving for Mass. I have taught CCD on and off for the last five years and there are kids who ask, “does this count as Mass?” You can guess what we tell them. Some of them will say, “our parents won’t take us” and sadly, I have witnessed parents dropping there kids off at the last minute and the parents head over to Starbucks or the grocery store for 75 minutes.

    Our parish schedules CCD such that Mass can be attended earlier (7:30 or 9) or later (12:30 or 5:30) and I had a few kids who regularly attended 9 am Mass and one who faithfully attended the Saturday evening Mass with his family, but I am irritated by Catholic parents who don’t go to Mass, and won’t take their kids.

    There’s also the attitude “Sunday is for sports. ” When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, ball games on Sundays were never scheduled before noon (i played soccer mostly) – that way Catholics. Methodists, Baptists, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. could make Sunday services.

  38. Mike of Arkansas says:

    The “traditional” sequence in my parish…end everywhere else in Arkansas…almost 60 years ago was confession and first holy communion in parochial school second grade, followed by confirmation in third grade. Confirmation was a very special event for wbich the diocesan bishop was always present to bestow. The other events were strictly local affairs.

    I suspect the sequence proposed in this thread would have been considered wildly non-traditional in nearly every US diocese before Vatican II.

  39. Nan says:

    Hwriggles, where i live, religious education was on Wednesday after school at someone’s and no sports or other things were scheduled. Kids sports didn’t happen on Sunday. The exception was the first year of religious education. During Mass. That’s a terrible idea.

    Are they really Catholic if they don’t bother with Mass?

  40. Several thoughts:

    – The emphasis on recipients “understanding” and “preparing” for sacraments is generally overblown. It’s great to be able to provide catechesis, but in reality, the understanding develops over our lifetimes. Better, in my view, to cultivate understanding on the part of the family, which is all we can do in preparation for baptizing infants!

    – A lot of what happens with sacramental preparation, particularly for confirmation, fosters Pelagianism: work, work, work, and you’ll get the sacrament!

    – The shift of confirmation to after first communion distorts, I think, the relationship between these sacraments. The “goal” isn’t to get confirmed, but to get union with Christ.

  41. hwriggles4 says:


    I agree…as Catholics, we attend Mass. Some places still have CCD after school or on a weeknight. I did help at one parish with 7th grade CCD, and I do prefer the 4th through 8th grade. Kids that age also know better about the Sunday obligation, even though some parents won’t take them to Mass.

    My parish begins CCD at 10:30 am, and it goes until at least 11:45 am. There is Mass at 10:45 am (which is well attended). There’s also Mass at 7:30 am, 9 am, 12:30 pm, and 5:30 pm. Some parents will go to 9 am Mass with their children, and then bring their children to CCD, and some parents will go with their children to the 5:30 pm Mass. That way, children attend both religious education and Mass.

    I do recall that my Protestant brethren that for them, the children go to Sunday School while their parents are hearing the sermon and having church service. That’s normal for Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, but not Catholics. B

    Therefore , I am disappointed with the number of parents who will go to 10:45 am Mass, and while the children know that CCD does not count as Mass, these parents will not take their children to Mass when CCD is in session. It reminds me of the number of families who take a vacation from Mass during the summer, because school is not in session, and organized activity participation is down. It’s sad to see many Catholic families doing this, and while some good pastors put their foot down, others are afraid to rock the boat.

    Thanks for sharing.

  42. AidWater says:

    This was done in the Archdiocese of Liverpool (England) by Archbishop Kelly, when the new archbishop arrived he commisioned a survey and as a result restored it back the way it was.

  43. MikeyinPHX says:

    My son received the sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion in the Diocese of Phoenix last Saturday. He is 17 but yes, they younger ones received confirmation first and then received first communion at the same Mass.

    The great Bishop Olmstead keeps under the radar and that’s just fine with me. Many great things are happening in the Diocese.

  44. MikeyinPHX says:

    Yes, Fr MartinFox!!!

    Sacraments are a means of grace not something we’ve worked for!!

  45. un-ionized says:

    hwriggles4, you remind me of when my town scheduled children’s soccer league games for Sunday morning. Two brothers that I knew, Johnny and Joe, who were great soccer players but also strong Methodists, chose instead to continue being acolytes (that’s like a Methodist altar boy) together. They set a great example for everybody. A couple of years later the sports schedule was changed and I think Johnny and Joe had something to do with that.

  46. AnnTherese says:

    I agree with restoring the order. Now, to celebrate all the Sacraments of Initiation at once, and freely chosen in adulthood, would truly be restoring the early Christian tradition/practice. This is a start. Confirmation in adolescence hasn’t worked for the kids, their parents, or the parish staff. There are many meaningful ways to engage teenagers in their faith that don’t hold them hostage in religious education programs in order to receive a sacrament.

  47. Nan says:

    AnnTherese, the early Christian practice, as in the jailer from Acts, who was baptized together with his whole family, is childhood baptism. Why wouldn’t you want children to receive the graces of the sacraments? It is Baptism that makes us adopted children of God. Why wouldn’t you want children to receive communion? Or to receive the seal of confirmation?

    Adolescent confirmation not working in your opinion is immaterial. The parish staff you cite wouldn’t have jobs without children’s sacramental preparation.

    Without the sacraments children are more likely to be held hostage by the devil.

  48. AnnTherese says:

    Nan, I am referring to the early practice as presented in Church history. But, per your argument, the sacraments should all be celebrated in infancy, then.

    There could still be church staff running excellent programs, because children, teens, families, and adults WANT to participate, not because they are forced to in order to receive sacraments.

  49. Nan says:

    AnnTherese, in my Byzantine Rite church, they are.

    I went to daily Mass recently and the priest said that he celebrates many baptisms quietly for those who were never baptised and were embarrassed to ask for baptism as adults. That’s an excellent argument for infant baptism.

    Through the grace of God and the priest laying a guilt trip on my mother, I received my first communion, albeit not with my class. I had finished the year in CCD, even though we stopped going to church, so had been prepared to receive communion. Because the church wasn’t in walking distance and I had nobody to take me to Mass, I didn’t go after that.

    There are tons of Catholics out there just like me, low on sacraments who need them. I know your statements are made out of ignorance of the difference between life with sacraments and life without them, rather than out of malice, but I assure you that the world without sacraments is an ugly, ugly place and I would never suggest that sacraments are withheld from the young for any reason.

    Thinking their protection should be withheld until adulthood is a very protestant thought.

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