Skip to comments.Restored Order of the Sacraments of Initiation? Confirmation and First Eucharist together? (Vanity)
Posted on 05/12/2005 12:23:48 PM PDT by sinkspur
...........6. Understanding our past often helps us better understand the needs of the present. From apostolic times until around the fifth century, the Church celebrated the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation in one continuous rite of initiation, which culminated in a Christians admission to the Eucharist. This practice held for persons of all ages, including children. The baptismal washing and anointing by the priest were followed by an imposition of hands and anointing by the bishop. Confirmation was seen as a natural extension of Baptism, perfecting what the Holy Spirit had accomplished in that initial sacrament. Hence, the celebration was called the double sacrament of initiation, while still two distinct sacraments (cf. CCC, nos. 1290-1291).
7. In the Middle Ages (fifth-l3th centuries), the distinction between Baptism and Confirmation grew. Due to a growing emphasis on infant Baptism and the territorial enlargement of dioceses, it became increasingly difficult for the bishop to be present to administer Confirmation in a unified rite of initiation. As a result, Baptism and First Eucharist were administered together at infancy, with a later celebration of Confirmation by the Bishop in very early childhood. As the centuries progressed, however, infant Eucharist in the West ceased, with the effect of further neglecting Confirmation. The dominant idea of Confirmation as an intensification of Baptism was supplemented with the notion of strengthening the Christian for the battle of life through the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
8. From the 13th until the 19th century, a further change occurred in the celebration of Confirmation. Although infant Baptism continued to be the norm, First Eucharist was delayed until after the age of discretion. Thus the ancient order of the three sacraments was restored but spread out in time. Confirmation was celebrated at the age of discretion (7 and above), followed by First Eucharist between the ages of 10 and 14. By the 16th century, Confirmation was celebrated between 7 and 15 years of age, followed by First Eucharist. At the close of the 19th century, the order of Confirmation before First Eucharist received papal approval.
9. The contemporary sequence of the sacraments was determined in part by Pope Pius X, who encouraged First Eucharist at the age of discretion (7 and above). This decision had the effect of placing the reception of First Eucharist before the reception of Confirmation, which would then generally occur as early as 7 and as late as 18. This order (infant Baptism, First Eucharist at the age of discretion, and Confirmation any time between 7 and 18) is the more common pastoral practice of today.
10. At the same time, various Church documents, especially the Second Vatican Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium (no. 71) and the rituals which followed it (Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on the Sacrament of Confirmation), clearly teach that the purpose of the liturgical reform of Confirmation is to restore the intimate link Confirmation has with the whole of Christian initiation. In order for that link to be clearly established, the proper and desired order of the sacraments is that of the ancient Church: Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist..............
As you can read above, Fargo is one of the dioceses that is now conferring Confirmation along with First Eucharist. This conforms to the ancient practice of the Early Church and the current practice of the Eastern Churches. The revised order also emphasizes Confirmation as the completion of Baptism, rather than some adolescent rite of passage, as it is viewed in many dioceses today.
Resistance to this restoration comes from many sources. Religious Ed Directors and parents see postponing Confirmation as a way to keep adolescents involved in Church life. The downside to that is that many adolescents view Confirmation as a "graduation" from both Mass attendance and participation in the Church. Sad experience would seem to bear out this impression.
Many bishops would like to make this change, but resist upsetting the DRE's and parents.
Theologically, postponing Confirmation to adolescence leaves the mistaken impression that Confirmation is not practically one of the Sacraments of Initiation.
What are your experiences and thoughts about tying Confirmation more closely to First Eucharist, and even conferring both in the same ceremony? Or, what about, with the proper catechesis, conforming the Latin Rite practice with that of the Eastern churches?
I think this is an interesting proposal. I think that a late Confirmation, 10th or 11th grade, does treat Confirmation as a graduation ritual rather than as a Sacrament. It implies that the Sacrament "recognizes" a certain level of religious education, rather than "conferring" a sacramental grace, thereby devaluing the role of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament.
On the other hand, I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of confirming very young children who have not the capacity to make a real decision to accept the Faith. I was confirmed in the Presbyterian Church when I was 10 - a little younger than usual, but I knew my Catechism, and it was convenient for my mother to have my older brother and me in the same class. Presbyterians and Lutherans are usually an early-teens confirmation, after which the young person also receives Communion.
So I guess I'm conflicted! In some ways I like it, and in others I don't!
In my diocese every child went to first Communion in 2nd grade and first confession in 3rd grade, in a ridiculous reversal of the proper order.
That's a more pressing problem than the archeological desire to bring back combined Baptism/Confirmation.
Adolescent Confirmation isn't the reason why Catholic teens stop assisting at Mass.
They stop because of poor parenting (usually a father who never goes to Mass) or poor catechizing or both.
My Confirmation instruction had absolutely nothing to do with the Church's teaching on the sacrament or the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church or anything else that was relevant. It was mostly about how it's bad to be racist, that we should all be nice to other people, etc. All things that 13 year old should have learned long before they were 13 and which have little to do with the doctrinal content of the sacrament.
Correction: The early Church and Eastern Churches confer Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist together, to infants, and to converting families.
This is an interesting passage in the letter:
The perfection of baptismal grace found in the Sacrament of Confirmation is not dependent upon age or knowledge of the confirmand. The grace that is conferred is a free gift and "does not need ratification to become effective" (CCC, no. 1308). The common practice of high school or middle-school reception of Confirmation could give the impression that somehow the sacrament is merited by virtue of age or training. In truth, the Sacrament of Confirmation is an effective vehicle of grace at any age as long as it is validly conferred. Thus those that receive the sacrament are able to reap its benefits from the moment of reception. The invisible benefits of this sacrament conferred at a young age could be of great benefit to young people as they grow toward adolescence and young adulthood.
After skimming the whole letter, I get the sense that Bishop Acquilla makes it clear to his priests that the proper order is to be followed.
I'm not sure why a child making a decision would be any more necessary with Confirmation than it is with infant baptism.
Bad practice breeds bad theology. I grew up with the notion that Confirmation made one a "soldier of Christ." Now, many catechists mistakenly compare Confirmation to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
The sacrament is not about us confirming the Church, but about the Church confirming us, so "understanding" the sacrament is not necessary for all the abundant graces to flow.
In addition, I continue to be surprised at the number of lapsed Catholic adults who come back to the Church who were never confirmed. And most weekly-mass-attending Catholics couldn't give you two sentences on the meaning of Confirmation.
It's been a throw-away sacrament, and giving Confirmation its proper place in the rites of initiation would at least provide an occasion for catechesis for both parents and children.
Maybe Bishop Acqilla could give a little presentation at USCCB meetings - "Bishops and DREs - Who's In Charge Here?"; something like that.
According to his timetable, this should have been completed Spring, 2005. I wonder how it all worked out?
Nearly every Catholic child receives First Communion, but my understanding is CCD enrollment drops significantly after First Communion. If that is the case, I guess it is a good idea to receive the sacraments together. Many children are deprived of the extra graces available through the sacrament of Confirmation.
Either way, this is another one of those things that I imagine people feel very strongly about one way or the other, but I can see good arguments on both sides.
I guess ... it's just that I'm struggling with my preconceptions :-).
The Baltimore Catechism says, "Confirmation is the sacrament through which the Holy Spirit comes to us in a special way and enables us to profess our faith as strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ." It seems that, even with the sacramental grace conferred, a young child lacks the natural capacity to "profess our faith as a strong and perfect Christian."
And on a related question, doesn't giving Communion to young children assume that they're going to make a good Confession the *minute* they have the capacity to choose good and avoid evil? Obviously, if they have been baptized, they are free from sin until the age of accountability ... but there's a fuzzy zone there, isn't there?
Don't Eastern Rite Catholics get confirmed at Baptism?
I think so, but don't quote me.
Our parish just finished with the First Communions. The DRE said that one parent asked, "Now when do we have to bring her back to start classes for Confirmation?" Aaagh!
Some people are just not going to Get It, no matter what.
Bingo! The efficacy of the Sacraments comes from Christ working through them. A Baptized, then Confirmed (Chrysmated) person has the permament "marks" of these sacraments in their soul for the rest of eternity. In baptising infants it is understood that they will be formed in the Faith by their families and the Church as they grow. If this would not appear to be the case, then the sacraments should be withheld until the individual is capable of choosing to live the Christian Faith.
That is why the Eastern Churches have no problem in Baptizing, Chrysmating, and then giving first Holy Communion to infants in their Churches.
By waiting so long to give the sacrament of Confirmation to adolescents in the Church today the practical effect tends to be that so many never receive it. Furthermore, the young adolescents-young adults are lacking the Grace that comes from the sacrament during a very "testing" time in their lives.
While this is the ancient practice of the East, and many orthodox priests and bishops have advocated its eventual return, or at least closing the gap (some dioceses confirm at age 7 now), my gut instinct tells me this will be just another change that will further confuse the lay faithful with all the myriad of changes since the Second Vatican Council.
I support a moratorium on any further liturgical or sacramental changes in the Church for the next 100 years. This would be included in such a moratorium. If the "reform of the reformers" want to continue to pursue their agenda to get the Sacred Liturgy back into conformity with the letter of Sacrosactum Concilium, I am for that as well.
Continuous change, even when it is change for the better, is the mark of revolutionaries. Enough is enough already!
Pray for a universal indult to all Latin-rite priests for the Classical Roman rite of Mass. Then, the real "renewal" (restoration!) will begin.
Yeah. I was going to say something in the earlier post about postponing Eucharist for the same reason. There's that whole bringing judgement on yourself thing from 1 Cor 11. Yikes!
The Baltimore Catechism goes on to say:
Persons of an age to learn should know the chief mysteries of faith and the duties of a Christian, and be instructed in the nature and effects of this Sacrament.
I think we can say that a young child has the ability to "profess our faith as a strong and perfect Christian" in accord with their intellect and their station in life.
Personally, I wasn't very clear at age 13 about what was really going on at Confirmation; but, something definitely happened. Maybe it took several decades to manifest but it happened.
Bishops have the discretion to implement this restoration, and many are doing it. More will.
There is really no theological basis for the Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation-much-later order of today. I don't see how the faithful could possibly be any more confused than they are now. Adding Confirmation to the same ceremony with First Eucharist, and postponing both to third grade is de minimis as far as disruption goes.
Continuous change, even when it is change for the better, is the mark of revolutionaries.
Got a buggywhip handy?
I had my first communion at 8 and was confirmed at 14. I don't remember much of the parish CCD preparation we had for first communion. We did have to make first confession beforehand, which is a small miracle considering the liberal priest who ran the parish at the time. I do remember CCD prep for confirmation, and it was a big joke. I learned nothing about what the sacrament really meant. The classes were very secular; quite similar to the "self-esteem" and "setting goals" lessons I was subjected to in my public middle school.
Confirmation was very much treated as a rite of passage/graduation type thing in my parish. Of the 70 or so kids who were confirmed that year, maybe 10 regularly attended Mass with their families. It didn't matter if you couldn't care less about religion or if your parents felt the same - when you turned 14, it was just what you did.
CCD stopped once you were confirmed in the parish. This meant that the gap between first communion and confirmation guaranteed that some of these kids would be in CCD for 6 extra years. Had first communion and confirmation been celebrated at the same time, many of these kids would have stopped going to CCD at 8. However, this really wouldn't have been that bad, since CCD was an abysmal waste of time at my old parish.
If children are properly brought up, they will go because their parents tell them to. In addition, if the RE program is well done, they will *want* to go because it's interesting and fun.
I really have no resonance with this issue, because our family does an hour or more of Bible and catechism study every day. In addition, the older children listen to religious instruction tapes, because they want to. We like to learn; we like to learn about our faith.