Skip to comments.Bishop Aquila urges sacrament of confirmation before First Eucharist (Catholic Orthodox Caucus)
Posted on 07/09/2011 11:36:31 AM PDT by NYer
One can speak of the many effects of confirmation and the impact it makes upon ones life, but it is always important to remember that the divine person of the Holy Spirit is received in confirmation, he said in July 6 remarks at the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein Seminary. We need the gifts of the Holy Spirit, every day, every hour, every minute and every second to live a life that gives glory to the Father as Jesus glorified the Father.
The bishop explained that he had initially favored the view that confirmation was a sacrament of maturity that should be reserved to high school students only. However, his view changed after further studies, work with the sacraments of initiation and experience with young children who were confirmed when they entered the Church.
Placing confirmation after First Communion only muddied the primacy of the Eucharist as the completion of initiation into the Church and the life-long nourishment of the relationship established with the Trinity and the Church in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, the Fargo bishop said.
In an August 2002 pastoral letter, Bishop Aquila instructed that after children receive the sacrament of reconciliation in second grade, they should receive confirmation and First Eucharist in the third grade during the same Mass.
The bishops July 6 remarks surveyed the history the sacrament. Originally, confirmation was part of a continuous rite of initiation leading up to the reception of the Holy Eucharist. This is still the practice in the Eastern Catholic Churches.
After the fifth century, Bishop Aquila said, it became difficult in the West for a bishop to travel to all parishes to baptize and confirm all at once and so the administration of the sacraments became separated.
The custom of receiving First Communion as a second grader and later receiving confirmation in middle or high school is a recent practice of the Church and the Second Vatican council had called for a revision of the rite of confirmation.
Turning to the present administration of the sacrament, Bishop Aquila questioned whether the common placement of confirmation in late adolescence treats it as a reward, or worse, as something earned or deserved for attendance and work in a parish catechetical program.
Should the fear of not receiving a sacrament ever be used as a means to keep a young person involved in the life of the Church? Should the gift and strengthening of the Holy Spirit be denied young persons in their most formative years? he asked.
Bishop Aquila also wondered whether the special attention and length of preparation given to confirmation makes many perceive it to be more important than baptism and the Eucharist.
The view that confirmation is a way for young people to make a personal commitment to their faith distorts the sacrament, he said.
Confirmation is not marked by a choice to believe or not believe in the Catholic faith. Rather as disciples we are chosen by God to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit generously bestowed by God, and we are called to cooperate with that grace, he explained.
Confirmation confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that is ordered to the life of worship, the bishop said while summarizing Catholic thought. It helps the person achieve a more perfect integration into the Body of Christ. This helps us understand how confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist.
In this light, it appears odd to have someone participate in the Eucharistic life of the Church if he or she has not received the seal of the Holy Spirit which perfects the personal bond with the community.
While some have said that maturity is necessary for the sacrament, the bishop said that children can be mature spiritually.
If they are mature enough to receive the Eucharist, the crown of the sacraments, are they not mature enough to receive a sacrament that is ordered to it? he asked.
I have found the third graders to be most receptive to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and their childlike trust and wonder is beautiful to behold. Many times their ability to see the truth and have complete trust in God is strikingly better than our own. It allows for a deeper receptivity of the graces of the sacrament.
By contrast, too many young adults have regressed spiritually into a state of indifference or despondence towards God.
He suggested that restoring the order of the sacraments of initiation will aid the local community in forming effective catechesis which acknowledges growth in faith as a life-long process.
My mother was confirmed 2 weeks after she received First Communion. I made my confirmation in 7th grade and my daughter, in 12th grade. As Bishop Aquila points out, the Eastern Churches administer the Mystery of Chrismation at the time a child is baptized.
Wow!! Good for Bishop Aquila. Here in the Diocese of Des Moines (Iowa) our bishop wants to RAISE the age for confirmation from eighth grade to tenth grade.
We just recently joined a new FSSP parish in Omaha and will have our boys confirmed through them instead of waiting another 2+ years.
I’m of the opinion that kids NEED those graces, especially the way the world is right now.
I totally agree with him. The present reasoning is that we need to keep holding out that carrot to keep the children in Religious ed., although they don’t actually say that out loud.
Changing confirmation would in my opinion, make it sacramentally meaningless. Confirmation Despite what the bishop thinks is intended as a rite of passage into spiritual adulthood. It is a renewal of the Baptismal vows at a time when we are mature enough to accept them and charge them against our own consciences.
It is similar to, and therefore administered at roughly the same time as, the Jewish rite or Bar/Bat Mitzvah-because it signifies the same thing-that as of that day forward I am a man/woman choosing of my own free will to be a full member of the Church (many protestant adult “baptisms” are really the same thing we would consider confirmation)
The idea that Confirmation is the only, or even primary way that a believer receives the gifts of the holy spirit is completely erroneous.
In the 70’s my parents were involved in the Charismatic movement within Catholicism and as such I was “baptized in the holy spirit” at around age 8-9 and actively using the Spirit’s gifts shortly thereafter
This does remind me of the old joke that several protestant ministers are talking about a local priest and the problem that they are all having with bats in the steeples of their respective churches. They noticed that the Catholic Cbhurch is remarkably free of them so they approach the priest and ask how how they don't bother the Catholics. The wry old priest says says in an Irish brogue, "Well used to have a problem with them until we began administering the rite of confirmation to them, and they all left shortly there after."
And yes it was a Bishop that told me that joke when I was attending the local seminary and we were discussing sacraments.
I received Confirmation in the 7th grade, and I was very ticked off when the time for Confirmation for my children was moved to adolescence.
As a Latin Rite Catholic, I used to feel the same way, until I was asked to teach one of the groups preparing for confirmation at the RC parish. In this diocese, the Sacrament of Confirmation is considered 'optional'. Yes .... that's right ... optional! To compound matters, the bishop determined the sacrament should be administered in 11th grade. Of the 20 11th graders in my class, only one actually chose to attend; the others were there by coercion. They did their best to make it through, despite having to skip after school programs and p/t jobs. The instructional materials supplied by the diocese were progressivist propaganda. It was a struggle for me in that I refused to follow the curriculum (ex: on the first day of class, bring in: a large rock (to represent Jesus), small smooth stones for each student, a boom box, mood music, pillar candles, newsprint, markers ....) Instead, I brought in a bible, the rosary and the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel - one for each student.
Since that time, I switched to a Maronite (Eastern) Catholic Church and serve as Director for Religious Education. It is the tradition of ALL the Eastern Catholic Churches, to administer the Mystery of Chrismation at the same time the child is baptized. One of our families is Melkite Catholic. In their tradition, the child is not only baptized and chrismated but also receives the Eucharist on the same day. Over the course of the past 7 years, I have seen how these gifts, imbued at the same time, bring the children deeper into their faith and closer to God.
I have to say, as a teacher of a Confirmation prep class, I can truly see the wisdom of what Bishop Aquila is saying. By their high school years, I see too many kids getting into the negative attitudes that permeate the modern high school, and they are so busy with sports programs, homework, etc, that the classes seem to them, and their parents, to be an imposition on their lives.
Years ago, I had a big discussion, in a Parish Council meeting, with the nun who was the DRE, about the age for reception of First Penance. She had constructed program to have First Communion in the second grade, and First Penance in the fourth. I said that Canon Law directs First Penance BEFORE First Communion, and she trotted out the old "parents decide when their child is ready" argument. I told her that Canon Law does say that the parents decide when the child is ready for Communion, but that the Sacrament of Penance must come BEFORE Communion. She ignored that regularly, because she had so many helicopter parents worried that their kids were 'nervous' about the idea of Penance, and wanted to delay it, because they didn't their kids could 'understand' the Sacrament of Penance. That argument has always amused me because I guess they think their kid can understand the concept of Transubstantiation, but can't understand "I'm sorry, please forgive me". Silly. I, and another woman who taught Rel. Ed. programs mentioned the fact that when the kids are in the second grade, they still have that bit of innocence about them that helps them accept the religious teaching, but that by fourth grade, you can see the attitudes start developing that make them more resistant.
Preparing kids for Confirmation in Second grade, then Penance and Communion in the Third grade, might give the kids that good foundation on which to build their lives, and the Rel. Ed. program can spend the subsequent years fleshing out the teachings of the Church as their understanding increases.
We that answers my question.
I thought the EO administered Confirmation before Eucharist.
Knowing kids like I do, I’d say 12 is the oldest I’d wait if I had the choice.
I’ve taught 3 confirmation classes and most were only there for their parents. I have been a sponsor for a few confirmandi and most of the kids are more concerned about their clothes than the actual confirmation.
They are so excited about their faith when they are young, I remember, I was a kid once and I remember my confirmation in the Methodist church at 12, I was still passionate about God but soon the world intruded and though I never lost my faith, I got far from God many times.
I have also seen 2 kids that I would have loved to kick out of my class because of their behavior and anti-Catholic beliefs but I just kept teaching and I swear after confirmation they both literally changed almost overnight.
Yeah, I know what you mean. I'm loathe to suggest that a kid NOT be confirmed, even if they're on the fence about it, because I don't want to deny the possibility that the Holy Spirit could work on them in ways I might never imagine.
I was confirmed in the 6th grade, and frankly, I don't remember much about the preparation, except that we tried to devise ways to talk during the one day 'silent retreat' that we had. ;o) But I never experienced a crisis of faith in high school or college, either, so the Spirit must have been 'a movin' from the time of my Confirmation.
I frankly don't know what the answer is, but I do know that we're beginning to lose young people, because the popular culture is pushing on them at the same time we're trying to prepare them for Confirmation. And because their parents' generation was so woefully catechized, they are of no help in preparation, so something needs to be done. Having that strength of the Holy Spirit with the kids before they even enter middle school might just be what they need! And frankly, you might find that you could get more volunteers to teach in the programs. Too many people are simply intimidated about the idea of teaching high school aged kids.
As Bishop Aquila points out, the Eastern Churches administer the Mystery of Chrismation at the time a child is baptized. >>
that’s right, the children of friends of mine who are byzantine, had all 3 sacraments of initiation administered at baptism as infants.
i thought he was filipino, i guess not.
Glad you posted this, very interesting. I have to say I agree with Bishop Aquila to some extent. I believe 12 would be a better age - certainly any age before 15. Teens need those graces well before age 15!