This is a sacramental year in my family. Our youngest daughter will be confirmed this spring.
Five of our older children have gone through the Confirmation process. I know what was in store for us: monthly Confirmation meetings in addition to weekly PSR classes, accumulating service hours, attending a weekend overnight retreat, a lot of additional writing, and paperwork!
I sat in the church listening to our parish leaders talk about how all of these things were requirements for receiving the sacrament and I chuckled on the inside. These might be requirements from the diocese. The universal Church traditionally and historically does not have such requirements. I was confirmed as an infant in a little Catholic Church in New Mexico in 1959. On my certificate, it says I was one month old. I didn’t write any letters or go to any classes. I didn’t have to do any service hours nor did I attend a retreat. I was just given the sacrament.
It hasn’t always been this way.
In the early church, the order of initiation was Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. This was done all in one rite with the bishop presiding. As the Church grew, the bishops couldn’t be at every Baptism, so a short delay developed between First Communion and the Eucharist. Eventually, the church lowered the age of reason from 14 to 7 so that younger children could receive Communion. By some fluke of history, Confirmation remained stuck in adolescence.
It hasn’t been good for young Catholics either. First Communion is celebrated with new clothes, presents, and parties. in contrast, Confirmation almost seems like an afterthought. Saving it until later doesn’t seem to help keep kids in the Faith either. They are told that Confirmation is not a graduation, yet it is dangled before them as a goal to achieve after checking off all of the requirements. To them, it seems like accumulating enough credits to graduate. And what do people do after they graduate from something? They move on! Even Pope Francis calls it a “Sacrament of Farewell.”
I am almost tempted to have my daughter wait a few more years to be confirmed because as an older teen or adult she wouldn’t have to do most of these things, especially the overnight retreat and service hours. I wonder how many parents and teens know that?
A few years ago my niece received her first Reconciliation, First Communion, and Confirmation all in one year. She lives in one of the 11 dioceses in the United States that have restored the order of sacraments. Her family enjoyed a year of preparation and celebration with her. She is now a young high-school student who is active in her parish without mandatory service hours.
We will probably go through the process again, not because we agree with it, but because there is something to be said about learning to be patient and obedient. At home, we’re stressing the importance of a relationship with Christ and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit over the need to meet Confirmation requirements. But maybe when my daughter writes her letter to the Bishop asking to be confirmed, I’ll be writing my own, encouraging a reversion back to our traditional and historical right order of sacraments.
Copyright 2018 Elena LaVictoire