Thursday, July 21, 2011

Confirmation Before Communion?

Bishop Aquila of Fargo recently explained why he feels it would be better to move confirmation to an earlier age, and to be done before First Communion. I thought he made some excellent points:

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.”

I think he makes an excellent case, personally. I was first made aware of this perspective through some of the ladies on the NFP board, and since then it has seemed to me that the way things are set up now, Confirmation is often seen as "Catholic graduation." The problem with this is first, that it sends the message that confirmation refers to the teen growing up, maturing, and "confirming" their faith as their own choice, when in fact confirmation is Christ confirming US, it's a gift to us and not something we are doing ourselves. Secondly, as "Catholic graduation" it gives the impression that once you are confirmed, you're done learning about the faith, the way you're done with school when you graduate. In fact, confirmation should be the very beginning of a more involved faith life.

I also agree with the Bishop that typically, 7-8 year olds are much more likely to be receptive to faith, to the Holy Spirit, to learning about God and loving God than teenagers who often tend to be in a rebellious stage of life. Not only that, but why not send our young people out into the world with the best possible and most complete protection we have? The more grace they are armed with, the better chance they will be able to conquer the many temptations of the world. Children are being confronted with worldly temptations earlier than ever, I think. Waiting until the later teens to confirm someone seems like completely missing an opportunity to help them live a more virtuous life in a world which makes it extremely difficult to begin with. The more grace, the earlier, the better!

It makes sense to me, anyway! I think the bishop makes a great case, and I, for one, would love to see a trend towards earlier confirmation. What do you think?


Dymphna said...

I've often thought about what it would be like if we return to the eastern practice of having all three sacraments of initiation as infants.

Culturally, that would mean no white dresses and veils. I don't think that would go over too well.

Sam DiCarlo said...

Re: "Confirmation= Graduation" concept: Yes, there is the attitude that one doesn't have to study/learn more about the faith. It strikes me as a sort of the "OSAS" idea. As for myself studying, learning and PRACTICING our Catholic Faith is so important for my salvation. We can't just sit back and do the a minimum that we think is sufficient. We are called to more than that. We must take to heart that "We have been saved, we are being saved and and we must live in the hope of being saved!" I have to admit that I have tried the minimum and it just doesn't work. I was confirmed at twelve and there was no CCD or anything like it after Confirmation. In a way I was sort of left alone and it wasn't until I discovered St. Thomas Aquinas in college that my further studies in the faith began (it was/is only by the Grace of God) that my faith walk has persisted for nearly 60 years.

Anonymous said...

I've also always loved the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox tradition of receiving the sacraments from infancy. Why would we want to deny children of the graces inherent in them?


Stephanie said...

Wise words as always, Sam. :-)

Katie, I tend to agree with you there!