25 January 2014

Restored Order of the Sacraments

In 2006, with the permission and encouragement of the archbishop at that time, our parish instituted the "restored order of the Sacraments," returning Confirmation to its proper and historic place, before receiving Holy Communion. Children who have reached the age of discretion - in canon law, considered to be the age of seven - are eligible to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, followed by First Holy Communion, their First Confessions having been made sometime during the previous days.

Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion – those are the Sacraments of Initiation, and that is the traditional order of reception. Unfortunately (and unintentionally) the order of receiving them got changed in most of the Western Church, so that Confirmation is seen more as a kind of “rite of passage” for those in their teenage years. What this came to mean in practical terms is that many people “slip through the cracks” and aren’t confirmed until much later (if at all). Sadly, very often teenagers use the occasion of Confirmation as a kind of “farewell” to regular Mass attendance.

This restored order is now the ordinary practice in some dioceses, and we are pleased to have returned to this venerable tradition in our parish. Postponing the reception of Confirmation until the teenage years (when young people need its grace the most) comes at the time when they are least likely to present themselves for it. Better to arm them with the grace early. It won’t go bad, it won’t run out, and they’ll have it to use throughout those “growing up” years.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller will be with us at Our Lady of the Atonement Church on Wednesday, February 19th, to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation and to celebrate a Solemn Mass for First Holy Communion. As he has in the past, the Archbishop will be celebrating the Mass according to the Anglican Use liturgy.

The following "Questions and Answers" are provided for your information and interest:

Why is our parish celebrating Confirmation and First Communion at the same event?
In the early Church, Christian initiation was celebrated together as a single event. The person was immersed into the waters of Baptism, anointed with chrism, and shared in the Eucharistic meal. Over time, and for many reasons, the celebration of these sacramental rituals became separated from one another. In the renewal of the sacraments which was mandated by the Second Vatican Council, the Church was invited to restore the celebrations of the sacraments of Christian initiation to their original order – Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. This restored order helps us recognize that sharing in the Eucharist completes our initiation into the Church.

What does the Church say about linking these two sacraments?
In article #1275, The Catechism of the Catholic Church articulates the inseparable nature of the sacraments of initiation as follows: "Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ's Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ."

Doesn't the Church require a certain age for Confirmation?
Both the Rite of Confirmation and Canon Law (Canon #891) set the age of discretion (age 7) as the age for Confirmation. Effective July, 2002, the U.S. Conference of Bishops designated the age for Confirmation to be between the age of discretion and age 16. Within that range, local bishops may determine their own diocesan policy. Thus, the age for Confirmation may vary from diocese to diocese, sometimes even from parish to parish. Regardless of age, Confirmation is always a sacrament of initiation. The important thing to remember is that sacraments are not about age alone, they are about growing in faith, about sharing in God's grace.

How will my child be preparing for Confirmation?
In the restored order, Confirmation preparation is integrated into the preparation for Eucharist. This means that the close connection between Baptism and Confirmation is emphasized, while recognizing the important of Eucharist as the culmination of Christian initiation.

Will my child be learning about the Holy Spirit?
Naturally, as your child continues to participate in religious education, he/she will continue to learn more and more about the Holy Spirit's action in our lives. Your child's Eucharist preparation book also teaches about the power of the Spirit and the special gifts of the Spirit. Just as your child was first empowered by the Spirit in Baptism, your child will continue to grow in the Spirit through the grace of Confirmation.

How will I know if my child is ready for Confirmation?
Readiness for Confirmation cannot be separated from readiness for Eucharist, and sacramental readiness is never about learning, but about faith. As your child prepares for Confirmation and Eucharist, here are three things to keep in mind:

1. Sacraments are always a beginning. As your child matures in faith, he/she will grow in his/her understanding of Confirmation and experience of the Eucharist.

2.The Eucharist is the culmination of the three Sacraments of Initiation. Your child is now welcomed as a fully participating member of the Church.

3.At any age, completion of the Sacraments of Initiation--Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist--in no way signals graduation. Rather it is the beginning of a lifetime of being nourished at the table of the Lord.