Our call to be disciples does not begin when we are teenagers.
By Rachel Padilla
The Archdiocese of Denver is one of a growing number of dioceses across the country that is in the process of moving down the age for the Sacrament of Confirmation. This is known as the “Restored Order” because it is only relatively recently that Confirmation has been received after First Eucharist.
While many dioceses still place Confirmation years after First Eucharist, the theology behind the switch to Restored Order has much to tell us about how to view and teach our students about Confirmation.
- Confirmation is not graduation.
The Sacraments are not merely rites of passage. However, there is a tendency to view Confirmation as a child’s “graduation” from religious education or a decision to choose their Catholicism. While this may be true in some cases, it is not essential to the sacrament. There is always more to learn about the faith. It is a disservice to our children when they believe their formation ends in eighth or tenth grade. In the same way, while Confirmation may be an opportunity for a teenager to embrace the faith, it does not always benefit our students for them to think so. Choosing to live out the faith we received in baptism is a daily decision. When we teach on this sacrament, it is important to recognize that making a one-time choice is not what Confirmation is about.
- Confirmation helps us face the world.
Like all Sacraments, Confirmation instills grace. Archbishop Aquila of Denver says in his pastoral letter on the restored order, “Saints Among Us” (SAU) that
[Confirmation] perfects the grace of Baptism, fills us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, prepares us to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, and helps us commit ourselves to be his lifelong disciples (SAU 6).
Our call to be disciples does not begin when we are teenagers. In today’s world especially, the challenges to Christian life begin earlier than that. The graces of Confirmation equip children for life in the world, to be soldiers of Christ. Whether they are receiving the sacrament as a third-grader or a high-schooler, we should emphasize the gift of grace found in this Sacrament.
- Confirmation is Closely Linked to Baptism
One of the reasons for moving Confirmation before First Eucharist is to emphasize its connection to the Sacrament of Baptism. This is a beautiful point to teach students:
[i]n Baptism the Holy Spirit is truly given, yet in Confirmation he is given in a way that completes the graces of Baptism and imparts special strength upon the recipient (SAU 8).
Additionally, the chrism oil is used in both sacraments to anoint the recipient. In each sacrament a name is given as well.
- Parents Play an Important Role in Sacrament Prep
A whole section of “Saints Among Us” is dedicated to what is calls “the School of the Family.” When a student is confirmed in third grade, the parents naturally have more control and involvement than they do when the student is a teenager. However, that does not mean we, as teachers, can ignore the role parents should play. Archbishop Aquila affirms,
parents are the principal teachers who prepare their children to receive the sacraments (SAU 14).
This is better emphasized with younger students, but as we teach about the sacraments or prepare children for them, we cannot ignore the importance of parents. The family is where faith is fostered. Even high-schoolers should have their parents involved in this important formation.
- Children’s Souls are a Battleground
One of the primary arguments for moving down the age of Confirmation is to give children access to the graces of the sacrament at younger ages. The reality is that now, perhaps more than ever, they need these graces.
In an increasingly secular world, the reality is this: the souls of our children are the battleground (SAU 18).
As we work with these students, we must remember that they live in a world that does not share Christian values in many cases. Society does not want these students to be passionate followers of Christ who believe in truth, goodness, and beauty. Our students’ lives are saturated with media that forms them to be something quite different. In Confirmation, no matter what age they are, they are sent out to be witnesses to these transcendentals. However, they are also given the grace to uphold the truth in a world of confusion and relativism.
When we teach on Confirmation it is important that we demonstrate what the sacrament is. Whether our students are receiving the sacrament in third grade, junior high, or high school, understanding and preparing to receive the graces of Confirmation is what matters.
To learn more, read the full text of Archbishop Aquila’s pastoral letter, Saints Among Us.
Rachel Padilla is a campus minister in Colorado.
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