Saturday, February 07, 2009

Confirmation thought

In a discussion with a priest recently who is involved with dialogue with the Orthodox, he said,
"Well of course the majority of Catholics in western Europe are only partially initiated initiated into the Church".
In many UK dioceses only 15-25% of those who are baptised actually recieve the sacrament of Confirmation, the later the Sacrament is given the lower the per centage. In Orthodoxy the sacraments of initiation; Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist are always given together, normally within the first few weeks after birth.
How necessary is Confirmation for sanctification?


Anonymous said...

Isn't confirmation vital to sanctification?

It's when we make the promises that were made on our behalf at baptism. I also think of it as the last 'hurdle' to Christian/Catholic initiation.

Paul Knight said...

I remember that you wrote about this some time ago, Father. I also remember you saying that the Fathers believed it was essential for sanctification.

For whatever pastoral reasons St. Pius X allowed the faithful to receive Holy Communion before receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, it is my opinion that those reasons don't exist anymore. Certainly one could argue that always receiving all the sacraments of initiation at the same time would be a return to liturgical authenticity.

Anonymous said...

I do hope the church in the picture was well heated! I had no idea Eastern Baptism was given to children in their birthday suits!

Interested to learn about early Confirmation there too. I seem to remember that the decision to receive the sacrament of Confirmation was up to the young people themselves. Both my sons made this decision. However the youngest fell ill during the time of the Confirmation instruction in the parish and had to miss many lessons. Sadly by the time the next year's instruction took place he decided against it.

Looking back I do regret not being more forceful in encouraging him to accept the Sacrement the following year. However at the time I respected his decision as
for personal reasons I did not feel it right to impose something which he himself no longer accepted.

Earlier Confirmation would in his case have been beneficial.

Anonymous said...

The Orthodox practice of baptism, chrismation and Eucharist for a baby seems far preferable to the current Western pattern.

In Catholicism before Pius X there was a logical pattern of baptism, confirmation (= more or less - Chrismation) and Eucharist in that order although not for infants.

Michael Clifton said...

I dont think confirmation was ever a compulsory sacrament but clearly it is to all intents and purposes most useful and in many countries it is necessary to show a confirmation certificate before a person can marry in Church. I used to find that however hard you tried with confirmation classes, many of the children being confirmed would fall away almost immediately from practice of their faith. I agree it might be better to administer the sacrament earlier not however at birth but perhaps just before Holy Communion when the meaning of he sacrament can be explained to the children.

gemoftheocean said...

The one thing I like about western practise is it gives a person time to pick a patron saint and take their name. But I think it horrific to wait so long for the sacrament to be conferred. It's tough enough growing up any time - but to wait until later teen years to confer the sacrament is scandalous. As Pelerin reports they wait so long that there's a chance of someone losing the faith at a time where they should have been fortified by the sacrament and had that grace working within them. I think it's a mistake to wait until high school (age 14-18 here.) Get them confirmed before they become cynical. Andas far as Confirmation being the time when we make promises which were made for us at our Baptism, I think that's all modern catechist crappola. The sacrament is equally effective on infants, who make no such promises. Ditto it being seen as some sort of age rite of passage.

Anonymous said...

"It's not necessary for salvation: it's just like being baptised again only this time because you want to be, and want to do it with your friends." My daughter had this from the same RE teacher who told her that if you die soon after receiving the Sacrament of the Sick you go straight to Heaven

James M said...

Does this make sense: Confirmation is not necessary for an individual's salvation, but it is necessary for mature/full sanctification, and it is necessary for the survival of the Church.

Confirmation enables witnessing Christ in adversity. Without it the Church would be wiped out. Then nobody would be sanctified.

So individuals, and perhaps any single generation, might get by without Confirmation. But the transmission of the Faith will not.

[PS Michael Clifton has a good point. Would Confirmation be better for 7-8 year olds, just before their First Holy Communion?]

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

The Sacrament of Confirmation in my humble opinion should be given BEFORE that dramatical mess known as High School (as it's not set up in my archdiocese)

The Sacrament of Confirmation provides special graces all of which are needed during those 4 years.

While I do NOT believe that we should imitate the Eastern Practice in this regard, I do believe the Sacraments should be returned to their traditional order. Baptism, Confirmation, then Holy Eucharist.

Catholic Student said...

I agree with Joe of St. Thérèse. We receive Christ, even before we have confirmed our faith. It's a bit crazy.

Patricius said...

I was confirmed in the year following my first communion. It was 1963 and I was eight years old. I can't see the point of deferring the sacrament until secondary school age.
Is there one?

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the other comments so apologise if repeating but, Fr Blake.. I think the Sacrament of Comnfirmation is vital. It is currently seen as a kind of Catholic Barmitzphah(sp ?)... a coming of teen age. If I had any say, I would strongly advise for Confirmation to be given priority at around aged 8-10. Not only is a young soul more receptive at that age and more open to what the full power of Confirmation means, but think then, of how it might prepare them to receive the regular Sacrament of Holy Communion. (It's my personal view that those 2 sacraments should be swapped round in order.)

The CCC outlines for us what is in store for anyone who receives the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is mind-blowing just reading it. WHAT a list of promises. I often re-read it, and think "Well, if I have received all that, why am I so ineffective in my Christian life ?" - It is a jolt to my faith, as it were: If we believe it, let's live it.

I have also noticed over a period of time that those who are confirmed below the normal age, tend to be much more receptive to The Church, Her teachings and Her moral standards. I personally feel that by age 13/14, in today's culture, they needed to have had that armour supplied a little bit earlier. I reckon today's 14 year old is more like a 16/17 yr old in MY day.

I can only speak from experience.. but my own son kept asking for Comfirmation from around 8 yrs old. NO prompting from me. (My daughter has not asked at all and so the sacrament will take its natural course and be given to her at the usual 13/14 stage.) We were blessed to find another diocese which agreed to his request and he was confirmed aged 10 and still speaks of it as a turning point in his life. He says (and I have to respect him, even if I do not always understand him) that he felt it was like his baptism was completed. He said that once you make a clay pot with water and earthly material.. at some point, if it is going to be any use, it has to be fired in a kiln and made solid, otherwise it just falls apart.

It did challenge me at the time to re-examine the sacrament of Comfirmation and so, having given it much tought and prayer I feel we have to take it very very seriously, especially in this day and age. Our young people need all the firing and solidity and stability they can be afforded.

By aged 14, it's too late. Just read the Department of Health statistics.

carl said...

I'd say that in the normal course of things, confirmation is vital for sanctification. It is the sacramant of initiation betwixt baptism and Eucharist, a point on which the CCC is rather clear. It is God's normative way of conferring grace on us, in particular the gifts of the Spirit. Naturally, God can sanctify us without it, but I'd imagine he'd prefer we stick to it. And echoing the point of many others, we really need to return to restored order. Eucharist before Confirmation makes no sense whatsoever; there's no basis for it in the CCC, nor in Tradition.

carl said...

Patricius, I think the motivation, at least here in the States, is to keep kids in religious ed as long as possible. Cuz naturally, we should be using the reception of sacraments as motivation to keep people bringing their children to RE. Heaven forbid we should aim a bit higher than that...

Anonymous said...

I have always held the view that practising Catholics should be confirmed... it's a kind of spiritual maturity. Whilst Pius X did indeed allow First Holy Communion before Confirmation, I would argue that not being Confirmed as an Adult and still receiving Holy Communion is either cowardice or lassitude. Either way, it's not availing oneself of another means of salvation.

If it were up to me (though it is not, but if it were...) I would argue that many children (and adults!) are not sufficiently mature to receive Holy Communion by the time they 'can'. I think they ought to 'wait' for Confirmation first.

Simon Platt said...

Let's not forget that in some places first communion still comes before first confession. (Still more sadly, last communion sometimes comes without first confession.) I think that's a bigger problem.

Anonymous said...

Can one go to confession without being confirmed?

My Vatican II religous instruction (12 years of Catholic school) has left me ignorant of alot of Catholic info., etc.

I recall being taught the prayers used in Confession, around the time of confirmation.

For that reason alone- children should be allowed to be confirmed earlier then jr. high, in order to make an informed confession.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Joe of St Therese. My 3 children were confirmed at the age of 15, as is common practice in our diocese. To my dismay, one by one, they stopped going to church soon afterwards. In all three cases, receiving the Sacrament even one year earlier would have made a big difference. On the other hand, at the age of 7-8, at or before the First Holy Communion (and I am a First Holy Communion catechist) the practice of the faith of the children depends entirely on their parents' practice. We all know how some families appear on the front benches of churches during the year of preparation to the FHC, never to be seen again.... So, there would have to be a stronger requirement/expectation on the part of the parents to practise their faith! Could be quite salutary, come to think of it!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see Fr Clifton's comment that in some countries you have to show a Confirmation certificate before marrying in Church.

I presume Britain is not one of them as I did not receive the sacrament of Confirmation until two years after my marriage and when I was very pregnant!

Anonymous said...


Yes. Converts do. And so do the littleys! :D

gemoftheocean said...

Anne: I'd be curious to know what diocese you are from. We prepared for 1st confession at the time we prepared for 1st Holy Communion. 2nd grade, age 7-8 depending when your birthday fell. I think it's scandalous they waited to late with your group you didn't know!

In theory, the "age of reason" is canonically age 7 - BUT if a person is old enough before that to understand what he/she did was wrong, they are accountable to God as well.

JARay said...

The Bishop of Bunbury (Western Australia) remarked that these days it seems that we receive children into the Church at Baptism and say goodbye to them at Confirmation!
He is very much against giving both Baptism and Confirmation at the same time and he is calling for greater instruction, and evidence of actual commitment to the Church, before the sacrament of Confirmation is given.


Maurice said...

If the Chrismation which takes place at Baptism is not Confirmation, what is it?

Yes please. Let's restore the unity of the Sacraments of Initiation asap!