False Theology of Confirmation

The following comes from a March 8 story by Catholic News Agency.

Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota said he is delighted to have first-hand papal approval for changing the order by which children in his diocese receive the sacraments.

“I was very surprised in what the Pope said to me, in terms of how happy he was that the sacraments of initiation have been restored to their proper order of baptism, confirmation then first Eucharist,” said Bishop Aquila, after meeting Pope Benedict on March 8.

Bishop Aquila was one of five bishops from North and South Dakota to meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican as part of their March 5-10 “ad limina” visit to the Rome.
Over the past seven years the Diocese of Fargo has changed the typical order of the sacraments of initiation. Instead of confirmation coming third and at an older age, it is now conferred on children at a younger age and prior to First Communion.

Bishop Aquila said he made the changes because “it really puts the emphasis on the Eucharist as being what completes the sacraments of initiation” and on confirmation as “sealing and completing baptism.”

When the sacraments are conferred in this order, he said, it becomes more obvious that “both baptism and confirmation lead to the Eucharist.” This sacramental assistance helps Catholics live “that intimate relationship of being the beloved sons and daughters of the Father in our daily lives,” he added.

The Bishop of Fargo said the changes have also distanced the Sacrament of Confirmation from “some false theologies that see it as being a sacrament of maturity or as a sacrament for ‘me choosing God.’”

Instead, young people in Fargo now have “the fullness of the spirit and the completion of the gifts of the spirit” to assist them in “living their lives within the world,” especially “in the trials they face in junior high and high school.”

Bishop Aquila explained his theological thinking to Pope Benedict during today’s meeting.

In response, he said, the Pope asked if he had “begun to speak to other bishops about this.” He told the pontiff that he had and that “certainly bishops within the Dakotas are now really looking towards the implementation in the restoration in the ordering of the sacraments.”

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Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 4:28 AM By David
Good Bishop, good Shepherd. In the CCC the Sacraments of Christian initiation are: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist – in that order. Too bad more Bishops do not read and teach the CCC.

Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 5:21 AM By Juergensen
Bishop Aquila makes eminent theological sense. However, a practical advantage of Confirmation at an older age, such as in High School, is that a bishop (as ours does) can require years of catechetical instruction prior to its reception. I know from experience that this forces many kids into catechetical instruction they otherwise would not choose or receive. Under the Baptism-Confirmation-First Holy Communion sequence, I am afraid many Catholic children will be “completing” their catechesis at the ripe old age of 8.

Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 5:26 AM By Lynn
This is something that I do agree with as a practicing Catholic and CCD Teacher as many of the youth today are lacking in their understanding of the Holy Eucharist and it seems to take a back seat to their true understanding of the Divinity of Christ. I thought of this 30 years ago, but it was not received well. I pray that now it will be universal.

Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 6:12 AM By Joe from RI
After reading this article, it does now make perfect sense to me that the proper order of sacraments should be baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. But I have one significant concern with this. The diocese of Fargo needs to consider the very real possibility of losing young adults from the church before they could have been taught the fullness of the Faith. We already know that we tend to lose many young adults from weekly worship following their confirmation. But at least with the more common sequence of sacraments, many teens are strongly encouraged by parents and family to attend religious education and receive their confirmation. At the age of First Communion, children are only capable of receiving a very basic understanding of the Faith. In many cases, they can only comprehend the Eucharist as being “a very special food”. They certainly cannot comprehend the full reality of the Blessed Sacrament being the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. How will the Diocese of Fargo continue to instruct their children in the faith if there is no further requirement for CCD training following 1st grade? Perhaps hanging the sacrament of Confirmation in front of their noses like a carrot is not the appropriate solution. I don’t claim to know the answer. But the average Catholic today is grossly ignorant of his/her faith already. Will this only add to that problem?

Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 6:33 AM By Mary
As much as I can appreciate the reasoning behind sequencing the Sacrament of Confirmation before first Eucharist, I have a deep concern for stripping away the one opportunity we currently have to reach young adults in their faith: the preparation for Confirmation. This Sacrament currently comes at a great time in a young person’s life and often, the instruction is so influential and the power of the Holy Spirit truly recognized, that his or her faith comes alive. Intellectually the Bishop may be right. Practically and wisely, however, our youth need the fruits of this sacrament exactly when it is currently provided.

Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 7:23 AM By MacDonald
The Bishop and the Pope are on target theologically, but, given human nature, I do worry that children will “not bother” with religious instruction once they are confirmed. Unfortunately, many of our parents only enroll their kids if they are going to “get” something, like First Communion, and later Confirmation. This change might lead many parents to not continue the religious formation of their young people once they get what they want. Sadly.

Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 7:57 AM By Ted
In the Orthodox churches (Greek Orthodox, OCA, etc.) Conformation is called Chrismation and takes place immediately after an infant is baptized. Then they are given the precious blood, all in one rite. The grace of the sacrament has nothing to do with the chronological age of the recipient in their view. They have kept the original order of the sacraments of initiation.

Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 8:08 AM By Maria
This makes my heart glad. Our children need all the help that they can get to weather the stormy seas of adolescence. As a catechist and mother, I have regretted the changes that were made to push the conferring of this Sacrament into the high school years in our archdiocese. Many children are never confirmed because of this and the effects are evident. Even the old schedule at seventh and eighth grade was better. It seems that we have not been convinced of the efficacy of the Sacraments to assist us through God’s gift of sanctifying grace to lead holy lives. Instead, the Sacraments have taken on a role of “rites of passage”, a secular vision that removes the support and supernatural help most needed by struggling souls. How grateful I am that a movement has begun to restore these precious helps to our children! Thank you, Bishop Aquila! This is a work of the Holy Spirit.