Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Borrowed Confirmation thoughts

     Yesterday my adult server at morning Mass attended a Confirmation celebration across the border in the Pittsburgh Diocese.  He was telling me about it this morning.  Then as I was checking out various blogs, I came across one by Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington regarding misunderstandings regarding confirmation.  I would like to share some of what he said, with the full text found at http://blog.adw.org.

Msgr Pope says:

It will also help to exclude certain common, but incorrect notions about Confirmation.

1.   Confirmation is not a Sacrament of Maturity - Canon Law (891) states that Confirmation is generally to be administered at about the age of discretion, which age is understood to be seven (Canon 97.2). It may be administered earlier if there is "danger of death" or for another "grave cause".  The same Canon allows the conference of bishops to determine another age for reception of the sacrament.  While one may argue that a later date for the Sacrament is pastorally advisable, (i.e. to keep young people engaged in catechetical instruction) one simply cannot argue that it is a "Sacrament of maturity" when Church law generally presupposes its celebration at the age of seven.  This is made clearer by the fact that most Eastern Churches, and the Orthodox confirm infants.

2.     Confirmation is not "becoming an adult in the Church" This is just plain silly.  I was taught this as a mere seventh grader, and found it laughable even then.  Seventh graders are not adults.  They are children and remain so even after Confirmation.

3.      Confirmation is not a sacrament where one claims or affirms the faith for himself - Baptism confers faith.  To claim that Confirmation "allows me to speak for myself" is to imply that this is how faith comes about.  It is to imply that baptism somehow did not actually give real faith, or at least gave inadequate faith, and now I am getting it by "speaking for myself."   No, Faith is a gift, it is not something I cause by speaking for myself, it is something I receive as an unmerited and free gift of God.  It is true that the grace of faith mysteriously interacts with our freedom.  But faith is received at baptism.  Confirmation strengthens faith that is already there, but it does not cause it.  Further it is a bit of a stretch to say that seventh or eighth graders really "speak for themselves."

4.     Confirmation does not "complete Christian initiation" and "make me a full Catholic" - One of the problems with delaying Confirmation is that the three Sacraments of Initiation are celebrated out of proper order.  The proper order of celebration is: Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion.  Hence it is Holy Communion that completes initiation, not Confirmation.  That we celebrate it out of order creates a lot of confusion and makes initiation a little murky.  The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults observes the proper order.  Some diocese in this country have returned to this for children as well. [In our Greensburg Diocese we went to the proper order, but under the present administration have gone back to prior practices.]  ... While this preserves the order of Initiation, and there are pastoral advantages in this regard, it must be clear that each Bishop is able to set the policy that makes most sense for his diocese.

      I thank Msgr. Pope for his insights regarding these common misconceptions regarding Confirmation.  Whenever celebrated, it strengthens us on the journey as we approach the Table of the Lord.   

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