Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New Hampshire becomes to 11th diocese to confirm children before First Communion

Manchester, New Hampshire Bishop Peter Libasci has decided to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to children before receiving their First Communion, according to a syndicated National Catholic Register article. This is the 11th Latin rite diocese worldwide to initiate such change, with most recently the Archdiocese of Denver to do so in the United States. 

Lay proponents of this reshuffling believe this is theologically-correct, and the order of the Sacraments of Initiation are Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist in that order. They are if you're an adult convert, since anyone over the age of reason (7) must go through this order, even if they're a teenager. An adult must consent to his baptism, a prerequisite for all the other Sacraments. 

In the Eastern Church the priest confirms immediately after infant baptism, and there is not much of a big deal with First Communion that I'm aware of. In the Western Tradition you are not Confirmed until much older and are fully responsible for your own salvation. Traditionally the minimum age is 12 (when my mother was confirmed), but most often it's more like 14 or 15 when teens are confirmed. Seven-year-olds may be confirmed at the danger of death provided they've received their First Communion. 

Since most adult converts are Baptized at the Easter Vigil, they are also confirmed thereafter (often by the parish priest with faculties from the Bishop), and receive their First Holy Communion at the First Mass of Easter. However, adults may be baptized anytime as long as they're catechized (and/or also at the danger of death), which automatically makes them eligible to receive Holy Communion provided they're in the state of grace. They'll get confirmed later on. 

Originally children didn't receive their First Communion until 9 or 10 years old. Pope St. Pius X changed this to 7 in his 1910 Papal Bull Quam Singulari, in reaction to Little Nellie receiving 5 of the 7 Sacraments before dying at age five just a few years beforehand. 

Today, unfortunately, Confirmation has become a laughing stock Sacrament, in the sense that parents, grandparents, and godparents have to force their youngsters into taking the classes. The use of red and white graduation robes (which aren't in the rubrics) has indeed turned Confirmation into a graduation ceremony from CCD. (Additionally, in the Novus Ordo, the sacrament might be doubtful because of the oil used.) There are some who complentate whether or not to raise the Confirmation age to 18 when the persons are legal adults. Either way, I don't think confirming 7 year-olds who don't have full faculties is a good idea. 

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