“The phone call will be a resource for parents, religious education instructors, teachers and principals, and even young people themselves to ask questions of the archbishop about the plan to return the sacraments of initiation to their proper order in our archdiocese,” explained Karna Swanson, executive director of communications.
In a letter to be released May 24, Pentecost Sunday, titled “Saints Among Us,” Archbishop Aquila will explain the importance of restored order, and ask every parish to implement the changes necessary to have it in place by 2020. In doing so, children of the Archdiocese of Denver will be confirmed and receive first Eucharist in third grade, compared to recent years when confirmation was typically received in middle school or high school, and first Eucharist in second grade.
Archbishop Aquila restored confirmation to its original place in the Diocese of Fargo, N.D. in 2002, where he served as bishop prior to coming to the Archdiocese of Denver in 2012. An increasing number of dioceses in the United States have adopted, or are in the process of adopting a restored order policy, including the Diocese of Honolulu announced by Bishop Larry Silva April 24.
Unfortunately, confirmation has become “the sacrament of farewell,” Pope Francis said when visiting with young people in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy in September 2013.
“Whatever we are doing now isn’t working,” Swanson said, “as the sacrament of confirmation tends to mark the end, rather than the beginning, of a close relationship with Christ.”
During the call, the archbishop wants to hear from those directly impacted by the change, she said, and the TeleForum technology will allow participants the opportunity to ask questions as well as leave feedback.
“The most common question we receive is ‘Why are we doing this?’” Swanson said. “That is a great question, and one I hope will be asked on May 28.”
Other questions, she added, might include the history of the sacraments of initiation, how the order was changed in the early 20th century, how the archdiocese will handle the changes, how to prepare children for sacraments, and how the restored order may provide a new opportunity for the parishes’ approach to youth ministry.
“I invite every single Catholic to participate in this phone call,” Swanson said. “This is a major initiative by the Archdiocese of Denver, and one that will need the cooperation of all members of the faithful of northern Colorado.”
Hundreds of Catholics participated in the archbishop’s inaugural TeleForum Dec. 21, 2014, which featured a Christmas message, as well as the archbishop’s live responses to 13 questions. In addition, 268 people left voice messages asking a specific question, requesting information or guidance, or simply wishing the archbishop a merry Christmas.
TeleForum technology, developed by the Highlands Ranch-based corporation Broadnet and donated to the archdiocese, is a step in the Office of Communication’s ongoing plans to develop more tools to communicate the message of the archbishop in new and different ways, according to Swanson.
Since Broadnet’s inception in 2004, they have managed more than 14,000 telephone interactive events, involving politicians, world leaders, professional sports teams and faith-based organizations.
> Register for the TeleForum by texting “bishop” to 313131.
When I became the first bishop, the founding bishop, of the new Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee in 1975 one of the first things I did was to establish the age of the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation at the age of the onset of reason for children. That age is normally considered to be 7 years of age.
I was ordained a bishop in 1972. In June of that year I attended my first plenary meeting of the National Conference of Bishops held in Atlanta, Georgia. At that meeting I listened to Bishop Alexander Zaleski of the Diocese of Lansing give a report as Chairman of a Committee that had been established by the NCCB a year or so earlier to recommend a standard for the age of the Sacrament of Confirmation throughout the United States. At the time every Diocese fixed the age of the those to be confirmed at anywhere from 7 to 18 years of age. Many Dioceses had come to view the Sacrament as a Catholic Bar Mitzvah, as a coming-of-age celebration rather than as the gift of the Holy Spirit to aid the one being confirmed to cope with the trials and tribulations of growing up.
To my amazement the bishops at that Atlanta meeting could not agree on a uniform age for Confirmation. And so it was for the next two years; no agreement. Finally Bishops Zaleski’s Committee was abolished and the then existing chaos has continued up to the present day. This in spite of the clear language of the Code of Canon Law specifying the age of reason for the administration of the Sacrament “unless the conference of bishops determined another age.” Since the Conference could not agree on another age one would suppose that the Codes specifying “the age of reason” as the age at which the Sacrament should be administered would govern. But then there is a lot of evidence that many bishops either never studied Canon Law or choose to ignore it.
The Church’s Code of Canon Law is very specific:
CANON 842, PARAGRAPH 2: The sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Most Holy Eucharist are so interrelated that they are required for full Christian initiation.
CANON 891: The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops determines another age or there is danger of death or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause urges otherwise.
In the Eastern Churches, the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Eucharist are usually all administered to at the time an infant in baptized.
Up until the ‘revolution’ in religious education that took place in the Catholic Church in the United States after the Second World War, almost ALL CATHOLICS understood that the sacraments are sacred signs instituted by Jesus Christ or by His Church, which BOTH SIGNIFY AND CONVEY SACRAMENTAL GRACE. Unlike other churches after the Protestant Reformation which put the emphasis on the “free will” choice of the one to be baptized or confirmed, the Catholic Church has from the beginning taught that the sacramental grace is bestowed even on infants (cf. the baptism by Peter of the jailer’s family).
As the result of the aforementioned ‘revolution’ in religious education the age of Confirmation was moved up to the age of high school students. But what has happened since the mid-1900’s. Moral problems and challenges faced by young people previously in High School moved down into Middle School and even Elementary School. Children were now faced with sexual temptations resulting in pregnancies and with the growing drug culture. Children need the grace of Confirmation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, now more than ever from the time they reach the age of discretion, usually considered to be age seven.
So I fixed the age of Confirmation in the new Diocese of Pennsacola-Tallahasee at age seven. My successor when I was transferred to the Diocese of Corpus Christi in 1983 moved the age of Confirmation back to somewhere in the High School years.
When I became Bishop of Corpus Christi I moved the age of Confirmation to the age of discretion, age seven, and it stayed there until I retired and then my successor moved it back into the High School years, where it remains to this day.
In both Pensacola and in Corpus Christi there are many active-duty military families who suffer from the chaos in the Church in the United States. Many of them are transferred every two years and as they move from diocese to diocese they encounter a bewildering variety of ages specified by candidates for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
It is for all of the above reason that I write “Bravo” to Archbishop Aquilo and every other bishop that has the courage to follow Canon Law in the absence of a policy established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
– Bishop Rene Henry Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi