Liverpool restores early confirmation

The archdiocese of Liverpool has announced  a liturgical reform: the sacraments of initiation will henceforth be administered in the traditional order – baptism, confirmation, eucharist. This traditional order is preferred quite strongly in the liturgical documents and legislation of the Catholic Church, but there is  some leeway.

“From September 2012 in this Archdiocese, children who have been baptised will follow that same order.   Those aged eight by the first of September 2012 will be invited to receive Confirmation and First Communion in the days between Ascension Sunday and the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) in 2013, and the same pattern will be followed each year after that.”


  1. I think this is a very wise move. Having, at one time in my life, been on the music staff of a very large, wealthy parish, I can attest to the folly of confirmation. These were young teens 14-16. Probably two thrids didn’t want to be there, and they let you know it! One priest referrred to confirmation as “graduating from church” and that the retention rate was probably about one thrid of the total number of kids going through the program, if that. Enough said, this is a wise move.

  2. I agree that it is a wise and appropriate change. I’m curious, though, as to “the whole package” which I hope accompanies the change. What is the plan to make – as sure as possible – that “graduating from church” simply doesn’t happen at an earlier age? It would be a shame to “lose” the 8 year olds (and their parents) until they return for marriage. Without a thoroughly developed program for all ages, though, it is quite conceivable.

  3. We’ve gone the other way in the Archdiocese of Ottawa. Kids used to be confirmed in grade 2 and now it’s going to be grade 6.

    1. Confirmation at any age is no guarantee children won’t be “graduating from Church”. I don’t see the point of it.

      There are children in my confirmation class–we were all around 12 or 13 at the time– who are now active in the Unitarian, Presbyterian, and Quaker faiths and have been since their late teens.

  4. I will say this about being confirmed at the age of 10 – I left the ceremony convinced that I was obliged to convert at least 1 non-Catholic. I was a bit worried, but figured I had a while to work on that.

  5. Sing a Te Deum, at least an Anthem. A bishop who is acting as the chief liturgist of a diocese – with a competency beyond lace, damask mitre and a magna cappa. I hope a trend will ensue. Not only is such order the norm of Christian initiation, it is just a mistake pedagogically and catechetically to try to engage youths as turbulent teens when MTV is more formative than their CCD class and a confirmation retreat. Confirmation will stop being the “opt out clause” it has become and the pastorally motivated can focus on normal Christian nurturing to see young adults and what sense of Christian identity they might have through the turbulent years of identity formation.

  6. Converts to Catholicism are functionally chrismated. Converts without any Christian sacraments are baptized, confirmed, and offered the Eucharist sequentially. I well know that the custom of separating baptism and confirmation for those baptized as infants is deeply ingrained in the western Christian traditions. Still, perhaps a cognitive dissonance exists between the convert experience of immediate initiation at the Easter Vigil and the progressive initiation of “cradle Catholics”. Eastern Christians have never known this cognitive dissonance. I wonder if one tacit reason for the vexing question of when a cradle Catholic should be confessed, confirmed, and first offered holy communion resides in the way in which the Latin Church offers the initiatory sacraments differently to infant and adult converts.

  7. Excellent! I was just discussing this issue in class on Monday. I have copied the link for the students.

  8. Here in the Diocese of Salt Lake we’ve been investigating the possibility of lowering the age of confirmation. Certainly restoring it to (in my opinion) its proper order emphasizes the Eucharist as the source and summit of our life.

  9. I find it interesting that on his blog Fr. Zuhlsdorf, in reporting this story, speaks of “reversing” the order of the sacraments, while on this blog it says “restoring” the order of the sacraments. Both, of course, can be true statements, but I wonder if the difference betrays different attitudes toward tradition, liturgy, theology etc.

    1. Actually, the first paragraph of the Herald’s story uses the word “reversing”, so I imagine that is where Fr. Z picked it up. He, in fact, uses the word “restored” in his intro to the post.

  10. Archbishop Kelly did a similar thing in the Diocese of Salford just over 20 years ago. I wonder if any review of the success, or not, of this reform was carried out.

  11. I am always happy to hear about the restoration of the order of the sacraments of initiation. Delaying confirmation distorts its meaning, and more importantly it distorts the meaning of Eucharist as the high point of initiation.

    There are some other important points made in the report:
    “At the same time the way children are prepared for these sacraments will change….they will help the parents to hand on their own faith to their children, fulfilling the privileges and responsibilities expressed in the Rite of Baptism….These changes are meant to help us understand that sacraments are gifts of God’s grace, that parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith, and that we are called to get to know Jesus better throughout our life’s journey.”

    This is a bold statement that points us toward a better vision that calls for the centrality of adult (parent) catechesis, while at the same time it may rid us of the idea that the celebration of these sacraments is a matter of school grade. These celebrations are a matter of readiness – family readiness for mission.

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