As some of you may know, I’m a columnist for Commonweal magazine. My most recent column concerned the age of Confirmation. I am in favor of what Bishop Samuel Aquila of Denver and Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu are doing by lowering the age, and I make a couple of arguments in support of their decision. You can read the whole thing here.
The “age of confirmation” in the dioceses of the United States at present is 7 to 16. This isn’t a coherent vision, it’s an admission of failure to arrive at a coherent vision. I remember once being lectured by a representative of the Catechism office who claimed the question was “settled.” This is nonsense.
Pope Benedict in Sacramentum Caritatis encouraged bishops to study the question. He did not foreclose the option of a return to the traditional order. What he did, wisely I think, was to prioritize Eucharist.
Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation. In close collaboration with the competent offices of the Roman Curia, Bishops’ Conferences should examine the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically eucharistic direction, so that they can offer a reason for the hope within them in a way suited to our times (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). (Sac. Car. 18)
Pope Francis acknowledged the “experience of failure” of adolescent confirmation in an address he gave in Sardinia, calling it the “sacrament of goodbye.” He urged his audience of young people to trust Jesus even in the face of failure and to “put out into the deep”; he did not minimize or paper over the problem. Perhaps it is time for us to “cast our nets to the other side”?
As you’ll see in my Commonweal article, I think there are some critical issues at stake: most importantly, the role of Eucharist as the culmination of Christian initiation.
I look forward to continuing the conversation here at Pray Tell.