Bye Bye to the Sacrament of Farewell

This week, the National Catholic Register reported that the Archdiocese of Denver has decided to re-order the Sacraments of Christian Initiation to the order set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) by placing Confirmation after Baptism but before 1st Holy Communion. Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila told the Register, “The theology on the order of the sacraments of initiation is clear, and through my many experiences as both a parish pastor and a bishop, I knew that this was the right decision to make …. the decision to restore confirmation to its original place is motivated by my desire to help the people of the Archdiocese of Denver reach heaven.”
I have always found the debate regarding the order of initiating sacraments interesting. This is probably attributed to the fact that, unlike most Catholics in the United States, I entered the church in the Eastern Rite, and was therefore confirmed moments after baptism, as an infant. Over the past 30 years, I have observed the confirmation process with family members in both the Eastern and Western Rites. I tend to agree with the Archdiocese of Denver that the order of sacraments is important and restoring the historical order is the right decision.
Many young Catholics today view Confirmation as a coming of age ritual, marking it an end of formal religious instruction and the beginning of an exit from the church. Perhaps part of the reason is that by observing the wrong sacramental order we have inadvertently accentuated Confirmation as the most important sacrament rather than the Eucharist. Think about the preparation for 1st Holy Communion, it’s a fairly short affair which is followed by preparation for Confirmation which involves years of educational preparation including service hours. Is it any wonder why youth view Confirmation as the summit of their formation – even worse a Sacrament that is earned? Perhaps by restoring the proper order of Sacraments the Eucharist will be viewed as the source and summit of our Christian life and Confirmation will no longer be the sacrament of farewell.

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