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Designing Your Calendar for 2012-2013
Part 2

By Joyce Stolberg

The same Holy Spirit who inspired the design of the lectionary also inspired our catechetical system. Therefore, lectionary-based catechesis operates in synergy with systematic instruction when sound planning is applied. Before formally inaugurating your RCIA process, prepare a calendar specifically for the year and liturgical cycle in which you are teaching. Part Two of the supplement to the Catechist and Directors' Edition of God Calls You by Name provides a general guide for aligning topics with liturgical readings. Pages S-37 through S-52 help correlate the lessons for initial evangelization and catechesis in New Beginnings with the spring and summer liturgies. Pages S-53 through S-82 assist in correlating the lesson plans in God Calls You by Name with the fall, winter, and spring liturgies. Presented here is a sample calendar, which can be used for formal catechetical instruction from the fall of 2012 through mystagogia of 2013. This calendar begins in Year B and moves to Year C on the first Sunday of Advent.

 Part 1Designing Your Calendar for Autumn 2012

Part 2 Designing Your Calendar for Advent and Christmas 2012-2013

Part 3 Designing Your Calendar for Lent 2013

Calendar for 2012-2013: Advent and Christmas Seasons

When the catechetical year began in Year B, the readings of Year C are now introduced.

Enhance the experience of these liturgical seasons visually, emotively and intellectually by blessing an Advent wreath and displaying symbols of Advent. The theology concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary is an integral part of the Creed and of the theology of the Incarnation of Jesus. The whole season of Advent is the medium that conveys the Church’s teachings concerning Mary. During Advent, reverence the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her chaste relationship with Joseph while eagerly anticipating the Incarnation and birth of Jesus. December celebrates Mary's own origin in the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Carefully distinguish between the Immaculate Conception (Mary herself was conceived of her parents, Anna and Joachim, free from original sin) and the Incarnation (Jesus was conceived within the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit). Use readings from this feast. Emphasize Mary's privileged place in Salvation History during this season. The presence of John the Baptist in the readings presents an excellent opportunity to begin instruction on the sacraments, which ideally should be completed prior to the Rite of Election. Sacraments are presented in Part 4 of God Calls You By Name. Be aware that you have a somewhat compressed time frame this year between a late Advent and an early Easter.

Sunday Date Sunday Readings Suggested Topic

Dec. 2, 2012: 1st Sun. Advent

Session Date, Time

 

Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25

1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Sacraments in General
GCYBN, Ch. 11, CCC #1113- 1144

Dec. 8, 2012: Immaculate Conception
(Holy Day of Obligation)

Consult diocese for readings at specific Mass times when a Holy Day falls on a Saturday.

Breaking Open the Word

Dec. 9, 2012: 2nd Sun. Advent Session Date, Time

 

Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 126

Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11

Luke 3:1-6

Baptism, Confirmation
GCYBN, Ch. 12, CCC #1210-1321

 

Dec. 16, 2012: 3rd Sun. Advent

Session Date, Time

 

Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Isaiah 12

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 3:10-18

Marian Dogmas, Incarnation, Redemption, GCYBN, GCYBN, Ch. 6
Ch 16 - 18, CCC #963-975, Gospels, see suggestions below.

Dec. 23, 2012: 4th Sun. Advent

Micah 5:1-4a; Psalm 80

Hebrews 10:5-10

Luke 1:39-45

INCARNATION, REDEMPTION
See suggestions below.

 

Note: If the third Sunday of Advent leads into your last session before Christmas, break from presenting Sacraments. Prepare a Christmas reflection; dwell on the sacred mystery of the Incarnation and its intimate relationship with Redemption. Teach Mary's place and privileges in Salvation History from Chapter 6, including her Immaculate Conception and Assumption. This may also be an excellent time to introduce the Rosary and some Marian devotions from God Calls You by Name, Chapter 18. Describe devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast is December 12, and prayerfully reflect on Scriptures presented during the Christmas season: each Mass tells its own facet of the total Christmas story. Introduce St. Joseph, even though he is not prominent in Year C readings. Relax and talk about Christmas traditions. Give more weight to the refreshments this week! Encourage children to participate in live nativity scenes where available; these kinesthetic learning events will seal the meaning of Christmas in their memories. Since the very doctrines of the Incarnation and Redemption are embedded in pious art and symbolism, incorporate some elements of Catholic art and devotions from Chapters 16 through 18.

This year, the 4th Sunday of Advent falls on December 23, a date very close to Christmas. Scheduling a session following the 4th Sunday of Advent is clearly impractical. Prepare for Christmas after the third week of Advent. This process design usually provides a break before Christmas and between Christmas and New Year.

Sunday Date Sunday Readings Suggested Topic

Dec. 25, 2012 : CHRISTMAS DAY

(Holy Day of Obligation)

Christmas falls on Sunday this year.

 

Christmas Vigil (evening)
Mass....................................Is. 62:1-5; Acts 13: 16-17, 22-25; Mt. 1:1-25

Midnight Mass.....................Is. 9:1-6; Ti. 2:11-14; Lk. 2:1-14

Mass at Dawn……………………Is. 62:11-12; Ti. 3:4-7; Lk. 2:15-20

Mass of Christmas Day……...Is. 52: 7-10; Heb. 1:1-6; Jn. 1:1-18

 

 

Note: Each Christmas Mass proclaims its own facet of the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption accomplished for us by Jesus Christ. Listed above are the four sets of readings for Christmas Masses. We reserve seats for our RCIA participants at the Midnight Mass; catechumens and candidates remain for the whole Mass, and are reminded not to receive Communion. Parish circumstances may vary. This year is unique: because Christmas and the Feast of Mary, Mother of God both fall on Sundays, Mass attendance this year is required only once per week during this season of celebration; however, stress the nature of the obligation to attend Mass on Christmas and the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, as well as on Sunday, every year.

Sunday Date Sunday Readings Suggested Topic

Holy Family Sunday

Dec 30, 2012

1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28 or Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 84

1 John 3:1-2, 21-24 or Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:41-52

 

Jan. 1, 2013: Mary Mother of God
(Holy Day of Obligation)

Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21

 

 

Jan. 6, 2013: Epiphany of the Lord
Session Date, Time

Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72;

Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6;

Matthew 2:1-12

Holy Eucharist, GCYBN, Ch. 13,
CCC # 1322-1421, John, Ch. 6, 13-15

Reflection (see below)

 

The feast of Epiphany is the major Christmas celebration for our brethren in Eastern Rite Traditions. Some Hispanic children receive gifts from the Three Wise Men instead of from Santa Claus. Jan. 13, 2013, The Baptism of the Lord, both marks the close of the Christmas season and the first day of Ordinary Time. At your first session following the Christmas break, reflect on the experience of attending Catholic Advent and Christmas season liturgies, perhaps for the first time. Trace the life of Christ, both God and man, from the Gospel readings used in the liturgies from the Fourth Sunday of Advent through the scenes from his public life presented in the early weeks of Ordinary Time. The Gospels are the source documents to which we trace the origin of the sacraments. The sacraments apply the ministry of Jesus to us through the priest who stands in the person of Christ.

Sunday Date Sunday Readings Suggested Topic

Jan. 13, 2013: Baptism of the Lord (End Christmas season, begin Ordinary Time) Session Date, Time

Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Psalm 104;

Titus 2: 11-14, 3:4-7;

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Holy Orders, GCYBN, Ch. 15
CCC #1533-1600

 

Ordinary Time: between Christmas Season and Lent

Continue presenting the sacraments. The personal healing, forgiving and affirming touch and call of Jesus in the Gospels is extended to us through the sacraments of the Church. The Gospels for the following Sundays generally present scenes from the early public life of Jesus Christ, including the call of his disciples and the Beatitudes. Consider inviting speakers who are experienced in each respective sacrament. For example, if single, you likely know the theology and Church discipline concerning marriage as well as anyone, but perhaps inviting a married deacon or another parish couple to talk about marriage would contribute the authenticity of personal experience. If married, collaborate with your spouse on this teaching. Consider asking your pastor to teach Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick and Ordination. The following are topic suggestions, which will require adjusting according to the availability of your speakers.

Sunday Date Sunday Readings Suggested Topic

Jan. 20, 2013: 2nd Sun. Ord. Time Session Date, Time

 

Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

John 2:1-11

Matrimony, GCYBN, Ch. 15
CCC # 1601-1666

 

Jan. 27, 2013: 3rd Sun. Ord. Time

Session Date, Time

 

Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10

Psalm 19

1 Corinthians 12:12-30

Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Reconciliation, GCYBN, Ch. 14
CCC #1422-1498

Feb. 3, 2013: 4th Sun. Ord. Time

Session Date, Time

 

Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Luke 4:21-30

Anointing of the Sick, GCYBN Ch. 14
CCC #1499-1532

 

Retreat # 2: Date, Time, Place

 

 

See 2nd retreat plan, GCYBN, S-87- S-94.

Feb. 10, 2013: 5th Sun. Ord. Time Session Date, Time

 

Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8

Psalm 138

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

Spend time on discernment, choice to proceed to Rites and entrance into the Church, Precepts, Ch. 10 Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving

 



Good Seed in Rich Soil --- the Second Half of Summer

by Joyce Stolberg

Lessons 11 through 15 of "New Beginnings" are designed to mentor the deepening of a personal relationship with Jesus, cultivate Christian virtue, nourish growth in the spiritual life, and lead toward a harvest of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. These lessons vibrate with the rhythm of nature in summertime and are supported by readings in all three liturgical years. They may be utilized in a retreat design to prepare for the Rite of Acceptance into the Catechumenate. If you are directing an ongoing group using "New Beginnings" this summer, use the backdrop of the natural growing season to facilitate the spiritual growth of your inquirers and catechumens. Yet life goes on. If absences can be anticipated because of scheduled vacations, perhaps a retreat day or campout can compress several lessons and culminate in a joyful recreational event shared by catechumens, sponsors, neophytes and families. The whole point at this time of year is to nourish growth free from the pressure of making immediate preparations for the major rites. Flexibility and creativity are keys to a successful summer catechetical program.

However, summer is not always so benign; this season has brought pain to many areas of our country. While we in Colorado Springs experienced a literal "trial by fire" when the Waldo Canyon blaze erupted into some of our western neighborhoods, many of you in the Midwest and on the East Coast were sweltering in the heat and suffering losses due to floods. While our Colorado Springs residents sifted through the ashes of their homes, they expressed heartfelt gratitude to firefighters who saved their lives. Although we do not understand why God permits such suffering, hopefully, we learn from these natural disasters to value our precious Faith, families, and communities above material things.

    In the Gospel of St. Mark during July of this year, we see Jesus preaching the kingdom of heaven and teaching his disciples to carry on his work. In August we return to John's teaching on the Eucharist. In October we begin a year dedicated to "New Evangelization." The very use of the term, "New Evangelization," implies an acknowledgment that Catholic formation in the past decades has generally been inadequate for the task of catechizing large sectors of the Catholic population. Many of today's Catholics have been influenced more by the prevailing mores of secular society than by the teachings of Jesus Christ. A new effort must be made to catechize both children and adults appropriately in keeping with the magisterium of the Catholic Church. Those of us on RCIA teams are and have been at the forefront of this effort. When RCIA processes are conducted well with attention both to spiritual formation and doctrinal content, the neophytes are often admired for their solid grasp of the Catholic Faith. By fulfilling our mission to catechize within the RCIA process, we build up the Church, the body of Christ, a few living stones at a time.

Nourishing Seedlings with "New Beginnings"

While summertime generally brings relaxation into our RCIA schedule, it does not bring a total hiatus to all process activities. If we planted the seeds of Faith and spirituality using the "New Beginnings" lessons in the Catechist Directors Edition of God Calls You by Name with a new group of inquirers during Pascaltide, we need to facilitate their growth in some informal manner during the summer months. In decades past, we here in Colorado may have used the excuse, as one pastor phrased it, "They are Coloradans." (This customarily meant that we expected them to enjoy the outdoors in the high country.) The real issue is that most working persons in developed countries take a vacation and unwind during the summer months; persons who love the "great outdoors" are very likely to be engaging in open-air activities. The USCCB has been challenging us to develop and implement a year-round catechumenate: this continually nurtures participants' progress in the spiritual life in a flexible manner adapted to a less formal schedule.

"New Beginnings" is designed to bend with the breezes of summer while nourishing and supporting your inquirers and catechumens' spiritual development. It contains a series of 15 lessons: the first 10, while designed to complement the liturgies for Easter and the following weeks, may be used to evangelize and teach basic level inquiry at any time. The subsection, "Good Seed in Rich Soil" is designed to encourage growth in Christian life by pondering the Gospels that present the teachings of Jesus through the summer parables. It discusses the virtues and vices, and presents the greatest prayer of all, the "Our Father" as Jesus himself taught it.

These lessons may be repeated as new inquirers join a group; several lessons may be compressed to form a longer session once or twice a month, or they may be grouped to form a retreat/outing which combines instruction with an experience of the wonder of God's presence in nature. Your touch of genius lies in harnessing the very casualness of summertime to promote and nourish the seedlings of spiritual life outside the confines of a formal schedule, without worrying about "covering" specific materials and doctrines that will be developed formally at a later time.

Summer Challenge

by Joyce Stolberg

As we round out our Mystagogia period of the RCIA process and plan a summertime event or two for our neophytes, those of us engaged in catechesis normally take a well-deserved break to refresh ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The forecast for this summer, however, calls for forceful action and challenges us to the very core of our Catholic identity. The ancient catechumenate developed underground, literally and figuratively, in the Roman culture when Christians were faced with martyrdom for refusing to comply with unjust civil laws, which required them to worship pagan idols. Converted to Christ and transformed through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, those neophytes chose to be put to death rather than venerate Roman gods. Like our ancient Christian counterparts, we are citizens of our country, yet we are being called to stand up against unjust laws that violate our basic religious liberty. St. Augustine tells us, "An unjust law is no law at all."

In our country today the most basic religious liberties are under relentless attack. Read "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty" by the United States bishops' ad hoc committee for religious liberty (USCCB website). Our extensive Catholic network of services, including all our hospitals and charitable organizations as well as educational institutions, are being required to pay for specific types of healthcare, notably "preventative services" which include birth control, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization --- all totally free of charge or copayments and all of which militate against our Catholic moral teachings. Note: these services are preventing --- not disease --- but new life! We must not comply! Services which prevent or cure actual disease come with those high co-pays so familiar to most of us. Previously enacted laws requiring adoptive agencies to place babies with same-sex or unmarried couples have already forced some of our Catholic adoption services to close their doors. Immigration laws in Alabama and elsewhere have forbidden the Church to provide fundamental sacramental services such as baptisms and confessions, as well as basic charitable services to undocumented immigrants. This is persecution!

This ad hoc committee on religious liberty has called for a "Fortnight for Freedom" from June 21 to July 4. Activities will include catechetical events to which we as RCIA leaders may be called to contribute, times of prayer and fasting, and special public action occasions. Watch for announcements in your local Catholic media. We are strongly urged to attend local activities, and we will likely be called to lead some of them. We can also encourage our neophytes to take part. Perhaps some of you are currently on planning committees within your diocese. This is part and parcel of our call to be lay members of Christ's body, the Church. Vatican Council II, in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium no. 30-34) reminds us, "But by reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will. They live in the world, that is, they are engaged in each and every work and business of the earth and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life which, as it were, constitute their very existence. There they are called by God that, being led by the Spirit to the Gospel, they may contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties (Lumen Gentium no. 31)." Through Baptism and Confirmation we are all appointed to assist in the building up of the Church and to engage in consecrating the whole world to God. In other words, we are to transform and leaven every aspect of society. If we remain merely a part of the lump, our society will be destroyed by aggressive secularism.

John Winthrop, founder of the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony, while still on the ship Arabella en route to America, wrote in 1630, "For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world." Through their daring to create a new society the Pilgrims, Puritans, and subsequent immigrants to the United States have created a country in which religious liberty has enjoyed an unprecedented opportunity to grow and flourish. This precious religious liberty has, in its turn, enlivened the Church's own understanding of religious freedom, as expressed in the documents of Vatican II. Yet religious liberty is fragile: unless we, the beneficiaries of this patrimony, guard it and energetically defend it from godless attacks in our time, we will be handing down to our children and our children's children a Church which has again been driven underground by the forces of an anti-religious secular society.

 Scrambled Sacraments: Baptism and Confirmation
in the Roman Catholic Church

By Joyce Stolberg

Why are children who come into the Catholic Church through the RCIA (RCIC) process receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation as young as age seven or eight while children who have been Catholic all their lives must wait until their teen age years? Children becoming Catholic through RCIA (RCIC) receive Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion in one complex integrated ceremony at the Easter Vigil following one scant year of catechesis and sacramental preparation. Some inevitably say, "It isn't fair!" Those of us who have been involved with RCIA, especially those who have directed and catechized children of primary and middle school age have, in all likelihood, encountered friction, challenges, and questions from other catechists, parents, and "cradle Catholic" children whose Confirmation was delayed until their high school years.

Before considering our RCIA process, let us take a brief look at the standard preparation program in use in recent decades for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Although it is now changing in some dioceses, the process has likely involved a mandatory two full years of participation in high school Catholic catechesis, prior reception of First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion, participation in parish youth groups, community service, retreats, and other events. We have placed an emphasis on Confirmation as a "sacrament of Christian adulthood" which requires them to make a conscious decision to live their lives as Catholics. After requiring all this effort, catechists must try to convince the young people that they cannot "earn" their Confirmation: the sacrament is a gift of grace. Is it any wonder that Confirmation, which should normally form an integral part of the Rite of Christian Initiation, has become the "sacrament of exit" for many of today's young Catholics?

 Any attempt at resolving this anomaly must include a penetrating study of the history of the Sacrament of Confirmation. In the apostolic era of the early Church, no separate Sacrament analogous to our present-day Sacrament of Confirmation was conferred explicitly. Persons were simply baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Newly baptized Christians received the seal of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit at the time of Baptism, which was a simple ceremony often offered on request after some instruction, as in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:38). St. Paul often described Baptism as a death to the old self and a rising to new life in Jesus Christ: the baptized Christian was already living in the resurrected Christ and was manifesting the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He also saw it as incorporation into the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ.

 By the second century, lengthy instruction in preparation for Baptism climaxed in a constellation of initiation rites, full of symbolic richness and ceremony adapted to the Mediterranean cultures of the time (incorporating extensive use of baths and oils). Repeated outbreaks of persecutions necessitated prolonged catechumenates which included elaborate pre-baptismal ceremonies. Documents describing these ceremonies as well as Baptism itself include the "Didache," the "Apostolic Tradition" of Hippolytus, and the testimony of St. Justin Martyr. Following the baptismal rites (performed in a separate area to protect modesty) the newly baptized Christians processed triumphantly through the assembly and were led to the Bishop, who laid hands on them and welcomed them into the community. At this point, a peculiar development occurred in the liturgy of Rome but not elsewhere: it marked the beginning of Confirmation as a separate sacrament (CCC 1291). Instead of simply laying hands on them the Bishop of Rome also anointed their foreheads with oil in the form of a cross and prayed that they would be worthy to receive the Holy Spirit.i Though intended to give the Bishop a share in the baptismal rites, this action marked the beginning of a recognizable Confirmation ceremony while maintaining the integrity and unity of the initiation rites. Yet the small beginnings of this separation had immense consequences.

 Constantine promulgated the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. giving Christians the freedom to worship; in 381 A.D., Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the empire, calling it the "Catholic" or universal Church.ii These major events ushered in an era in which Christianity was popularized and its demands were relaxed; even greater waves of people became Christian through the catechumenate and sacramental processes. Many outlying churches sprang up under the authority of a single Bishop: baptismal ceremonies took place with only a presbyter (priest) and not the Bishop, presiding at the liturgy. New Christians, including infants and small children, were admitted at that time to the Eucharist immediately following Baptism. How and when would the Sacrament of Confirmation be conferred under these circumstances? While the Eastern churches delegated confirmation to the priests, the Western Roman Church reserved the sacrament to the Bishop. Newly baptized Christians were presented to the Bishop on the occasion of his visit following their Baptism. This solution launched Confirmation as a distinctly separate sacrament.

 The spread of Christianity throughout central and northern Europe and the decline of the Roman empire further separated the Sacrament of Baptism from the Sacrament of Confirmation. As the Church organized far-flung territories of Europe, a single Bishop would be responsible for organizing a diocese covering an area roughly equivalent to a whole modern European country. For example, St. Patrick converted Ireland, and St. Boniface evangelized Germany. Consider the state of travel in those centuries: it might be years before the Bishop could visit a given town or parish, and some sees remained vacant for years. During this time, because the whole adult population was Christian, infant Baptism rather than adult Baptism became the norm. Children received the Eucharist before they were confirmed. This is how the Sacraments of Initiation first became scrambled --- by a perfect storm of historical circumstances.

 With the organization of medieval society, the hierarchical Church became more established and children were admitted to Confirmation when they reached "the age of discretion" (variously interpreted), administered by the Bishop during his visitations. At this time, due to changing attitudes toward the Eucharist (some of these issues were explained in last month's newsletter), reception of Holy Communion by the laity became less frequent and small children were not admitted to Holy Communion until they reached the above-mentioned age of discretion. Thus children were likely to have been confirmed by the Bishop shortly before receiving First Holy Communion, restoring the appropriate order of the Sacraments of Initiation but with separate ceremonies. Interestingly enough however, in Spain and in Spanish speaking territories including Mexico, the custom of presenting infants and small children to the Bishop for Confirmation was maintained and persists to this day.

 The Sacrament of Confirmation in the Western Catholic Church always depended on the ability of the Bishop of the diocese to visit his parishes. In colonial America, reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation was extremely sporadic until Bishop John Carroll, the first Bishop assigned to America, was named head of the Diocese of Baltimore in 1789. Even then, vast territories combined with poor transportation made Confirmation difficult to administer. This led to an accidental, rather than an intentional, inversion of the Sacraments of Initiation in America.

 The proper order of the Sacraments of Initiation was again scrambled intentionally in modern times, when the custom developed in 19th century France of postponing Confirmation until the age of 12, after the reception of First Holy Communion. In the early 1900s, Pope St. Pius X directed that little children be allowed to receive Communion as soon as they reached the age of reason, at approximately the age of seven. The Sacrament of Penance was taught in the process of preparation for Holy Communion. Confirmation was received some time after Holy Communion. Thus it has been essentially in the comparatively recent history of the Church that the order of the sacraments: Baptism, Penance or Reconciliation, Eucharist, followed by Confirmation has been intentionally institutionalized.

 In order to justify this shift in sacramental order, a new "theology" was developed, which identifies Confirmation as the sacrament of Christian adulthood, whereby the confirmed becomes "a strong and perfect Christian and soldier of Jesus Christ." (New Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 4. Page 149). Although the delay in administering Confirmation essentially resulted both from accidents of Western Church history and from deliberate choice, this "theology" has been used to justify its postponement.

 Immediately prior to Vatican II, the accepted age for Confirmation in America was about 10 years, while penance and First Holy Communion were received at approximately age 7. In the Catholic school system at the time, this generally corresponded to first or second grade for Penance and First Holy Communion (depending on whether the child reached his/her seventh birthday by May of that year) and fifth grade for Confirmation (depending on the Bishop's schedule).

 The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the first document promulgated by Vatican II states, “The Rite of Confirmation is to be revised also so that the intimate connection of this sacrament with the whole of Christian initiation may more clearly appear” (71). Ironically, a paradoxical praxis was developed for cradle Catholic children even as the decree was implemented successfully within the RCIA rites. Instead of being reinstated as a Sacrament of Initiation, Confirmation was further postponed until mid-adolescence, apparently to reinforce the "adult Christian" concept. In keeping with this strange theology, some very adult demands have been placed on adolescent candidates. According to some guidelines (now changing), he/she must be a high school sophomore or older, have attended religion classes prior to instruction, then must progress through a two-year preparation period during which he/she studies, makes retreats, experiences various forms of prayer, and performs a required number of hours of community service. In some parishes, an interview with the pastor is required to determine the candidate's readiness for Confirmation.iii Yet their catechists are required to convince them that they cannot "earn" or "achieve" their Confirmation! All these demands are placed by the institutional Church on the adolescent at a time in the person's growth (according to Erik Erikson's developmental theory) when his/her primary developmental task is to break away from parents, establishment, institution, and authority in order to establish his/her own unique identity. Is it any wonder that a significant percentage of these adolescents overreact by breaking away from the institutional Church with the values and demands that it represents? Confirmation, essentially a Sacrament of Initiation has been deviously dubbed "the sacrament of exit" by significant numbers of today's young adults.

 As they progress through their complex process, our cradle Catholic adolescent Confirmation candidates must watch as our RCIA teams present children as young as seven or eight for Baptism, Confirmation, and first Eucharist, at our Easter vigils year after year, following as little as eight months of catechesis and immediate preparation. How do we convince our cradle Catholic adolescent Confirmation candidates (who could very likely be serving at the Easter vigil ceremony) that this dichotomy in praxis is fair? Catechists must exert their best effort to convince our cradle Catholic children that the timing of their reception of the Sacraments of Initiation corresponds with significant milestones in their human development. Their Church congregation sees them grow and develop, and eagerly anticipates celebrating these sacraments with them --- and we must celebrate exuberantly! The grace of God soars way above and beyond the limits of what may humanly be considered "fair"; it knows no limit or category, but is poured out in overflowing abundance. Jesus Christ himself says to each child through the sacramental rites, "Come to the table" and to each adolescent, "My beloved son/daughter, you are growing in wisdom, age and grace!"

 But sometimes our human ways are not fair, and they often require correction. The revised 1983 code of Canon law does not favor the practice of postponing Confirmation until mid adolescence. Canon law lists the sacraments in the following order: Baptism, Confirmation, Most Holy Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. Moreover, the only requirements for Confirmation listed there include prior Baptism without prior Confirmation, proper dispositions if one has the use of reason, and renewal of baptismal vows. Parents and pastors are urged to present the faithful for Confirmation at the proper time, specified as "about the age of discretion" (Canons 889-891).

What, then, can be done to unscramble these sacraments and restore them to their proper order? The abovementioned decree of Vatican II has been implemented well for adults and children receiving Confirmation within the RCIA process. The Pope has given authority to the national or regional conferences of bishops to establish the age at which Confirmation is administered; the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has chosen to give diocesan Bishops considerable leeway in determining and potentially revising the preferred age for administering Confirmation to cradle Catholic children. Some have lowered the age for receiving Confirmation to seven years in their dioceses, administering it prior to the reception of First Holy Communion. This affirms the nature of Confirmation as a Sacrament of Initiation, eliminating the paradoxical circumstances described above. Making this young age a general norm would eliminate the hardships inherent in our system of preparation for adolescent Confirmation and also provide our Catholic children with the benefit of the graces conferred by Confirmation during their growing childhood and adolescent years when they face significant and unprecedented challenges.

 Perhaps other sacramental blessings could be conferred on our adolescent Catholic youth which truly honor and sanctify their coming of age and assuming adult roles of service within the Church. This is already being done through the promotion of the chastity pledge and giving of the chastity ring. This ceremony truly requires an adult level commitment to abstain from sexual activity until (or unless) receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony. Adolescents can be initiated into liturgical ministries, receiving training to become ministers of the Eucharist (at an appropriate age), lectors, or cantors according to their individual talents; commissioning into these ministries of service can be highly celebrated. There are special blessings integrated into the liturgy of the Mass which honor Eagle Scout achievements and high school graduations: these can be occasions for affirming our youth and celebrating their accomplishments. In certain cultures, the celebration of the 15th birthday can be an occasion for the renewal of baptismal vows, the pledge of chastity, and acceptance of Christian adult responsibilities. These honors are intensely anticipated and truly earned; they encourage ongoing adherence to the Catholic Faith throughout adulthood and into the next generation.

 As RCIA catechists and directors, we celebrate Baptism, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion, launching both adults and catechetical age children under our care into the Catholic Church with upmost jubilation. During the next catechetical year, these neophyte children must integrate into their own age group and grade level with cradle Catholic children who must wait until adolescence before completing their initiation with reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Most children are resilient and will take these differences in stride, however, this dual system of initiation will continue to create tensions unless we as a united team of parish catechists actively work together to help children understand that sacraments are privileged gifts of grace which make Christ present in their lives.

 i This change was mentioned in The Catholic Sacraments by Joseph Martos (1984) and described more fully in Gift of Community Baptism and Confirmation by Thomas Marsh (1985): both published by Michael Glazier Inc. Wilmington Delaware

 ii It has often been affirmed that Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire: this is technically incorrect. The Edict of Milan was the Edict of Toleration; it gave Christians the freedom to worship openly. Within the next 2-3 generations Christianity gained in popularity until Theodosius made it the official religion of the empire in 381 A.D., calling it the Catholic or universal church. We might also note here that Theodosius suppressed the ancient Olympic games at this time, because they contained inherent elements of worship to the pagan "deities" as well as offenses against Christian modesty.

 iii Parish Handbook for Parents (parish name withheld: examine your parish guidebook.)


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