Children in the Archdiocese of Denver will begin to receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Communion in the same ceremony, which is a restoration of the original order of the Sacraments of Initiation.
CNA/EWTN is reporting on changes being made by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver, Colorado, who recently announced a five-year plan that will help parishes begin to implement the changes which are already in effect in some locations and bearing much fruit.
“In an increasingly secular world, the reality is this: the souls of our children are the battleground. As the shepherd of the Archdiocese of Denver, I must do everything I can to help those who form children win that battle,” he explained in his pastoral letter “Saints Among Us” which was released May 24.
“The world needs saints. Even as our society becomes more distant from faith and more forgetful of God, it still hungers for joyful witnesses who have been transformed by Christ,” he explained. “At the same time, new generations of Catholics need grace to sustain them in a non-Christian environment.”
Originally, confirmation was part of a “continuous rite of initiation” that led up to reception of the Eucharist. While still the practice in the Eastern Catholic churches, the sacraments were separated in the West after the fifth century when it became too difficult for bishops to travel to all parishes in their dioceses to baptize and confirm all at once.
Today’s custom of receiving First Communion as a second grader and then receiving confirmation later, is a recent practice of the Church. Bishop Aquila believes the placement of confirmation after first Communion “only muddied the primacy of the Eucharist as the completion of initiation into the Church and the lifelong nourishment of the relationship established with the Trinity and the Church in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation,” he explained when making the changes in the diocese of Fargo in 2002.
This order will make available every sacramental grace the Church has to offer to children who have reached the age of reason, which is vitally important for a Christian child who must live in a world that has become increasing secular and hostile to people of faith.
“The efficacy of the sacrament [of confirmation] depends on one thing, the condition of the soul and whether or not it is in a state of grace,” explains Thomas K. Sullivan, Director of Operations and TV producer for Women of Grace® who is the author of Called to Knighthood: The Sacrament of Confirmation in the Kingdom Family of God and an international speaker on the subject.
“Prior to the age of seven, a child is not culpable for sin and therefore is in the perfect state to receive the maximum grace of the sacrament. When they reach the age of reason and are thereafter able to be mortally wounded by sin, they will now have the strength of the sacrament of confirmation to help them.”
In the parishes where the sacramental order has been restored, Archbishop Aquila says he’s had enough positive feedback from parents to convince him that it was the right move.
He hopes to have all parishes on board by the year 2020 so that confirmation will no longer be the “sacrament of farewell” as Pope Francis regretfully called it, but rather “a profound encounter with each person of the Holy Trinity.”
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