Dear Father | Reception of Confirmation deals with adolescent's readiness, relationship to parish community
The change in timing for the Sacrament of Confirmation came at the beginning of the 20th century. Pope St. Pius X lowered the age at which one may receive their First Communion from somewhere between the ages of 10-14 to around 7 years old. This change by the pope caused a pastoral change in most places, moving the time for Confirmation back until the time First Communion was traditionally given, somewhere between 10-14 years of age.
Some dioceses in the United States have undertaken steps to move the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation earlier to 8 years of age. The Archdiocese of St. Louis in 2009 conducted a study of what age to celebrate the sacrament in the document "Pastoral Guidelines for Celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation." This document instructs that any child baptized at birth or under the age of 7n should be confirmed sometime during their seventh- or eighth-grade year.
The rationale behind this position of the archdiocese rests on two considerations: the adolescent's readiness to receive the sacrament and the relationship of the parish community to the adolescent.
The human person at this stage in their life is ready to discard the things of childhood and begin to step into adulthood. With this change comes a desire to become more independent of authority, assert themselves and be accepted by the wider community. With this desire comes confusion, fear and the challenge to continually choose the Catholic way of life. This makes adolescence an apt time to receive the sacrament of Christian maturity and to more deeply receive the Advocate into their hearts.
At the same time, the adolescent is in need of a supportive community to help them transition from childhood to adulthood, particularly in their life of faith. This need is seen supplied for them in the parish community, highlighted especially by their parents, sponsors and catechists's witness and example to them.
This does not mean that God and the Church leaves those younger persons who desire God's grace empty handed. Rather, they, like the rest of the Christian community, should daily embark on the journey of a deeper conversion of life and open themselves up more to the graces available to them in the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist. Through daily prayer, they open themselves up to the particular graces and helps God wishes to give them at that particular moment. By doing these things, they will not only become holy themselves, but be ready to receive the fullness of the Spirit in Confirmation.
Father Mayo is associate pastor of St. Francis Borgia Parish in Washington. Send questions for a priest to: St. Louis Review, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis, MO 63119 or email email@example.com.
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