Tuesday, April 28, 2015


The Eastern Way, even with those in union with Rome, Holy Baptism:
Holy Chrismation or Confirmation, at the same ceremony:
First Holy Communion, at the same ceremony:

Ever since Vatican II and I suspect even before there have been calls by theologians and bishops that the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church (West) return to the proper order of the Sacraments of Initiation and that these be celebrated when a baby is baptized or any person of whatever age is baptized.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults returned the Sacraments of Initiation to its proper order and at the same celebration, usually the Easter Vigil.

Some dioceses have returned the proper order but not all at one time. For example a baby is baptized and then the bishop comes to the parish to celebrate First Holy Communion with the Sacrament of Confirmation at the same Mass. Is that too much for second graders?

The following letter is from the Bishop of Honolulu, Bishop Larry Silva,  and he is telling his diocese that the proper order of the Sacraments will become the norm in his diocese. Of course since they already live in paradise, they don't really need any sacraments!  Just kidding, but it looks as though Confirmation will be celebrated together with First Holy Communion.

I was confirmed in the pre-Vatican II days and for most of the Diocese of Savannah at that time it was the 4th grade. It made a great impression on me at that age and I still recall much of the ceremony but also the fear of being asked questions and being smacked on the cheek by the bishop's fists.

This is Bishop Silva's letter. He anticipates the fears that so many of us pastors and others have about loosing kids after they are confirmed. Meaning if we confirm them in the Second Grade, we won't have them again for any other youth formation programs:

Dear parents, priests, deacons, youth ministers, faith formation staff and Catholic school administrators,

I am writing this letter to invite you to take an active role by reading the articles regarding the plan to return the sacraments of initiation to their proper order in our diocese, that is: Baptism, Confirmation, and then First Holy Communion. A series of articles explaining the history of the sacraments of initiation, changes to the way children will prepare for these sacraments, and the importance of having comprehensive youth ministry programs in our parishes will be published in the next issues of our Hawaii Catholic Herald. Education plays a most important role in this process, so I invite you to be part of the process. The proposal to return the sacraments of initiation to their proper order has already been discussed with the Presbyteral Council and the Diocesan Pastoral Council. Both groups strongly favored the plan.

If one looks at the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” one notes that the first three sacraments are covered in the proper theological order. Our baptismal covenant with God is sealed in Confirmation; the two sacraments go together like Easter and Pentecost. Received third, the Holy Eucharist is then seen as the summit of initiation. “The Holy Eucharist completes our Christian initiation” (“Catechism” 1322).

Over the course of history in the Western (Latin) Church, great emphasis was placed on the importance of Baptism soon after birth, opening the door of salvation to our youngest members. Unfortunately, delays started occurring with the reception of Confirmation and First Holy Communion. Pope St. Pius X in 1910 addressed the problem of children receiving First Holy Communion at too late an age and directed that children be given Holy Communion at the age of reason, that is, about age 7. This resulted, however, in the sacraments being given out of order. Current practice is like counting 1, 3, 2.

Some may point out that we have been doing what we are doing for 100 years, so why change now? The reason is simple: What we are doing is not working very well. Confirmation is often experienced more as a graduation from the Church than as a free gift of God’s grace. Pope Francis acknowledged this: “There was this experience: the sacrament of Confirmation — what is this sacrament called? Confirmation? No! Its name has changed: the ‘sacrament of farewell.’ They do this and then they leave the Church. … Many young people move off after receiving Confirmation, the sacrament of farewell, of goodbye, as I said. It is an experience of failure, an experience that leaves emptiness and discourages us. Is this true or not?” (Sept. 22, 2013).

Sadly this is true in the Diocese of Honolulu, as it is true in many other places. While Confirmation programs do meet with success in many of our young people, who do become faithful disciples of the Lord, we are still missing the mark with many others. It is apparent that we are not accomplishing the goal of converting the hearts of all our young people to the Lord. Still the problem is bigger than that. 

A review of statistics shows that half of the children we baptize are never confirmed. Confirming children at the time of their First Holy Communion will increase the numbers of those being confirmed and receiving the grace of the sacrament. Some may fear that the children will not come back after that. Anecdotal evidence shows that family involvement is the most likely indicator of retention in faith formation programs, not the age of Confirmation.

The challenge, though, is not just to put the sacraments into their proper order. The challenge is to provide a transformed youth ministry approach that empowers young people to live as disciples of Jesus in our world today, draws them to responsible participation in the life, mission and work of the Catholic Church, and fosters the personal and spiritual growth of each young person. The Church has a plan for this. It’s called “Renewing the Vision” and information is available on the U.S. bishops’ website: Just view it on the web, and you will see that it is quite comprehensive.

In looking at the eight components of “Renewing the Vision,” clergy, youth ministers and parishioners will see that they are already doing many of the components in their parishes — catechesis, engaging young people in the liturgy, service to the needy. Many of the components will simply shift from being part of a Confirmation program to being part of comprehensive youth ministry. It will be a matter of supplementing what is lacking. This will require work to achieve. It will require a new way of thinking. But it is worth it because it will help bring about the participation of greater number of young disciples in building up the Kingdom of God.

Such a plan requires that we trust in the Holy Spirit. We believe that Confirmation gives the gifts of the Holy Spirit — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and the fear of the Lord. Young people need these gifts as they grow up, not when they are nearly done growing up. So we will need to trust that the Spirit will fervently work in our young people from an earlier age and work in all of us as we strive to engage our youth in the life of the Church.

Let me take this opportunity to thank the dedicated women and men of our parishes who give of their time and talent to prepare our youth for the sacrament of Confirmation and in other forms of youth ministry. By no means are we judging your work a failure, since all that is done for the Lord will bear fruit in its own time. Your dedication itself is a great witness to Jesus.

There will obviously be many questions about how we move from our present model to another model of restoring the sacraments of initiation to their proper order. In addition to the articles I mentioned above, our diocesan staff will be holding various listening sessions throughout the diocese to discuss these issues with you so that the design of our programs can be as effective as possible. The dates/times/locations for the listening sessions will be announced in the Hawaii Catholic Herald and in our diocesan eNews at a later time. We look forward to seeing you at one of these sessions! It would be the time for us to hear from those who will be most directly impacted by this change.

May the Lord continue to bless you as you show forth the gifts of the Holy Spirit you have received!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Larry Silva
Bishop of Honolulu


Michael (Quicumque Vult) said...

I lived in Hawaii for a time. Bishop Silva is an EXCELLENT bishop (he's said Mass in the EF, if I'm not mistaken, and--sorry to beat this to death--uses the Roman Canon almost exclusively). He's also embarking to de-wreckovate the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, which was awfully changed in the 1990s.

And trust me, Father, Hawaii may be paradise, but if any place needs sacraments, I feel like Hawaii's it!

JusadBellum said...

The sacraments are not magic.

What we've experienced in the past 40 years proves this with untold millions getting confirmed and then leaving the faith.

I suspect it's because the catechism and family life they lived in was such a watered down version of Catholicism that like a vaccine, they were vaccinated against the faith by a weaker version of it!

A weak and flimsy Christ will not carry any cross. An irrational and convoluted tradition or theology or social ministry that is not robust and cannot explain the big picture of life similarly will fall before the first storm of life.

For example...why SHOULD we care about the poor? why SHOULD we care about the orphan, the widow, the elderly, the foreigners?

If sexual morals are to be left to the personal conscience of everyone and further they are allowed to form those consciences by any means - secular or not - and that's sacrosanct...why wouldn't it follow in every OTHER REALM of life?

Only a robust Catholicism will convince and enthuse souls to pick up their crosses and joyfully make disciples despite all the costs of discipleship.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Yes, restore the proper order. Better, Baptize, Chrismate, and give First Communion at the time of initiation!

gobshyte said...

Giving Communion to an infant...who doesn't thoroughly understand transubstantiation...LIKE WE ALL DO? .... Yikes...!

Unknown said...


Yes, yes you should.

Gabby said...

For eight years our former diocese conferred Confirmation prior to First Communion in the same celebration, when the children were in grade 2. Unfortunately, some religious ed teachers felt that it was too much to teach the students three sacraments in one year and complained... a lot.

After 4 years of this practice our Bishop became bishop of a second diocese, one where Confirmation was conferred only in grade 10. When our diocese was suppressed and my geographical part of it was merged with our Bishop's other diocese, he decided to split the difference. Now Confirmation may be conferred at any time between grade 6 and grade 10.

I always found 7 year olds much more receptive to catechesis than 15 year olds who'd rather be anywhere but there. I was confirmed at the age of 7 at the end of grade 2; I'd made my First Communion at the end of grade 1. It's been 54 years but I still remember my Confirmation and, just like you, I'd approached Monseigneur Camille André LeBlanc with great trepidation, expecting a stinging slap not the pat I eventually received. I've also never forgotten that we were made to "take the pledge." I've always hoped that I wasn't the only one who failed to live up to this pledge not to drink alcohol until I was 25. I smile when I think of the boy, who a few year after me, refused to take the pledge, matter-of-factly telling his mother afterwards, "How could I do that? I might get married before I'm 25 and I want to drink champagne at my wedding."

Anonymous said...

Why is it that the Latin Rite always has to change? Why? The Latin Rite was not wrong for the last 1500 years. Why don't the Orthodox change? You would never dream of asking the Orthodox to change and if you did they would think you were crazy. But the Latin rite has changed every thing. It's ridiculous.

Православный физик said...

Great news, the order of sacraments should be returned to their proper order. I believe dioceses in North Dakota and Montana also have either returned the proper order or not.

As for Babies receiving all 3 Sacraments of Initiation at once....I'd say if they're using intinction, why not? Usually in the East, a drop of the precious blood is given to the child.

Catechesis has been abysmal though, so that'd have to step up.

George said...

"The sacraments are not magic".

Those who operate from that perspective (the effects of the sacraments are like magic) are harboring a superstitious and spiritually immature attitude. To me, the problem is that many look on Confirmation (for whatever reason) as little different than graduation from elementary school.

"like a vaccine, they were vaccinated against the faith by a weaker version of it!"

The only thing I have ever been vaccinated against is something bad. I don't consider faith or the Faith to be a bad thing.

What is the Eastern Orthodox track record when it comes to this? I ask this as far as Confirmation and Holy Communion being conferred on an infant. For an adult who has been through nine months of RCIA, it makes sense. If we are going to give Holy Communion to an infant, should we not also give it to someone with Alzheimers, or to someone who has some other form of mental incapacitation? What about giving the Eucharist to three, four or five year olds?
Confirmation is supposed to confer the gifts of the Holy Spirit. While the Roman Catholic church, through the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, brought the Faith to the rest of the world, where were our Orthodox brethren?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I really do wonder how many parents would cease to send their children to CCD if we celebrated all three sacraments at baptism.

Of course, we could still have a solemn celebration of "First Holy Communion" in the second grade preceded by First Confession. So the tradition of First Holy Communion could easily continue.

Perhaps bishops could develop a "rite of passage" and celebrate a Baccalaureate Mass for all seniors in Catholic school and other forms of school to signify they have finished high school catechesis.

Rood Screen said...

We baptize every baby presented to us, and we administer Holy Communion to every seven year old who can simply distinguish the Sacred Host from ordinary food. But with Confirmation, we now withhold its graces until high school, and require "service hours", discussion groups and even a retreat. Why have we erected all these barriers to this particular sacrament? It's a kind of simony, in which we try to get something out of the teenagers before we'll let them have this sacrament.

qwikness said...

To change the order of the sacraments makes sense. First communion is so sweet, to see those little people dressed for the big moment. When would CCD (or PREP) end? Around 8th grade?
Also what goes on at Youth Group nowadays? When I was kid there was NO instruction, it was party time. It was too late on Sunday night. Too far away, all the way downtown.
Every rising high school kid should be given a Catechism. A nice one, big, with a hard cover, to have for the rest of the lives.
Every high school graduate should be given, The Essential Catholic Survival Guide, by Karl Keating. To prepare them for culture they are about to face.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

A good book on the topic of the current "situation" with this sacrament is Fr. Bill Bausch's "Confirmation: A Sacrament in Search of a Theology."

Lefebvrian said...

If you're searching for a theology of the Sacrament of Confirmation, "ita ad Thomam." It is not the case that we need to make these things up or search for them anew. We have the Catholic Church with her traditions, theologians, and saints.

In response to the poster above who questions why it is that the Latin Rite need always to change, the answer is that the Latin Rite need not change. But it is our pitiable plight to have leaders and clergy who have succumbed to the error of recentism and the hubris of modernity. They must constantly change because they believe in the false idea of evolution and an errant notion progress. And they fail to recognize that the essence of man is unchanged and unchanging.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Keep in mind that the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, completely in union with the Catholic Church and her pope never went the route of the Church of the West in separating the sacraments of initiation and then putting them into an improper order. I'm sure it was for pastoral reasons, but to say the Catholic Church doesn't need to change means that the Eastern Rite which never changed is somehow wrong in their order of the Sacraments and aren't a part of the Roman Catholic Church?????

John Nolan said...

Until recently the Anglicans regarded Confirmation as the precondition for reception of Holy Communion. Now they offer Communion to all 'who are in good standing with their own Church'. This includes the Salvation Army who do not even require baptism, and presumably Mormons.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair (who only became a Catholic after he left office) used to receive Communion alongside his Catholic wife (who publicly boasted about using artificial contraception, but that's by the by) until Cardinal Hume wrote to him and asked him to desist. Blair did so, but remarked peevishly 'I wonder what Jesus would have thought?'

Lefebvrian said...

Fr. McDonald, if you're response is aimed at me, it is a non sequitur, which hampers my ability to respond.

The Latin Rite is not the entirety of the Catholic Church. We have a theology that has developed through our theologians and saints organically over two millennia. The Latin Rite need not change inorganically to conform to the modern inability to grasp the meaning of the Sacraments (which is, as I pointed out, an invented problem in that any such inability is really just an unwillingness to look back to our theologians for answers in favor of looking at what modern progressives have to say).

Even your comment assumes that the Latin Rite now has the Sacraments in an "improper order." The current order has been the order used by the Latin Rite for a very long time. To say that it is now improper is to cast doubt on our predecessors in the faith. It is not our place to change these things -- it is our duty to receive them and pass them on. Otherwise, we sin against the virtue of piety.

The Eastern Church has its own theology with regard to these things, which should be rooted in its development through its theologians and saints. For that reason, it cannot be said that their ordering is improper either.

As I said, I don't understand where you get the idea behind your concluding sentence as it doesn't follow from what I wrote or from what you wrote.

rcg said...

Isn't Confirmation recognition of the person assuming an adult role in the Church? I don't think it is in search of a theology as much as confirmation of adult responsibility for the young adults. At the point they are Confirmed most of the young people are becoming interested in sex, alcohol, drugs, making money, etc. They need to be encouraged and helped to act as Catholic adults.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

rcg - No. "Assuming an adult role in the Church" is an example of the "theology" we have made up for Confirmation in order to justify or explain why we Confirm (Chrismate) people at age 7 or 12 or 15 or 18.

A parallel is that Confirmation is analogous to Bar/Bat Mitzvah in the Jewish faith. It is nothing of the sort.

My mother (b. 1915) was confirmed at age 7, I (b. 1958) was confirmed at age 10, my nieces and nephews were confirmed in 8th grade, about age 13 or 14, and, in some places, we Confirm Juniors in high school.

Disrupting the order - Yes, Lefeb, we have them in the wrong order - leaves the sacrament searching for its original and proper meaning: initiation.

qwikness said...

Confirmation seems to be the Catholic version of the Jewish Bar Mitzvah, A Catholic coming of age ceremony. Or the Catholic version of a Protestant Believer's Baptism. Since the infant couldn't decide on their own, they can make a decision about Confirmation. Both are wrong of course but I wonder how many believe this.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, though I don't know which approach is best. I wonder about some who wish to get their children baptized as a formality. With the one stop approach, the child completes all requirements in one day, never to see the inside of a church again. With the Latin approach, they at least get brought to church for a few more years. I wonder though why you stopped at these three sacraments and did not go onto the differences between the orthodox and Latin rites practices of confession. Which one is right there; the old confessional, the new reconciliation room, or what ever the orthodox do. And I do not know what the orthodox approach to confession is.

Lefebvrian said...


Here's St. Thomas's answer to your question:

"[J]ust as Baptism is a spiritual regeneration unto Christian life, so also is Confirmation a certain spiritual growth bringing man to perfect spiritual age. But it is evident, from a comparison with the life of the body, that the action which is proper to man immediately after birth, is different from the action which is proper to him when he has come to perfect age. And therefore by the sacrament of Confirmation man is given a spiritual power in respect of sacred actions other than those in respect of which he receives power in Baptism. For in Baptism he receives power to do those things which pertain to his own salvation, forasmuch as he lives to himself: whereas in Confirmation he receives power to do those things which pertain to the spiritual combat with the enemies of the Faith."

As I said, we need not search for a theology because the Doctors have already bestowed to us their wisdom and it is readily available for our consumption.

rcg said...


I edited out a comment about being a Christian Soldier, thought it might offend some here.

PI, I see what you mean, but I hold to the concept of adulthood, even at a tender age. Some are ready to assume those roles. The wording of the Catechism that the Confirmed are more strictly *obliged* to spread and defend the Faith by word and deed is a very adult burden. Some children lead other children all at various ages. I think, perhaps, the newly confirmed fall away because we end our own role as leader to abruptly.

Rood Screen said...


"If anyone says that the confirmation of those baptized is...nothing more than a sort of instruction, whereby those approaching adolescence gave an account of their faith to the Church, let him be anathema." --Ecumenical Council of Trent

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

St Thomas' comment regarding the value of Confirmation does not apply only to teenagers.

"...whereas in Confirmation he receives power to do those things which pertain to the spiritual combat with the enemies of the Faith."

Does a 5 year old not need "those powers"? Certainly he/she does. As soon as a child learns the difference between right and wrong, there is the need for grace to combat the "enemies of the Faith."

There's not good reason to 1) separate the sacraments of initiation from the time of initiation, or 2) to deny even a child the grace that is essential for living a saintly life.

qwikness said...

This is Confirmation but not at Pentecost. Acts 8:14-17

Anonymous said...

I would vote for following the Eastern practice of doing all the Sacraments of Initiation at once for infants. What is the logic of denying children the graces from receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion and the seal of the Holy Spirit? One does not deny their physical food just because of not understanding the concept of food, so why deny spiritual food because a child might not yet understand? Considering how no one really has a perfect understanding of the mysteries of the Sacraments...the distance between an infant's understanding and an adult's understanding is less than the distance between an adult's understanding and God's understanding. There is something off-putting about using Confirmation as a bargaining chip to keep kids in CCD class...if they're going to drop out after treating the Sacraments like getting their ticket punched, they probably wouldn't take the faith seriously after 8th grade or high school or whatever age Confirmation is done.

George said...

Where is the evidence that the Orthodox way is better than the Roman? If there is evidence to support this, then by all means do it. We do not need to adopt the an ancient theology on this without a compelling reason to do so. There are those among our Protestant brethren who have a problem with infant baptism. At least there is to be found more explicit scriptural references to support this. To use Matthew 19:14 or Mark 10:14 to justify Infant communion, as some wont to do, is to me weaving with gossamer thread. If we allow Holy Communion to infants, is it not sure to follow that parents will ask why there 3, 4 and 5 year olds cannot also receive? How can it then be argued againt this? I have in fact read this argument by someone who favored infants receiving. Our Holy Church has over a long period of time developed a good practice as to when it is best to allow the reception of the Eucharist. Yes, I know that Sts. Augustine and Cyprian favored infant reception, but the Church since that time has developed a more sound position on this.

Gabby said...

George, Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic children receive Communion from the time they are baptized. They grown into their understanding of Communion as we all grow into our understanding of the world around us. I see no reason Latin Rite children couldn't do the same.

northernhermit, it's my understanding that the Orthodox confess in full view of the congregation -- not unlike what happens to our congregations in a 'Penitential Service'.

George said...

I think it is important also that members of the Church have an understanding of sacramental relationship and under certain circumstances the necessity of Confession prior to receiving the Eucharist which can only be understood at the age of reason.
The Eucharist should not be treated as an entitlement, but rather as an unmerited, undeserved gift from God which comes out of His Suffering and Death.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Former PI you are certainly arrogantly dogmatic about limbo. There is indeed a theological argument for it. No it is not a defined doctrine of the Church and therefore it cannot be a dogma. It never has been defined definitely by the Magisterium.

But the CCC does not forbid Catholics from belieiving in it if they wish and certainly they don't have to if they wish.

However, this is one of those things of the sensuum fidei in that if there was universal belief a council or the pope by himself could define it as a doctrine of the faith and even elevate it to a dogma. I don't think we can say today there is any consensus sensuum fidei or by theologians that a council or pope should do such a thing, but it is not precluded in the future.

So if one want to believe in limbo they are free to do so.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father - It is not defined doctrine. Nuff said.

No, Catholics are not forbidden by the Catechism from believing in Limbo. Neither are they forbidden from believing that Jesus wore bunny slippers around the house, but . . .

They are free to do so.