Friday, January 16, 2009


My son is a junior in high school. In our archdiocese, that is the chosen year for confirmation. His group is the second to go through the new program; prior to that confirmation was in eighth grade. On New Year's Eve we were at a party with a bunch of old friends. These are people we met through a Catholic singles group over twenty years ago. We all got married about the same time, and our kids (except my baby) are like stair steps, pretty much one after the other for a few years in there. We all go to church regularly and many of us are involved in our parishes in other ways. Except for my kids, all the kids go to Catholic school. In short, while I won't go so far as to judge the state of anyone's soul, I'd say that at least on paper, we are, as a group, better than average Catholics, at least in terms of time, effort and money spent in and around the church. I mention all of this because one topic we discussed was confirmation.

If you are reading this, and you aren't Catholic or familiar with Catholicism, Confirmation is a sacrament in which the Holy Spirit comes to you in a special way. It is the final sacrament of initiation, the other two being Baptism and Eucharist. As the name implies, it is also a time at which we are asked to confirm the decision made for us when we were baptized as infants.

All of my friends attend different parishes. We were discussing confirmation requirements. It seems that my parish's requirements are on the high side. Kids in Catholic schools are required to attend one Lifeteen Life Night per month(a particular one, not just any one), four classes their sophomore year and eight classes their junior year. They are also required to attend a weekend retreat as juniors. They have to earn service hours. Kids who are in public school have to attend Lifeteen every week for two years (during the school year) plus what the Catholic school kids do. Other parishes generally require some classes, and maybe a retreat. One friend said a bunch of parents at her son's school were comparing notes and trying to find the parish with the easiest requirements. Another friend said she heard the archdiocese was surprised at how few kids were confirmed last year (the first group under the new system). We basically agreed that it showed how little the archdiocesan leaders know about the lives of these kids.

In our area, Catholic high schools are the norm. However, it is not necessarily the norm to attend the nearest Catholic high school. Further, the boys' and girls' schools are generally separate. This means there isn't one school to which you can go and ask for a light homework load or no extracurriculars on a particular night or nights because many of the kids will be at confirmation. Further, it means that many of these kids leave home at or before 7 a.m. and get home, at best, after 3. They have sports practice, band practice, play practice, and club meetings before or after school. By their junior year the top students are taking heavy loads with lots of homework. Lots of kids have jobs after school. Yes, God should come before all of those things, but does that mean confirmation classes should? If a group of "church people" like my friends and I question the value of confirmation programs vs. the effort they require, what is the response of parents who don't value their faith? I suspect the lower confirmation numbers are the answer to that question.

My son is autistic. The DRE has basically agreed to waive whatever requirements need to be waived. For example, he did not attend the retreat (much to his relief, and I'm sure to the relief of those running the retreat too). My son has also decided he does not want to be confirmed because it cuts into his free time. I explained that he still had to go to all the classes, but in the end, he could make the decison. Confirmation is growing closer and he is no closer to changing his mind. I don't know why. He'd be aghast at the idea of missing mass on Sunday. He insists we pray before meals, no matter where we are. He does not want to be confirmed.


  1. You are right- at the time that our children NEED extra grace they are too busy to get it. Why not provide grace throughout the teen years?
    This is EXCACTLY why I feel that Confirmation belongs very early in the life of a child of God. God GIVES graces freely. Does "the local Church" really think God has a board up there that says, "Johnny SHOULD get the Holy Spirit and Mary should not because he never went to all those classes?" If you look closely at the Catechism a person can demand Confirmation at any time after Holy Communion.
    Control of grace (and I call it that because that is what I think Life teen does- is take the "program" hostage) came pretty late in our history.
    I have spoken publically about the founder of lifeteen before and I think that the bandwagons that many diocese do not understand that they have gotten on is that founder's (Who felt 16 was a good age because that is "the age that the public gives a child a driver's license"). Of course that the money made by that program, until he was asked to stop acting as a priest, went right into his pocket
    His home diocese has moved Confirmation back to the year after Holy Communion and he has recently been excommunicated.
    We do not have "age of reason" in our Church (or we would not have infant baptism). I wish REAL people would look at this all again and really see the historical reason behind the delay of Confirmation (the mideval right of the Bishop to accept someone - usually a child- into the Church) and get away that programs are the end all for our Church.
    The first question asked by the priest celebrating my daughter's wedding was "Have you been Confirmed?" Yes---this has much WIDER implications.
    But then, I told you that about seven years ago and got a shrug....
    I'll pray that your diocese figures it out (as my old one did when the marriages happened less and less inside the Church) BEFORE your daughter gets to Confirmation.
    Thank the Lord your son has you- in my diocese if you did not attend all programs, you were not Confirmed- PERIOD- regardless of disability. Needless to say they were only Confirming at the rate of 1/3 of those who were baptised and still in the diocese.

  2. Ruth,
    Do you think part of the not wanting to be confirmed is having to walk up and be singled out by the Bishop? Do you think someone has told him about the old tradition of the Bishop slapping you? Will be praying that Jay comes to understand the importance of the Sacrament....
    In our parish, Catholic school students must start attending a special CCD program after Christmas while the non-Catholic school kids start back at the beginning of the school year. There are also service hour requirements and a retreat - but since I know the DRE fairly well I'm ready to make a fuss about the retreat if it's co-ed.

  3. I pray that your son will change his mind, and I am sorry that the overwhelming program may have put him off. We just celebrated the Confirmation of my 4th daughter. Our parish requirements are simply to attend the 8 weeks of lessons, a one day retreat, service hours, and an interview. As homeschoolers, my kids have never attended PSR, but I turn them over to the parish for Confirmation. I hope it all works out for you.

  4. Actually, the Catholic Church does have an "age of reason". It is typically age 7, and that is why First Communion is usually offered at that age or after.

    I wonder with these new Confirmation programs if you're just going to see young people waiting to turn 18 to go through RCIA to finish up. My husband's RCIA teacher said that many families have gone that route just because they did not want to pay for CCD, and RCIA is free and less time intensive over all.

    I understand that they're trying to find a way to keep families and teens involved in the Church past 8th grade. I'm just not sure if this is the right way to go about it.

    And my understanding of Confirmation was that it wasn't about the child "confirming" their choice but about the Bishop "confirming" the baptism done by the priest, when the Bishop was unable to baptize due to geographical/logistical reasons. I think when we focus too much on the "child choosing for himself" it makes Confirmation seem like an ending of their faith formation when we must all constantly choose God and his Church again and again throughout our lives.


View My Stats