A brief catechism on the “restored order”

Nissa LaPoint

Are you confused by all the talk of the “restored order”? Are you unfamiliar with terms such as “sacraments of initiation” and “age of reason”?

Don’t worry; it’s all quite understandable once you know the basics.

Essentially, the restoration of the order means two things: 1. Confirmation will be received before the reception of first Eucharist; 2. Both sacraments will be received in third grade at the same Mass.

Keep reading for more information on the restored order, including the basics of what a sacrament is and how this initiative could spark a new outpouring of faith in northern Colorado.

First, what is a sacrament?
     Most Catholics know the names of the sacraments, but they might not know the definition of a sacrament. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) defines sacraments as “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (1131).

What are the sacraments of initiation?
There are seven sacraments in the Church: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, holy orders and matrimony. The Church refers to baptism, confirmation and Eucharist as “sacraments of initiation,” as they “lay the foundations of every Christian life” (CCC, 1212).

OK, so what do you mean by “restored order”?
The “restored order” refers to celebrating the sacraments of initiation in the order in which God designed them to be given: baptism, confirmation, first Eucharist. It also restores the practice of administering the sacraments of confirmation and first Eucharist when they reach the age of reason.

Practically speaking, how will this look for my children?
Your children will prepare for the sacrament of reconciliation and begin going to confession in second grade. The following year, they will prepare for confirmation and first Eucharist, and receive both sacraments at the same Mass in third grade.

When did this order get disrupted?
It happened in 1910, when Pope St. Pius X lowered the age of first Communion to the age of reason (around 7 years old). When he did so, he did not address the age of confirmation, thus leaving us with our current practice of delayed confirmation.

Why is the Archdiocese of Denver doing this now?
The Archdiocese of Denver is restoring confirmation to its original place because children need more grace at an earlier age to become saints in our increasingly secular world. The archdiocese is not doing this on its own, but is responding to calls made in the documents of Vatican II, Pope Benedict XVI’s document Sacramentum Caritatis, and the personal encouragement Benedict XVI gave to Archbishop Samuel Aquila in 2012.

Won’t the confirmed kids just drop out of religious education earlier?
They might. It depends on their parents, who are the primary teachers of the faith for their children. Parents and siblings have the first responsibility of being an example of Jesus Christ to each other and living the Gospel each day. Children will stay in religious education if they see their parents striving to grow in holiness through family prayer, Scripture reading, Sunday Mass, regular confession, and living a life of charity. It is the parent’s responsibility to see that their children grow in the faith. Our parishes are there to assist in this process.

How can children make an adult commitment to the Church at such a young age?
      Contrary to a widespread misperception, confirmation is not the sacrament of adult commitment to the faith. It is a cause of spiritual maturity, not recognition of physical maturity. As the Catechism says, “Although confirmation is sometimes called the ‘sacrament of Christian maturity,’ we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need ‘ratification’ to become effective.” Confirmation assists those who receive it in growing in Christian maturity.

When will the transition happen?
It depends on your parish. It is expected that parishes in the Archdiocese of Denver will begin implementation of the restored order anytime over a three-year period between the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2020, but some pastors have already begun to implement the restored order. The actual timeline will be up to each pastor to decide.

What does this mean for the rest of us?
First, it will underscore the fact that the Holy Eucharist, not confirmation, is the culmination of Christian initiation. It will also help to remind the faithful that the six other sacraments are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.
Also, this is an opportunity to rediscover the meaning and purpose of our own initiation into Christ’s body. Our hope is that change will prompt the faithful to encounter the origin, depth, and meaning of all the sacraments, helping them grow in their relationship with Our Lord.

Dial in and read up on the restored order

Archbishop Samuel Aquila is launching a restoration of the sacraments of initiation for children in the Archdiocese of Denver. What does this entail? Find out more through resources made available at www.archden.org/saints.

Pastoral letter
Archbishop Aquila’s pastoral letter Saints Among Us guides faithful through the change in the order of the sacraments of initiation for youth in the Church. An online version of the letter is available at www.archden.org/saints.Closeup of male hand dialing a phone number making a business or personal phone call.

Live Q-and-A phone call
Would you like to ask the archbishop a question about the restored order? Join other Catholics for a live Q-and-A event with the archbishop. Dial in to listen and ask questions starting 7 p.m. May 28. Register for the phone call by visiting www.archden.org/saints or by texting “bishop” to 313131.

Videos
Watch Archbishop Aquila and other prominent theologians, religious, educators, parents, and Church leaders explore the history and richness of the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and first Eucharist. Watch the video online at www.archden.org/saints.

In-depth
4 Archbishop in RO video 1_DCExplore the restored order through a series of 13 videos and Q-and-A on the restored order. Professors and Catholic leaders in the community give a series of presentations on sacramental life, the early Church, youth ministry and more to provide an in-depth look at the sacraments of initiation. Visit www.archden.org/saints.

COMING UP: We should have listened to Pope Paul VI

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Happy Humanae Vitae 50th Anniversary!

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s been a whirlwind.  Parties, parades, some great fireworks shows.  Oh, and did you see the Hollywood All-Star Tribute to Pope Paul VI?

OK, maybe not so much.

It’s a shame, really. If everyone had somehow, miraculously, listened to Pope Paul VI back in 1968, the world could be a very different place today.  Heck, we might not even have a need for the #MeToo movement.

Allow me to explain.

Up until the 1960’s, it was pretty universally recognized that sex between people of childbearing age came with the distinct possibility of the aforementioned childbearing.  Birth control methods up to that point were somewhat rudimentary and unreliable.  Procreation was an inherent part of sexual activity — part of its meaning.  So respecting a woman meant not putting her at risk of a pregnancy she wasn’t prepared for.  And she in turn had a clear-cut, universally recognized reason to be indignant if a man was pressuring her.

But The Pill changed all of that.  Young people (and a lot of older people, too) figured that, without that pesky fear of pregnancy, they could indulge in sexual activity whenever, and with whomever, they chose. It would be fun, they thought.  Sex feels good, they thought.  Why not have more of it, with more people, they thought.

And then Pope Paul VI said “no.”  In Humanae Vitae, he essentially said that Pill or no Pill, birth control was still not morally licit.

The young people of the Free Love Generation were not disappointed by this news — only because I would imagine they were too busy making love and not war to notice an obscure, 23-page theological document released by a celibate guy who was way older than 30.

But, had they been smart, they might have paid attention to the following passage from that obscure theological document:

It can also be feared that the man who becomes used to contraceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman, and no longer caring about her physical and psychological equilibrium, come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion. (HV 17)

Does that sound at all familiar?

The problem came because, as much as the generation of the 1960’s wanted Free Love to really be free, it isn’t.  They figured removing the risk of pregnancy would remove the “strings,” and everybody could just consensually enjoy everybody else’s body with no ramifications.

But there is a saying: “Nature bats last.”  Sexual activity was designed by God, not by us.  And he, in myriad ways, designed it to be a profoundly, deeply, inherently meaningful act that touches the very core of the human psyche and spirit.  Everything about it — physically, chemically, emotionally and spiritually — is built around the fact that it is a profound act of self-giving love that places the couple in the context of entering into and cooperating with him in his most sacred role — as Creator of the miracle that is a new human person. Sex speaks a language, and the possibility of procreation is an essential part of that language.  It says “I give myself to you, and to the new life that may come forth from my gift.”

And as hard as we might try, we can’t change that.

I think women, being the ones who conceive and bear that life, are more naturally sensitive to this meaning.  We can’t always articulate it, but it’s there. And hence, we are more reluctant to play with it carelessly.

When the sexual revolution attempted to sever sexual activity from the possibility of procreation, they were essentially attempting to render sexual activity meaningless.  They were saying “from now on, this is just something we do with our bodies.  It can mean as much or as little as you want it to mean.”

This is wrong on so many levels.  For one, it takes away women’s power.  When we recognized that sex is powerful, meaningful and life-altering, a woman had the backing of her family and her culture in saying “No, I will not place myself or my future children at that risk, and if you don’t respect that, you clearly don’t love me.”

Now, women are more or less on their own in fending off the male sex drive — which, for good or for evil, could probably be considered one of the most powerful forces in the world.  If sex is meaningless, then why in the world would she object?  He wants it, and it might be fun for her too, so why wouldn’t she be nice and acquiesce?

It takes a very strong, very well-formed and dare I say holy young woman to have the courage to say “I believe that God created sex with an inherent meaning, so my final answer is no” and watch him walk out of her life forever.  For the vast majority of young women, who can’t articulate what they inherently sense about the sacredness of their bodies, it’s a lot easier just to go along with the program and try to keep the guy.

And then it moves from acquiescing to keep the boyfriend, to acquiescing to make the powerful man happy so that I can get the job, or keep the job, or get the role in the movie, or whatever.  The world becomes one big quid pro quo arrangement whereby we are expected to trade on our bodies to get what we want or need.

And the woman becomes “a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment.”

The hard lesson we should have learned from Humanae Vitae is quite simply that our bodies have meaning, that sexual expression has a meaning, and that God is God and we are not.  And that when we start tinkering around with that meaning, people get hurt.

We should have listened.