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: Pilgrimage: A journey through Church history

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“Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Paul proclaims these words the end of the book of Acts, capping off the biblical narrative of the work of the Apostles. The story of salvation history doesn’t end with the death of the Apostles, however, but continues in the life of the Church, fulfilling the words of Paul. The Gentiles have accepted the Gospel and have built up the Kingdom of God on earth. This is our story and we continue it.

If you want to know how the story continues after Acts, I’ll be teaching a class through the Denver Catholic Catechetical School this year, called “Pilgrimage: A Journey through Church History.” It begins with the early Church and follows the story to today. The class explores the Church Fathers, the fall of Rome, the building of Christendom, the High Middles ages, the Reformation (perfect for the 500th anniversary this year), the expansion of the missions around the globe, the modern revolutions, and the Second Vatican Council. We’ll be looking at and discussing the most important historical sources and exploring the art of the various time periods. We’ll be entering into the Church’s story by allowing the key figures and events to guide us.

We see one turning point in the story in the year 430. St. Augustine lay dying in Hippo as the Vandals prepared to sack and conquer the city. Augustine lived at the end of an age as the Roman Empire slowly crumbled, but also at the beginning of a new Christian one, an age he helped forge. The great doctor of the Church thought through the implications of the rise of Christianity in an age of political decline and saw right into the heart of history. History, unlike the focus of our textbooks, finds its true course not in politics or economics, but through love.

Augustine posited that all mankind belonged to one of two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. One city took its shape by loving God before all else and the other in a love turned inward on oneself. Augustine taught us that we live as citizens of our true homeland above even within the midst of this passing world: “The glorious city of God is my theme in this work. . . . I have undertaken its defense against those who prefer their own gods to the Founder of this city—a city surpassingly glorious.” Augustine’s teaching laid the foundation for a new Christian civilization, Christendom, which sprang up amidst the ruins of Rome in Europe.

One young man unexpectedly began building the foundations for this new civilization. He was studying within the ruins of the decadent city of Rome in about the year 500 and fled the temptations of town to live as a hermit in the wilderness. Eventually, others flocked to him and he laid the foundations for monasticism throughout Western Europe. The monasteries provided the foundation upon which a new society was built. St. Benedict, for this work, has been recognized as a patron of Europe and a true father of Christendom. His Rule does not seek to build up the earthly city, but looking to the City of God to “hasten to do now what will profit us for eternity.” And this is the key to Catholic culture and history: seeking the lasting the city helps us to live better in this life, with wisdom, courage, and hope.

We are all pilgrims, living in exile in the city of this world, and journeying toward the heavenly Jerusalem: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Heb 13:14). And yet we have to build a city on earth and looking to the past provides inspiration for this great project. This is why we should study Church history, especially as our culture goes through a period of upheaval, not unlike St. Augustine’s time. We need the witness and the legacy of the saints and doctors to guide our pilgrimage as we continue the story of the Church. Looking to the past helps us to plot out our own path on our journey to eternal life.

Class details

“Pilgrimage: A Journey Through Church History,” John Paul II Center, Denver. Tuesdays, 9:00 AM. Information Sessions: Aug 1 and Sept 5, 9:00 AM. Classes begin Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Register at: https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1968327