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: Remembering John Paul the Great: Three new books

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When teaching college students a few years ago, I was shocked when I asked my students to tell me what they knew about Pope St. John Paul II. It wasn’t much. We went on to read George Weigel’s definitive biography of John Paul, Witness to Hope (Harper Perennial, 2004), and the students were blown away by the greatness and compelling life of the Pope. The class made me realize how quickly the memory of even monumental figures can fade away if we do not work deliberately to continue their legacy.

The first place to begin “getting to know” John Paul better would be Weigel’s biography, mentioned above, along with the sequel, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (Random House, 2010). In addition, I would recommend John Paul’s interview book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (Knopf, 1995) and his trilogy of greatest encyclicals: Fides et Ratio, Evangelium Vitae, and Veritatis Splendor. The great Pope left us an enormous legacy of writings to explore, but especially relevant now are his “Letter to Families,” Familiaris Consortio (an exhortation on the family), and the Theology of the Body.

For those looking go deeper in their knowledge of John Paul, three new books can help us to remember and continue his great work for the renewal of Church and society.

George Weigel, Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II (Basic Books, 2017)

The final volume of a tryptic of the Pope, Weigel provides a memoir of his interactions with John Paul and an account of how he became his biographer. For those who love Witness to Hope, Weigel provides a fascinating account of how the book came about, tracing his work within the Vatican, Poland, and across the world. It narrates his own story as seminarian, lay theology student, writer, and his activity in politics, including writing speeches for a leader of the pro-life movement in Congress. His work caught John Paul’s attention, especially his book chronicling the Church’s role in the fall of Communism, The Final Revolution. Weigel gives testimony to the providence that prepared him to write John Paul’s biography and the friendship they developed in their common witness to the hope that comes from Christ.

Paul Kengor, The Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century (ISI, 2017)

This book traces not only the remarkable working friendship of Regan and John Paul, but narrates the entire story of the struggle between European Communism and the Church. Surprisingly, the book’s common thread comes from Our Lady of Fatima, predicting Russia’s errors and uniting the faithful in prayer, as well as guiding not only John Paul but also Reagan. The two men recognized their providential role in what Reagan called the Divine Plan to end Communism in Europe. Portraits of many other key characters (on both sides) emerge: Stalin, Pope Pius XII, Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bishop Fulton Sheen, and Gorbachev. Kengor presents extraordinary connections between the two figures: both were actors, deep men of prayer, survived assassination attempts only months apart, and played key leadership roles in the world. The book presents ground breaking research to make a compelling and undeniable case that the two great men worked together closely and succeeded in bringing freedom to Eastern Europe.

Pope St. John Paul II/Karol Wojtyła, In God’s Hands: The Spiritual Diaries 1962-2003 (Harper One, 2017)

This book gives us inside access to John Paul’s prayer life by presenting notes of his regular retreats from his time as a bishop through most of his papacy. It’s somewhat misnamed, as the book consists in his notebooks responding to the retreat material, not a normal diary. It reinforces what we know about the Pope: his strong focus on the Eucharist, his Marian spirituality of uniting our intentions to her fiat, and his concern as a bishop for the evangelization of his people. There are many gems, such as the following: “The most appropriate effects of the redemption in the human being are deeds that stem from it – deeds that through Mary are rooted in Christ, through one’s belong it Her, and that are simultaneously in accordance with Christ’s law, with His gospel” (10). The book will not disappoint those looking to enter more deeply into the spirituality of John Paul.