A brief catechism on the “restored order”

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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: Lessons on proper elder care after my mother’s death

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We buried my Mom last month. 

In the summer of last year, I first drove her to her new memory care facility. My heart was breaking. She was so scared and vulnerable but was trying so hard to be brave. My brother said it was like taking your kid to pre-school for the first time. And never going back to pick her up. 

But we had to do it. She was far too confused for our 97-year-old Dad to take care of her. She didn’t recognize him. She would lock herself in her room, afraid of the “strange man” in their apartment. She wasn’t eating well, and with COVID restrictions we couldn’t get into her independent living facility to monitor her diet or her health. Worst of all, she would wander. Unable to recognize “home” and unable to convince anybody to come get her, she would set off by herself. Dad would realize she was missing and frantically try to find her. Fortunately for us, she always attempted her escapes when the night security guard was at his desk. But we were terrified that some evening she would get out while he was away, and she would roam out into the winter night. 

We knew that, without round the clock support, we couldn’t keep her safe in any of our homes either. So, we concluded that she needed to be placed in a secure memory care facility. I think it was one of the hardest decisions my family has ever faced. We researched. We consulted experts. We hired a placement agency. We came close to placing her in one home, then chickened out because we felt like the owner was pressuring us.  

Finally, we landed on what looked like the best facility for our needs. They specialized in memory care, and we were assured that the staff had been trained to care for people with dementia. They took notes about her diet, health, likes and dislikes. Most important, it was a secured facility. They knew that Mom wandered, and their secured doors and round the clock caregiver oversight seemed like the best way to keep her safe. It was the most expensive facility we had seen. But we figured her safety and well-being were worth it. 

On Jan. 12, Mom was found in that facility’s back yard. Frozen to death.  

She had let herself out through an unsecured exterior door, unnoticed and unimpeded, on a cold winter evening. No one realized she was missing until the next morning.  A health department investigator told me that she had been out there at least 12 hours. Which means caregivers over three shifts failed to recognize her absence. I’m told she was wearing thin pants, a short-sleeved shirt and socks. The overnight low was 20 degrees. 

We are devastated. Beyond devastated. Frankly, I don’t know that it has completely sunk in yet. I think the brain only lets in a little horror at a time. I re-read what I just wrote, and think “Wow, that would be a really horrible thing to happen to a loved one.” 

I debated what my first column after Mom’s death would look like. I have felt compelled, in social media, to celebrate the person my Mom was and the way she lived. To keep the memory alive of the truly amazing person she was. But I think I did it mostly to distract my mind from the horror of how she died. 

But I am feeling more compelled, in this moment, to tell the story of how she died. Because I think it needs to be told. Because others are struggling with the agonizing decision to place a parent in memory care. Because when we were doing our research, we would have wanted to know that these kind of things happen. 

I am not naming the facility here. It will be public knowledge when the Colorado Department of Health and Environment report is completed. From what I am told, they are horrified at what happened and are working very hard to make sure it never happens again.

My point here is much bigger. I am discovering the enormous problems we face in senior care, particularly in the era of COVID. I was told by someone in the industry that, since the facilities are locked down and families can’t get in to check on their loved ones, standards are slipping in many places. With no oversight, caregivers and managers are getting lazy. I was in regular communication with Mom’s house manager, and I raised flags every time I suspected a problem. But you can only ascertain so much in phone conversations with a dementia patient. 

Now, since her death, we have discovered that her nightly 2 a.m. bed check — a state mandated protocol — had only been done once in the ten days before her death. She could have disappeared on any of those nights, and no one would have realized it. 

I have wracked my brain, to figure out what we could have done differently. The facility had no previous infractions. Their reputation was stellar. Their people seemed very caring. Their web site would make you want to move in yourself. 

Knowing what I know now, I would have asked some very specific questions. How are the doors secured? Are they alarmed? Is the back yard accessible at night? Are bed checks actually done every night? Who checks the logs to confirm? 

I would check for infractions at the CDPHE web site. Then I would find out who owns the facility, and do some online stalking. Is this a person with a history of caring for the elderly, or just someone who has jumped into the very trendy, very profitable business of elder care? I am very concerned that, for many, this “business model” is built on maximizing profits by minimizing compensation for front line workers — the people actually caring for our loved ones. 

Dad is living with me now. We are not inclined to trust any facilities with his care. Watching him grieve has been heartbreaking. If you talk to him, do me a favor and don’t mention how she died. It’s hard enough to say good-bye to his wife of nearly 60 years, without having to grapple with this, too. 

I am, frankly, still in disbelief. I don’t know exactly where I am going from here. But I do know one thing. I want my Mom’s death to spur a closer look at the way we care for our vulnerable elderly. 

Because I don’t want what happened to my Mom to happen to another vulnerable elderly person again. Ever.