A brief catechism on the “restored order”

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: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”