Wednesday, July 6
It seems the Bishop of Phoenix is going back to the original order for receiving the Sacraments: Baptism, First Reconciliation, Confirmation, then First Communion. Now, I'm no sacramental theologian, so I'll leave it to others to get into the why of this one, aside from noting that we have an ancient historical basis for doing it in this order.
What does interest me, on the other hand, is people's objections to going back to the original order. They seem to be as follows: A) Change will cause more problems than it will solve, B) children at this age aren't mature enough to make a decision for the Faith, C) We'll never get them back in religious ed once they're Confirmed.
All of these strike me as being rather lame once you get down to it, and here's why:
A)Change will cause more problems than it will solve. If it takes a change to truly bring about the right order of things, then it will sort itself out in the long term, even if there is confusion in the short term. Good catechesis will asist greatly in this, and you may actually have people (*gasp*) understanding something about the Sacraments when all's said and done.
B) Children at this age aren't mature enough to make a decision for the Faith. On the contrary, I think that children often see things more clearly than high-schoolers do, especially where moral matters are concerned. Also, it's important to remember that the graces conveyed in this Sacrament are very real, and give a child the strength he needs to live out a Christian life in today's culture, which is attacking them at a younger and younger age. They're at the age of reason, and if they're old enough to sin, they're old enough to make right decisions, too.
C) We'll never get them back in religious ed once they're Confirmed. Now this is the one I really find interesting, because it belies so many of our assumptions about religious education. If the Sacraments are the proverbial "carrot on the stick" to get people into church, we've got much, much bigger problems. In my experience, the people who are only there because they need to get this stamp in their Catholic passport only do the minimum and don't really learn anything, anyway. We have to remember that a child's religious education at their parish is only maybe 2 hours a week; and they're going to fill the other 166 with something. If the Faith isn't a part of their everyday life, those two hours (with rare exceptions) are going in one ear and out the other.
If the parents are fullfilling their marriage vows and taking the responsibility for raising their children in the Faith, on the other hand, they will be bringing their kids in for religious ed anyway (unless, of course, the program is as woefully inadequate as many are, and thus a waste of their child's time).
The fact of the matter is, it isn't really the parishes responsibility to raise these children in the Faith; it's the parents'. Now the parish can offer support through CCD classes, VBS, and whatever else, but if the parish is trying to do all the work, it shows. Even with great resources, dynamic catechists, and full-color workbooks, a parish's efforts can never replace parents simply living out their faith on a daily basis.