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I have recently come across some questions about the sacrament of Confirmation, both about its nature and when children should receive it. In the Netherlands, the general order, for children at least, is Baptism-First Communion-Confirmation, which is actually rather illogical. That is a conclusion that Bishop Samuel Aquila, of the Diocese of Fargo in the United States, also reached. In recent years, he has changed that order of reception to Baptism-Confirmation-First Communion. In his own words, from a lecture on Confirmation he gave in June of 2011*:

“Confirmation is a sacrament of initiation which gives the fullness of the Holy Spirit. This gift of the Spirit completes baptism and bestows a special strength that enables one to be a witness to Jesus Christ, more perfectly binding one to the Church, and allows one to worship the Father in spirit and truth.
Confirmation is ordered to the reception of the sacrament of the source and summit of our lives, the holy Eucharist. The order of initiation that marked the early Church is baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist; and in only recent history has another order been tried. The teaching of the Church since Vatican II has supported the restoration of the order of the sacraments of initiation.”

In essence, Confirmation allows us to participate more fully in the Catholic community’s faith life, a community based on the Eucharist. Therefore, Bishop Aquila argues, it makes far more sense to return to the custom of the ages: Baptism, then Confirmation and ultimately the source and summit of our Catholic life: the Eucharist. Both baptism and Confirmation are ordered to the reception of the Eucharist, which means that they prepare for and refer to it.

Pope Benedict XVI, last week, took the time to tell Bishop Aquila about his full agreement with the bishop’s efforts, asking if other bishops were picking it up as well. “I was very surprised in what the Pope said to me,” the bishop, who is on his ad limina visit to the Holy See, said, “in terms of how happy he was that the sacraments of initiation have been restored to their proper order of baptism, confirmation, then first Eucharist.”

Apart from the theological reasons, I think a return to the old order is also a sign of taking children seriously. We don’t need to wait until some hypothetical age at which they can ‘understand’ what they receive. A baby does not understand baptism either, but is nonetheless initiated into the faith, just like an adult would. A seven-year-old receiving Confirmation is also as well-prepared spiritually for a future First Communion as as adult would. It doesn’t all depend on us, after all.

*You can read Bishop Aquila’s full lecture on this topic here.

Would I take pleasure in the death of the wicked — declares the Lord Yahweh — and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?

Ezekiel 18:23

In the middle of the day, we are reminded that God is not a vengeful God who wants the death of those who do not listen to Him. No, God, in the end, is pro-life. He wants us to live, more so, He wants us to achieve full life in Him.

But, as always, we have a thing to say about that too. We must make the conscious decision to achieve that full life. God makes it possible for us to know about that life and where it may be found. He never forces it upon us, so we have to take the steps towards it, which we can through the grace of the Holy Spirit which we have received.

About this blog

I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

It is sometimes tempting to be too negative about such topics. I don't want to do that: my approach is an inherently positive one, and loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. In many quarters this is an unfamiliar idea: criticism is often the standard approach to the Church, her bishops and priests and other representatives. I will be critical when that is warranted, but it is not my standard approach.

For a personal account about my reasons for becoming and remaining Catholic, go read my story: Why am I Catholic?


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Netherlands License.

The above means that I have the right to be recognised as the author of both the original blog posts, as well as any translations I make. Everyone is free to share my content, but with credit in the form of my name or a link to my blog.

Blog and media

Over the years, my blog posts have been picked up by various other blogs, websites and media outlets.

A complete list would be prohibitively long, so I'll limit myself to mentioning The Anchoress, Anton de Wit, Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam, The Break/SQPN, Caritas in Veritate, Catholic Culture, The Catholic Herald, EWTN, Fr. Ray Blake's Blog, Fr. Z's Blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity, Katholiek Gezin,, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, New Liturgical Movement, NOS, Protect the Pope, Reformatorisch Dagblad, The Remnant, RKS Ariëns, Rorate Caeli, The Spectator, Vatican Insider, Voorhof and Whispers in the Loggia.

All links to, quotations of and use as source material of my blog posts is greatly appreciated. It's what I blog for: to further awareness and knowledge in a positive critical spirit. Credits are equally liked, of course.

Blog posts have also been used as sources for various Wikipedia articles, among them those on Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Archbishop Sergio Utleg and Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki.

Latest translations added:

20 April: [English] Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki - Easter message.

15 April: [English] Bishop Frans Wiertz - Homily on sexual abuse.

4 April: [English] Pope Francis - Interview with Belgian youth.

25 February: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Brief aan de Gezinnen.

24 February: [Dutch] Raymond Kardinaal Burke - De radicale oproep van de paus tot de nieuwe evangelisatie.
De focus van Paus Franciscus op liefde en praktische pastorale zorg in de grotere context van de Schrift en de leer van de Kerk.

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Sancta Maria, hortus conclusus, ora pro nobis!

Sancte Ramon de Peñafort, ora pro nobis!

Pope Francis

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God

Bishop Gerard de Korte

Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden

Willem Cardinal Eijk

Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht

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