Rethinking the Age for Confirmation

“Let us think, each one of us: do we truly care that our children and our young ones receive Confirmation? This is important, it is important!”   ~ Pope Francis

It’s a new year, and that means a new MASTER CALENDAR in the kitchen—a familiar sight in most homes with children. There’s always plenty of room for reminders and appointments, and it’s the authoritative source for birthdays, anniversaries (especially ours—mustn’t forget!), and baptismal days.

Do you mark baptismal days in your family? We’ve been doing if from the beginning of our marriage—it just makes sense. If birthdays are how we annually celebrate the life of those we love, then baptismal days are opportunities to celebrate the beginning of their eternal life—that spiritual rebirth into the family of God that Christ won for us through the cross.

My own baptismal day is highlighted in red like everyone else’s, but I also get to spotlight my confirmation—and not just because I’m in charge of preparing the calendar. I was raised Presbyterian and baptized accordingly, but my spiritual rebirth wasn’t fully accomplished until I made a profession of faith and was confirmed as a Catholic a quarter century later.

And what a monumental occasion that was—truly a moment of conversion, including a new Church, a new way of life, even a new name! While it was also the occasion of my first Holy Communion, I especially associate my conversion with confirmation because it constituted a permanent change of character and a once-in-a-lifetime event—just like my Protestant infant baptism.

And there’s an additional connection between these two sacraments because confirmation is fundamentally a “strengthening” (con-firmare) for the baptized who are henceforth commissioned to live out their baptism with gusto. The Catechism puts it thus:

Confirmation … gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross.

I might’ve been in a suit and tie at that Easter Vigil so long ago, but I remember well envisioning myself on my knees before my liege lord, imploring him to send me on a quest or into battle. In short, my confirmation was a launch—the beginning of an adventure!

Is that how you remember your confirmation? Unless you’re an adult convert, probably not.

For so many cradle Catholics, confirmation is merely a bump-in-the-road on the way to adult independence—a teenage rite of passage more than anything else, and, for those not enrolled in Catholic schools, the end of any kind of structured religious formation. Instead of commencing an adventure, confirmation is too often experienced as a graduation commencement—a capstone and a conclusion, and the last time the recipients will be compelled to do anything overtly “religious” outside of showing up for Mass … maybe.

Too harsh? Consider these words from evangelist Matthew Kelly: “We discovered … that 85 percent of young people stop practicing their faith within seven years of being confirmed.” That’s almost nine out of every ten Catholics bolting for the door within a decade of being fully initiated. That’s an incredible statistic, and it’s borne out in our rapidly aging Church—no wonder we’re consolidating parishes and shuttering church buildings!

Obviously, something is seriously amiss, and it seems like confirmation is an important key for correcting Catholic youth flight. We can be grateful that people like Matthew Kelly and other publishers have made an effort to spruce up confirmation preparation, but, so far, those efforts haven’t really paid off.

Why not?

I’m convinced the problem isn’t the way we prepare our children for confirmation, but rather when we do it. I’ll even go as far as to say that, despite the practice of a majority of U.S. dioceses, we couldn’t pick a worse time than the teen years for confirmation.

I make that assertion based on my limited track record as a religious educator, but also as a parent of confirmation candidates—four confirmed, three to go. Cecilia, our seventh-grader, is next up. Preparation begins at our parish school this term, and then our bishop will come next December to administer the sacrament to Cece and her friends.

But what if she doesn’t want to be confirmed—what then? Would she be brave enough to tell us? What’s more, would we be brave enough to give her the freedom to hold off? And if we push her to receive the sacrament with her class—whether out of pious concern or social conformity—what would upshot be? Resentment most likely, and maybe even a reinforced cynicism with an added layer of complicit hypocrisy. In any case, certainly not the enthusiasm for living the faith that the sacrament signifies.

Not to worry, though: Our Cecilia is actually excited about getting confirmed. For many families, however, the challenges I described above are not theoretical—we actually hear about them pretty regularly in our own parish catechetical ministry. Yet, it really shouldn’t be a surprise, especially if we remember that we ourselves starting wrestling with big ideas (including our faith) around the same age. The teen years are often a rocky, rebellious period, and there’s no doubt that strong parental guidance will be required throughout. Nonetheless, it’s vitally important for teenagers to start thinking for themselves and making their own decisions. “If at every stage of his life man desires to be his own person,” St. John Paul II observed, “during his youth he desires it even more strongly.”

Yes, it’s a tricky business, raising teenagers—a balancing act of oversight and latitude—but then confirmation rolls around, and what do we do? We compel teens to undergo intense religious instruction—even if they’ve been away from CCD since second grade—and in effect force them to receive a sacrament they themselves might otherwise forego. Plus, many parents of confirmation candidates aren’t exactly living a sacramental life themselves, and so their teens might assimilate the message that faith primarily involves going through the motions. Besides, as the Catechism teaches, “one must be in a state of grace” to receive Confirmation—which includes conscientiously honoring the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays. If confirmation candidates and their families haven’t been getting to Mass on a regular basis, and they have no intention of doing so once the sacrament is administered, then what’s the point?

I’m hoping that some of this rings true for you, and that it accords with observations you yourself have made. If so, then what I’d like to propose won’t sound so crazy.

It’s actually a bifurcated proposal that involves a radical shift of the sacrament either backwards or forwards. The preferable direction, at least according to tradition, is to move confirmation back to the age of reason, and to administer it prior to first communion. This would restore the ancient and proper order of the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, then communion), and would accentuate the Eucharist as the most important of the three. As Pope Benedict pointed out, there are sound historical reasons for how the order (at least in the West) got mixed up, but “it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation.”

Current practice puts the accent on confirmation as a sacramental goal line, and so it is incorrectly perceived as the “source and summit of the Christian life” instead of the Eucharist. And not only does confirmation come last in line, but it also generally involves a great deal of preparation—a full year or more of instruction and formation, for example, along with any number of obligatory service projects. All those mandates can give the misleading impression that confirmation is not only the most important sacrament, but also one that must be earned.

First Holy Communion prep was, by comparison, so simple: A few crafts and some worksheets, maybe a banner, and that was it. There was never any question that the Eucharist could or should be earned, and the only real requirement was that the communicant be able to recognize the difference between ordinary elements on the one hand, and the Eucharist on the other. It was all so elementary because, well, the recipients were in elementary school.

According to the Church, kids reach the age of reason around their seventh year, and at that point they have adequate intellectual and, presumably, spiritual resources to prepare for not only confirmation, but penance and Eucharist as well. Our actions, however, indicate that confirmation is so serious that it requires greater spiritual maturity and intelligence, and so we push it off until the teen years.

But the truth is that confirmation around the age of seven is actually the universal normsurprise! Bishops do have the discretion to confirm at other times, but if we adopted an early confirmation age as the standard, we could finally put to rest the idea that it’s a Catholic bar mitzvah. “Although Confirmation is sometimes called the ‘sacrament of Christian maturity,’” the Catechism insists, “we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth.”

Along those lines, we also have to reject the neo-gnostic idea that confirmation candidates have to fully comprehend what the sacrament is about before they can receive it. Instead, what’s really required? And is it beyond the ken of grade-schoolers? Again, here’s the Catechism:

Preparation for Confirmation should aim at leading the Christian toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit—in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life.

All that seems well within the grasp of children who are already expected to form a rudimentary understanding of transubstantiation. And to underscore the point that age shouldn’t be a barrier to receiving confirmation’s special graces and responsibilities, the Catechism quotes Thomas Aquinas: “Even in childhood man can attain spiritual maturity…. Many children, through the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received, have bravely fought for Christ even to the shedding of their blood.”

While there are undoubtedly logistical problems with switching to a younger confirmation age, several dioceses have adopted it to great success—most notably Fargo. It’s my hope that more dioceses will at least consider the idea—maybe experiment with it in a couple parishes to see how it goes.

However, anticipated pushback from parents, catechists, and schools—entrenched in the tried and true—makes it highly unlikely that a younger confirmation would be adopted on a large scale, so that leads me to my second suggestion: Discontinue compulsory preparation and administration of confirmation altogether. This alternative doesn’t restore the proper order of the initiation sacraments, but it has a couple other benefits to commend it.

To begin with, the language and culture of confirmation as a rite of passage isn’t going away any time soon, and so we might as well use it to our catechetical advantage. By dispensing with required confirmation preparation and reception, the sacrament can truly become a moment of conversion for Catholics, regardless of when it occurs. In this way, confirmation will take on particular importance for Catholics returning to the Church after being away for a time, especially when such a return coincides with significant life changes—like marriage for instance, or having that first baby. And young people who never drift away from the Church? They’ll likely seek confirmation in their teen years anyway. Thus, for all recipients, the sacrament will cohere with their actual lived experience of faith.

There’s an additional catechetical value to this approach: Confirmation classes will start to mix together maturing teens, young adults, and the retired—and everyone in between! Younger candidates will get to hear older Catholics share about their struggles and joys; in turn, those older Catholics will get to hear the younger candidates express their aspirations and enthusiasms.

I can’t think of a better way to foster the idea that confirmation (and Christianity) is really for grown-ups—grown-ups, that is, that humble themselves and come to Jesus.

You know, like children.

Editor’s note: The image above is a detail from an altarpiece depicting three of the seven sacraments (baptism, confirmation and penance) painted by Rogier van der Weyden between 1445 and 1450.

Richard Becker

By

Richard Becker is a husband, father of seven, nursing instructor, and religious educator. He blogs regularly at God-Haunted Lunatic.

  • ForChristAlone

    I disagree with the proposal for moving the Sacrament of Confirmation back to an earlier age. I am, in fact, in favor of moving it forward closer to the years 17 or 18. Here’s why.

    We were always taught that to be a fully initiated member of the Church, we were part of the Church Militant. We were militant in the sense of being prepared to fight to protect the salvation won for us by the graces of Christ’s redemption and accorded to us through baptism. We were militant also to fight for the salvation of other souls by proclaiming the Good News of salvation through Him and Him alone.

    In order to fulfill our role as the Church Militant, we needed God’s grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are communicated through the Sacrament of Confirmation. We are expected to cooperate with these graces through our own efforts. All this assumes a full knowledge of what our purpose and mission is as member of the Church. This requires a mature decision on our part to accept this responsibility.

    Pushing the age forward would also allow what I would consider a sine qua non for reception of the Sacrament – that of actually having already been on mission. Young people first need adequate catechesis but then they also need to have some missionary experiences under their belt. They need PRACTICE in what it means to be on mission, to evangelize, to proclaim the Gospel. How this will take shape is up to the bishop of each diocese to decide. But administering the Sacrament of Confirmation without having experienced what it intends means that the faith will never be put into action. Not to do this means having the kind of Catholic faithful that we do today: poorly catechized and totally confused about what all this talk about the “New Evangelization” is all about. In fact, we wouldn’t need a “New Evangelization” at all if young people were steeped in evangelization practices when they were young.

    When it comes to evangelization, the Mormons are light years ahead of us on this one.

    • Anglicanæ

      The early church saw baptism and confirmation as two sides of the same coin. The Western Church by a series of administrative accidents of history split Confirmation from Baptism. The Eastern Orthodox are actually more theologically consistent and ancient by baptising and confirming infants or adults in one fell swoop.

      Speaking as a dyed-in-the-wool Western Christian.

      • gregoryvii

        “The early church saw baptism and confirmation as two sides of the same coin.” Are you saying that the early church only recognized six sacraments? That baptism and confirmation were lumped into one sacrament?

        • Anglicanæ

          The ritual combined baptism and confirmation is what I’m saying. Clearly the two were distinct, which is why western bishops, whose praxis forbade the power of confirmation to the priests, would later on introduce a delay in confirmation until he could make the pastoral visit at particular churches. The East did not have this hang-up as such: the priest had authority to administer blessed chrism oil by the bishop and in his absence.

          Also, let’s be careful not to project later reflections on the number of sacraments to what the Church was doing the first 3 centuries. If you asked, “What’s the number of sacraments?” you weren’t likely to get a neat and tidy answer.

          We have the advantage of 2000 years of reflection working with the same data the early Church worked with.

    • St JD George

      Your thoughts resonate with me, and yet I struggle. My broad experience with people who call themselves Catholic is that they know very little about their faith and that it is mostly a cultural identity – I don’t mean that derogatory, just the way that I see things. I have no doubt that one of those man on the street shows could be filmed asking people coming out of Mass some very basic questions about their faith and getting puzzled looks. Do we need for every parishioner to have the knowledge of the priest, or just unshakable faith? Should we expect more than we do, or are have we just become comfortable living in this world living with worldly things too? I dare say that most don’t even recognize that there is a war going on attacking our church and seeking to diminish it’s influence outside the four walls spent for an hour or more on Sunday.
      I don’t have strong feelings about moving confirmation to the left or to the right, what I do think needs to be instilled is a sense that learning about our faith is a lifelong commitment, not just a one and done mentality. With learning comes acting on it too, and learning the importance of sharing whatever treasures you’ve been blessed with to help bring others into a deeper relationship with Christ.

      • Bill

        You stated: “Do we need for every parishioner to have the knowledge of the priest, or just unshakable faith?” My answer is both. However, it would be good if priests could explain in detail what the Mass is. Not a 15 minute homily, but several 15 minutes homilies spread over a course of time. Most Mass goers have heard innumerable homilies about love, love, and more love. We get that. How about teaching the faith from the altar?

        • St JD George

          Couldn’t agree more. I was referring to of course the knowledge they leave the seminary with, not the snippets of experience or reflection they chose to share. I don’t know how all go about preparing their homilies, but nobody is going to learn their faith through a 5 minute homily once a week, it takes more active involvement by the person sitting in the pew to seek out … too.
          The quality of homilies though is a worthwhile subject for discussion and perhaps worthy of it’s own article by someone willing to take it up.

    • Maria

      I wanted to down-vote this comment, but somehow I ended up up- voting it. The bottomline is that Confirmation gives something that is not present in the soul prior: the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. Why do we wait to receive the full fruits of the Spirit until well after we (and our children!) are already engaged in spiritual combat? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    • bender

      Confirmation is perhaps the most misunderstood sacrament out there. And that’s saying a lot since there is gross misunderstanding of the others.

      It is more about some generic “initiation” or receiving some generic “grace.” It is about being initiated specifically into the mission of the Church. It is about receiving a specific set of graces for that particular reason — the right tool for the right job — which is to be an apostle, a missionary disciple.

      “You will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) It does a disservice to people to place them under the obligation of this mission without telling them that they have that mission or what the mission is, much less a mission “to the ends of the earth.”

      • angther

        I totally agree with your statement that Confirmation is sometimes “more about some generic initiation.” That is what it has been pared down to, in response to the “protestant-ization” of the understanding of our faith.

        This also includes our understanding of “grace”. To the protestant, actual grace IS somewhat generic, they do not have the understanding, nor the means of SANCTIFYING GRACE that comes from the sacraments of the Church, imparted by priests/bishops anointed in apostolic succession. So many Catholics have absorbed that protestant mentality. They have no knowledge nor the understanding that the grace imparted in the sacraments is the actual life of God infused into their souls to make them into His image. But of course, that grace needs a response in order that it become active. There needs to be a relational cooperation between the soul and God, for it to realize its power.

    • WSquared

      So you don’t think that Confirmation is necessary for mission, then? They have to have a sense of mission or be conscious of being on a mission first before they receive that Sacrament?

      Where they gain practice in being on a mission is being sent– and being thrown in the deep end. Which is exactly where they are before and once they hit the age of reason. Do you think that Satan will wait until they have a “sense of mission” before he comes at them both full bore and subtly, or do you give them the tools and weapons they need, explaining to them that they’re already in a mission and in a fight, whether they like it or not?

      A child who has reached the age of reason is supposed to have formed a reasonable understanding of transubstantiation. In order to have had first penance, this child should also have an understanding of sin– which means they are not only old enough to sin, but old enough to sin mortally.

      One wonders where the heck child saints like St. Dominic Savio, St. Maria Goretti, or Bl. Jose Del Rio would be if the Church followed your understanding of “Church Militant,” when all of these child saints were braver and tougher spiritual warriors than both you or I or many on these threads, mainly because they were humbler and so much in love with Christ.

      “But administering the Sacrament of Confirmation without having
      experienced what it intends means that the faith will never be put into
      action.”

      Not so. It merely means that one is given a gift, and now one has to unwrap it.

      • Craig

        Well put. And my daughter (a child!) hears about these giants of the Faith, ie, St. Dominic and other child saints, all of the time. She has to. We all do.

    • rf

      I have always agreed with this concept in the past. But having been a Confirmation catechist, and involved as a catechist over the years, I believe Confirmation with First Communion may be a better process. I have seen that most catechists have done nothing to grow their understanding of the Faith and are poor at passing it on. They still rely on their own high school education. Delaying the Sacrament in hopes of a better understanding, in the end, has not been proven out. Grace given is much needed in those adolescent years! I would rather see continuing formation for EVERYONE belonging to a parish. Parents should be catechized along with their youngsters preparing for Penance, Confirmation, Eucharist. Then continuous offerings of education for all age levels should be encouraged and offered. And creative, exciting ways of learning that coincide with the way children learn in these times.

      • Ms. G.

        RF, I agree with you about the need for continuing formation. I was a teen in the 1970s and our CCD classes were a terrible waste of time. My children will begin confirmation prep soon. I don’t see any Christian ed after confirmation and that surprises me. I thought in this day and age with the emphasis being on The New Evangelization for 20 years that the confirmed kids would begin apologetics training. That, with the Holy Spirit’s graces, is what they will need to address the many challenges to their faith posed by our society when they are in high school.

    • Craig

      But a child can already do spiritual battle-and does especially at the age of reason. Why not do as many Protestants do and not baptize until the person is an adult? The use of “missionary experiences” and what you speak of is not relating to Catholicism. And who is to say a child cannot cooperate with such graces? They were able in the past and can now; my 7 year old Traditional, alter boy nephew with his knowledge and innocence would run circles around most catholic adults without realizing it.

      Yes, we should go out and evangelize, but now more than ever children see and hear evil, ie, Internet and fellow people, that they need such graces. To reduce Confirmation to having to be old enough to receive it to utilize the graces received is basically the same as being a carrot for teens-even with your obvious good intentions.

    • Brigid

      What about the kids who have friends from other religions? Then they’re in a spiritual battle field with half of their armor missing! (Spiritual graces are given from the sacrament of confirmation). I had a friend in elementary school who wanted me to believe in reincarnation. I didn’t have the guts to tell her that I didn’t. If I had the grace from the sacrament of confirmation I might have been able to fearlessly state that there is no such thing as reincarnation!

  • jessej

    Dear Richard, thanks for touching on ths subject. There is a problem not only with the timming of these classes but also the material, the home, the parishes and the scchools.

    When i first came across the teaching material for CCD I thought, this will keep kids Catholic until about the 3rd day of college. I went rouge and brought in material from men like Rutler, Akin and Kreeft and they devoured it. They were thirsty and only the best would satisfy.

    This is anecdotal but it was telling. All these children went to the best Catholic schools in our area, they attended Mass every Sunday and had gone to Sunday school for years. None were familiar with the most basic Church concepts like Sunday obligation or Apostolic succession. It was appalling and illuminating.

    Maybe starting CCD earlier is a step in the right direction and I appreciate you starting the conversation. My wife and I took a different course of action.

    Our child was confirmed at his baptism when he was 2 months old. It seemed like a no brainer to me. Jesus wants the little ones to come to him so here he is Lord. He will grow up with Chesterton, Newman, St John Paul II, etc in the home. We don’t consider it a guarantee of him staying in the Church but we do understand it as a gurantee that he will have a fighting chance to weather the brewing societal storm.

    Thanks again for your article.

    • fredx2

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    • Patti Day

      I applaud you in your decision to have your child confirmed at Baptism. I hope you discuss Chesterton, Newman, St. JPII with the child as he matures in age and reason. It sounds like you will do. Don’t forget praying the rosary as a family to strengthen the bond. If all parents would pray and discuss their Catholic faith with their children, fewer would leave the first chance they got.

    • Joseph

      Love how you went rouge! (Rogue/Rouge is my favorite autocorrect mistake. The text always points to going one’s own way and doing something extraordinary, and the action is to put on one’s makeup! Always cracks me up.)

    • EC

      Sounds great! I’d love to get my young children confirmed ASAP. Who did you have to talk to to arrange that?

      • jessej

        We were lucky, our (very orthodox) parish priest offered to do it upon my request. Probably because of health concerns and a slight chance of death or maybe he sees the value in early confirmation as well. I didn’t ask. However I was prepared to contact the Bishop and even considered moving to an Eastern right parish as a just in case solution.

    • STS

      In the Syriac Rite of the Church, Confirmation is conferred on infants immediately after baptism. The parents get to pick a first name, baptism name and confirmation name. My grandson is Athanasius Fulton Pio. He is off to a good start.

  • FrChristopher Phillips

    This has been the practice in our parish for the past several years, and it shows the wisdom of the Church’s tradition of administering this sacrament in conjunction with first confession and first Holy Communion. It helps to have a parish school as we do, but our home-schooling families have also embraced this whole-heartedly. It has now become common to hear our second-graders and their families speak of Confirmation and Holy Communion in one sentence, and I am happy to say that it is now seen by our parishioners as normal, ordinary practice, and it actually makes sense to them.

  • Beth

    I agree with the early reception of Confirmation. Wish all of mine would have had the opportunity. But here is the catch for our parish. The PSR program would be less than half after 2nd grade.

    The problem isn’t the students not attending mass/psr, (most of them do not attend mass). It’s the parents themselves not attending and/or not expecting their children to attend. The parents of school aged children are very poorly catechized. I propose that to enroll you children in the parish school religion, the parent has to spend a certain number of hours in the classroom assisting. This would help the parent AND the student. Would there be families that just drop out because of the new expectation for participation. Yes. But we need to be brave enough to raise the bar for in the long run, the students and their families will be stronger in their family life and stronger Catholics. (Caveat: This plan means we trash the dumbed-down curriculums too!)

  • With You Always

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal and family experience with Confirmation. In the Archdiocese of Liverpool in the UK we are in our third year of the Restored Order of the Sacraments of Initiation. Children age 8-9 receive their First Reconciliation in Advent and their Confirmation and First Communion in the Pentecost season following. My own children age 10-16 have all received their Confirmation. It is an enormous relief to me as a parent to know that my 5 children have received the grace of Confirmation as they approach (or are already in) their teenage years! The Archdiocese of Liverpool uses Family Catechesis to prepare children and families for the Sacraments. Parents sit next to their children and work through colourful booklets at sessions organised by parish catechists and supported by the school. The bulk of the conversation is between parents and children, highlighting parents as their child’s first and best teacher. We find the parents are also challenged to engage with their faith when they talk with their children about receiving Confirmation and First Holy Communion. (Some see it as a ‘refresher course’ and some are learning for the first time!) http://www.withyoualways.org.uk

    Why do we deny children at the ‘age of reason’ the Sacrament of Confirmation if they are clearly allowed to receive it? Why does youth ministry have to be about receiving Confirmation – what about a youth ministry that challenges and supports young people who have already been confirmed? Surely the Restored Order of Confirmation and Eucharist points in the most logical way to the ‘Source and Summit of the Sacraments’.

  • Dan

    I remember being taught in 8th grade that, “at baptism our parents made the decision of faith for us, now it was our time to make that decision for ourselves.” What a mixed up view of the Sacraments!
    I agree that if we really believe that the Eucharist is the “summit of the Christian life” then it should be the final Sacrament of Initiation. We now know that moving Confirmation back just to keep kids engaged in Religious Education doesn’t work. They are mostly dis-engaged in Religious Education until they can finally be Confirmed and check out for good. Confirmation is viewed by most of the US as a graduation from religious education and an initiation into lukewarm adult Catholicism where someone can choose for themselves if they really want to practice the faith.

  • Thomas Mellon

    From my own experience I would argue that delaying confirmation is disastrous.
    Our local primary school prepared children for confirmation until 8 years ago. So roughly 60 children aged 10 and 11 were confirmed every 2 years.Like most parishes in the west, roughly 10 percent of the parents were regular mass goers.
    Members of the parish committee sought a change to boost parish solidarity and therefore it was taken out of the school and entrusted to parish catechists and permitted only to 15 to 18 year olds who requested it and would be carried out if enough people sought it,and then only every 2 years Since then, roughly 30 students out of 240 have been confirmed.
    I am fighting a constant and losing battle to have my children confirmed.
    I have been told by the 2 catechists that led the change
    -confirmation only became a sacrament in the twelfth century
    -it’s up to the child and has nothing to do with me
    -we shouldn’t cast our pearls amongst swine
    -pentecost has nothing to do with confirmation.

    I think at its highest they view the sacrament as a ritual renewal of baptismal vows.

    I keep arguing that my children need the grace of confirmation to go through adolescence, but it falls on deaf ears.
    They believe confirmation should be earned. Mine wasn’t.

    • TerryC

      Here is the real problem. Catechists who don’t understand Catholic teaching, and have bought into heretical teachings on the sacrament (and probably a lot of other Church teachings.)
      I’d say two things. Run. Find another parish, preferably one that is orthodox and follows tradition. (A real Trad parish, with TLM is not necessary, though great if you can find one and you feel called to it.) But at the least find one which has a knowledgeable priest and a Director or Religious Education who is determined to follow Church teaching and ensure their catechists do the same.
      Second, if you can’t do the above it’s time to make a fuss. This might mean contacting the diocese. It might mean going the the pastor and explaining that confirmation, like all Sacraments were created by Christ and the it has everything to do with Pentecost and that his catechists are teaching in such a manner as to undermine what the Church teaches, as well as undermining the primary teachers of your children, you. Also point out that no Sacrament can be earned. A Sacrament is a gift from God that instills Grace. It might mean rolling up your sleeves and becoming a catechist, or even a Director of Religious Education yourself.

      • Thomas Sharpe

        “Catechists who don’t understand Catholic teaching”. You’re correct, some do not..
        I’d say a third,… For those who have understanding … Teach- even if you’re own children are too young for confirmation, or have already made their confirmation.
        And a fourth,.. Diocese should offer degrees to those who do Teach.

        • Fargo106

          I really like your fourth. I have been teaching middle school CCD for 7 or 8 years and shudder to think of some of the things I missed with that first group of kids. I have worked very hard to bolster my knowledge and understanding of the faith (to the advantage of both the kids and me), and feel very competent now that these kids are getting solid, traditional, CCC-based instruction. But wow, what I wouldn’t give for a little help from the diocese (1/2 $$) for a little more formal training.. not even a degree, but a 15-credit undergrad or grad certificate in Catholic Theology (I think John Paul the Great Catholic University has a good one — http://www.jpcatholic.com/academics/degree/theology_cert.php). The diocese has one-day events now and then, but their not academic in nature.

          • Thomas Sharpe

            Thanks. Education should be cheap now too with YouTube methods.
            I get really frustrated with catholic high schools becoming more private schools for upper middle class with 1 or 2 kids and the overwhelming majority (95% ?) of catholic students Ccd is on a shoe string budget, not to mention stopping at 9th grade confirmation.

    • Guest

      I too had the same issue in my home Parrish. For several years parents have told me that many of the kids (especially those not in Catholic School) have no idea of the basics of their faith, let alone our basic Catholic Prayers. I was told that one of the Catechists said that they want the kids to learn how to pray to God from their heart and not just memorize prayers that have no meaning for them. My son is now in a more traditional Parrish for Confirmation Class and is being challenged every Sunday…not once every couple of weeks to meet an attendance requirement. This had to start with us since the Bishop and Chancery are not much help with this regard. The problem is that our Sacraments have become nothing more than a checklist…just something to do and move on and say this percentage has completed their Sacraments in my Diocese. Until this mindset changes…we will continue to bleed

      • WSquared

        “I was told that one of the Catechists said that they want the kids to
        learn how to pray to God from their heart and not just memorize prayers
        that have no meaning for them.”

        False dichotomy.

        I suppose, then, that Jesus shouldn’t have taught us to pray the Our Father, and it should mean nothing to us that He Himself gave us that prayer.

        • Guest

          that was my reply…and received a blank look!!

  • samnigromd

    the problem is SUGGESTIBILITY….

    A
    Suggestibility Prevention Program—

    Not true, not one, not good, not beautiful?

    FORGETABOUTIT!”

    by: Samuel A. Nigro,
    M.D.

    April, 2008

    ABSTRACT:

    Fifty years of information
    technology has overwhelmed the Church’s traditional role as the source
    of all that is true, one, good and beautiful. Therefore, Original Sin prevails
    as humans have been proven to be gullible and suggestible about anything if it
    is packaged sensationally. Suggestibility Prevention Programs can help
    everyone understand ways to cope with antitranscendental messages flooding us.
    The soul is analyzed transcendentally, and reference material is provided to
    help all, especially youths, to not be so suggestible and gullible. Until this
    is done, the Church will always come in second to the suggestibility experts of
    current information technology

    (If not with this article, mentioned
    reference material will be provided upon request from Sam@DocNigro.com. Just
    ask for “And Satan Turned Into An Angel of Light”, for “YUK the Press and
    Media,” for Chapter 12 on “Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Virtues and Sin” from my
    book Happy Ending, for “The Ten Commandments of CounterSecularization,”
    for the poster “Why Burn A Flag When You Can Burn A Newspaper,” for “The
    Journalism Ethics and Public Service Award,” for “Ideas: You Are What You
    Think,” and for “The Lack Of Survival Stress.” )

    Problems today for the Roman Catholic
    Church devolve to one major sin of omission:
    the failure to adjust and cope with information technology, a
    problem first addressed in 1994 by my pamphlet “And Satan Turned Into An Angel
    Of Light.” The problem persists. One report says that one-third of raised
    Catholics do not remain in the Church, while the dearth of vocations to
    priesthood and religious life speaks for itself…and the reason is that the five
    decade culture of information technology suggests (seduces to) other ways of
    thinking and living (“Seduction” is almost always equivalent to
    “suggestibility” in this article).
    Indeed, with the flood of messages and suggestions from the world wide
    web, one hardly knows what to read much less what to believe.

    To counter this, I now offer a Suggestibility
    Prevention Program, not to stop suggestibility itself which would be
    impossible, but to help all learn to avoid being suggested to evil i.e., to
    avoid being seduced to sensationalism, emotion, unreason, fantasy and non-being
    by the mass media of pretendvision (television, movies and internet) and of
    liarpresses (the liberal press) all without allegiance to much more than
    disgust, death, sex, and evil (the pursuit of non-being).

    The contemporary press and media are
    generally nothing more than suggestibility machines and manipulation gadgets,
    used to get people to believe and do what the owners of the press and media
    want and are willing to accept. Those in
    charge of these mind control monstrosities are usually “liberals” meaning they
    are relativists i.e., open-minded for anything except that which they really do
    not like, at which time they become fascists causing the named “Free Flow Of
    Information Act” to be a joke. But
    “suggestibility,” their suggesting, is the name of the game, and their
    brutal intolerance of that with which they disagree is never seen as
    self-contradictory and self-discrediting to their eager so-called openness
    (liberalness) to all things.

    Actually, suggestibility is proof of the
    Bible story of Adam and Eve. The serpent
    suggested (advertised, sold) the idea that they would be like God and live
    forever if they ate the forbidden fruit when, without realizing, they already
    were made in the “image and likeness of God” and if living rightly would
    already live forever. Thus, as
    satanically suggested, they made the wrong choice and broke the up to
    then automatic transcendental existence for all humanity. “Choosing wrong” became possible, and suggestibility
    (the convincing of another by rhetorical power), first offered in the biblical
    story, became part of human nature, also proving that some myths are true. Basically, Original Sin continues as man’s suggestibility,
    and it haunts us day in and day out, especially with the advent of current
    slick information technology flooding us in our homes, cars, theaters and
    everywhere. Information technology is a
    “look at me”, “believe me,” “do what I show and tell” suggestibility contest
    (and, more often than not, if we see it, we will do it, proving Original
    Sin). Information technology today has
    only a facade of logic and cares little for “reality” except to occasionally
    claim it.

    It is evident that ever since Adam and Eve,
    humans have competed for what and whom to believe. We all offer suggestions, this paper being an
    example of such. However, being reminded
    that we are in a continuous showbiz circus of suggestions can reduce
    impulsiveness and thoughtlessness in making choices about what to believe and
    do. Further helpful is the truism that a
    major way to confirm the acceptability of any suggestion is that the ideas
    offered can be applied to themselves, something rarely true outside of what is
    compatable with Natural Law, the metaphysics of
    St. Thomas Aquinas and the Transcendentals.

    Given all that, it is time for Suggestibility
    Prevention Programs to help everyone understand that we are being suggested
    to, manipulated, and shamelessly influenced to believe and act in certain ways
    never more enticing, seductive, and slick than with and by the contemporary
    press and media imposing what is paid for and what is demanded by whoever is
    paying. Without proper understanding of
    this, people have been and will be suggested to do almost anything—from running
    around naked to running concentration camps and everything in between.

    Especially, youth and the immature are
    prone to be suggested into all sorts of anti-transcendental aspects of
    existence which do little for the common good and are against individual
    positive development. Finally, the
    flagrantly stupid self exposures rampant on the world wide web are
    unimpeachable proof of the need for Suggestibilty Prevention Programs. Something is clearly needed to better prepare
    all youths, including the college and university bound, for the pandemic of
    liberal assaults on life, family, country, God, and virtue.

    Twelve
    Elementary Suggestions to Prevent Suggestibilty

    Beginning in grade schools, calculated
    educational efforts and experiences need to be taught on a regular basis about
    “not being so suggestible or gullible.”
    Consistent with that, the following suggestions are made:

    1. A
    newspaper or media story would be brought in daily and reviewed with an effort
    to identify suggestions if not errors in the article and discern what the
    writer was trying to get you to believe and do.
    An atmosphere of healthy doubt will occur in the discussions of
    alternative ways of presenting and interpreting the information provided. The universal questions will be: Why is this information presented this way;
    what do they want you to buy; and is it junk food or junk ideas? These questions should be automatic with
    every statement in the press and media not only in newspapers but in what is
    seen in television, movies and on the internet.
    Make no mistake about it: Every
    word in the press and media has been chosen to suggest something to you.

    2. Suggestibility
    Prevention Commandments to be learned:

    1. Do not be so
    impressionable.

    2. Do not be so
    gullible.

    3. Do not be a
    “monkey see, monkey do copycat” – you are not a monkey.

    4. Celebrities are
    fakes. Actors are fakes. It takes them hours to look that way and they
    get paid to carry on like that. Consider
    none of it to be real. Be who you
    are. The seeking and promoting of
    non-being is evil unless known to be entertainment.

    5. Believe nothing
    on television, in movies, on internet or in newspapers without two
    confirmations. The most you can usually
    hope for is to be entertained.

    6. Do not believe,
    do anything, or imitate except what is true, one, good and beautiful no matter
    what is done, offered or believed by others.

    7. Materially, you
    are what you eat. But spiritually you
    are what you think and will become what
    you think and do … so think matter, identity, truth, oneness, good and
    beauty, and all will be well or better.

    8. In the long run
    you will get for eternity (in heaven, purgatory or hell) whatever you have
    thought and done … so think and do what is true, one, good, and
    beautiful. You are what you think, and
    you will get forever in justice in an afterlife what you think and do on earth
    as a reward or punishment as the case may be—so do what is transcendental so you
    will get what is transcendental!

    9. Boycott all
    antispiritual dehumanizing degrading anti-nature glitzy nonsense from the
    uncivilizing unreliable press and media.
    Do not spend your life doing, thinking, or promoting unreality or
    non-being.

    10. Do not be
    suggestible. You are not missing a thing.
    Do the transcendentals and avoid evil!

    These prevention
    commandments are to be learned and discussed thoroughly.

    3. On
    a monthly basis, review portions of “Satan Turned Into an Angel of Light…” so
    that the entire pamphlet is covered each year.

    4. On
    a quarterly basis, review portions of “Yuk, the Press and Media.” This book provides the vocabulary and
    imagery necessary to prevent the ethnic cleansing routinely offered by the
    slick press and media.

    5.
    Because of the flagrant exploitation of human sexuality, the dysphoric
    but exciting, the vulgar but sensuous, the antisocial but exhilarating, the
    destructive but satisfying, and the antiplanet but self-inflating sexuality
    imposed by the press and media, more than anything, needs defusing and reduced
    to elementary understanding in order for people not to be suggestible and not
    to have to imitate all the unnatural polluting crudities seen. Sex sensationalism will never be minimized
    so it must be defused by repetitive clarifications that, for all the animal
    kingdom of which man is a part, sex is for reproduction. Period.
    When not for reproduction, sex is animal cruelty, a form of excretion,
    or non-being. Any exceptions are
    isolated deviations readily discerned as abnormalities from environmentally
    sound nature. Thus, contemporary
    non-marital human sexuality flooding the world is behavioral pollution and,
    pure and simple, against the animal kingdom, the planet and nature. Non-reproductive sexuality is a form of
    excretion better known as “sexcretion,” which is to dediaper each other and
    bring one another to “squirt/moan” or “slime/squeal” anyway possible. Such sex polluting ideas are primarily due to
    the press and media suggesting ejaculation (a simple neurological reflex) and
    its anticipation as the ultimate all-encompassing life experience to vulnerable
    excitable suggestible people, especially youth.
    To offset that, the attached Addendum:
    “1 Page Suggestibilty Education And Sex Education For All People” needs
    yearly promulgation in all schools. To
    allow this simple ejaculation reflex to be supreme ruler of the brain and body
    is absolute idiocy even if everyone suggests that should be the case.

    6. Suggestibilty is made more salutary if the
    meaning of the soul is taught and reminded of daily as the personification of
    one’s Transcendentals. The soul is the
    personification of the permanent things in our existence. That is, all being at the human level
    needs Transcendental awareness and Transcendental projection because that is
    the only way to “save” our souls. All
    else, all else, is impermanent.

    The soul contains six discernible
    components of being known as Transcendentals: the embraced material
    substance (res), forming identity (aliquid), truth (verum),
    oneness (unum), good (bonum) and beauty (bella). To relate in tune with the universe and all
    Nature, to be Catholic encompassing all possible, to be genuinely free, and to
    “save one’s soul,” each of the six dimensions listed of the soul needs to be
    enthusiastically promoted and projected at all times. The Transcendentals are basic elements to genuine
    humanbeingness:

    1. The embraced-by-the-soul material substance (res)
    of one’s being must be fostered, cared for, and engaged in and with the world. Res is our body. It must be used. It is our matter and our organizing fathering
    capacity.

    2. One’s forming identity (aliquid) must
    be established and allowed full and free expression in confluence with the essence of humanity. Aliquid is the activating gentle
    mothering capacity, giving identity and essence to all.

    3. The truth (verum) of one’s being must
    be kept consistent, conforming and in social reality confluence with one’s
    self, one’s family, one’s community, one’s species, the planet and the
    universe.

    4. The oneness (unum) of a being is the
    unifying of desirables into a totality of being as oneself relates from family
    to the universe.

    5. The good (bonum) of one’s being must
    be projected in confluence with Natural Law.
    That is, Natural Law as it is perceived and understood must be followed
    and chosen. One must be environmentally
    sound not only in terms of the planet and nature but in terms of one’s own
    personal beingness as part of that environment.
    Human beings as individuals must be environmentally and behaviorally
    real and consistent with nature. Bonum
    is choosing transcendental work and life.

    6. One’s beauty (bella) must be projected
    in confluence with the uplifting dimension of being. That is, the best must be brought out in
    one’s self and in those capable of being influenced. Bella is the elevating and ascending of
    self and others.

    These six
    components of our souls, these Transcendentals (material substance, identity,
    truth, oneness, good and beauty), are how each human being needs to grasp the
    awareness of and to project in consciousness the transcendental embracing of
    all one deals with by intellect and will.
    In total, these six Transcendentals personified are one’s soul embracing
    the body as a composite person being.
    The soul contains not only our body but in equal proportion an identity, a truth, a oneness, a good, and a
    beauty, all of which need equal attention and expression. When one starts treating all of them as our
    body (res) is treated, the whole universe changes and we become immune
    to non-being (and able to resist the pursuit of non-being, which is evil,
    overwhelmingly offered and suggested by most of the press and media,).

    7. Something
    must be provided, offered, imposed, suggested, of course, which is
    transcendentally sound to functionally replace all the exciting glitz, the
    psychological nonsense, and the bewildering confusing idea pollution
    continuously flooding the suggestible
    world. Not only must all be warned and
    trained not to be easily suggestible, but something must be offered to take
    the place of what is seen and heard—not only to replace it in space but
    with insight, understanding, and functional positive alternatives, i.e., to
    replace non-being with being itself.
    Thus I recommend “Chapter 12:
    Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Virtues and Sin” from my book Happy
    Ending. To know what sin is, to know
    what salutary habits are, and to know the influences to virtue, is to be able
    to recognize evil (sin) when being suggested, the appropriate methods of coping
    (virtues), and the motivation to do what is transcendental (the Gifts of the
    Holy Spirit). In fact, almost all
    psychology can be replaced by this chapter which is more valuable than any
    suggested psychological fantasized processing.
    (Almost all psychology is irrelevant non-being when compared to the
    knowledge of sins, virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; because whenever
    psychology provides valid interpretations, documentations and actions, the
    meanings and significance thereof are fundamentally and incontrovertibly in
    terms of sin and virtue, a fact usually overlooked, ignored or denied. Even
    with volumes of Freudian or scientific data, all psychology can be replaced, in
    the final analysis, by a knowledge of sin, virtue and the Gifts.) In short, the information in these pages
    should be an annual educational experience because they will be more
    explanatory and functional for the common good and for individual positive
    development. Truly, “humanbeingness”
    cannot be understood without understanding sin, virtue and the Gifts of the
    Holy Spirit.

    8. The
    Ten Commandments of CounterSecularization are to be studied learned and taught
    yearly. These are attached or available
    by email as a separate article.

    9. A
    work of art poster “WHY BURN A FLAG WHEN YOU CAN BURN A NEWSPAPER?” is offered
    as a classroom aid. It is the first
    “PRESS ED” ever offered anywhere. It
    provides all the vocabulary and information needed to understand and cope
    better with the press and media. It was
    first promoted in 1991 as something to “immunize…to cope with PAMS…the Press-And-Media
    Syndrome (the most devastating mind-killing disorder in the history of the
    world).” An enlargement of this poster
    should be in every classroom.

    10.
    The JOURNALISM ETHICS AND PUBLIC
    SERVICE AWARD was begun in 1994. It
    conveys information exhaustively helping to understand and diminish the
    suggestibility of the press and media. Never
    has the press and media been more accurately described. This is an essential study deserving
    distribution to all in every school on an annual basis. Actually, almost all in the press and media
    should be mockingly referred to as “American Royalty.” The New York Times and Hollywood represent
    the castles, and all in the press and media in general represent the worst of
    all kings and queens who ever lived.
    They have ordained themselves for the people as divine providers of
    outlandish pretenses of justice and charity by unconditional legitimacy and
    authority to manipulate and suggest their beliefs. The American Royalty provide government of
    the press&media, by the press&media and for the press&media. Never call any of them “journalist x” or
    “actress/actor x” or “editor x” and so on, but “royalty x!” It is “The New York Times royalty” or
    “Hollywood royalty”—they know it all, are in charge of everything, and are
    never wrong—THEY ARE ROYALTY in the worst sense, and they should NEVER be
    allowed to forget it.

    11.
    The article “Ideas: You Are What
    You Think” describes how we turn into that which we see, hear and believe,
    obviously true if one follows those who left the Church for the suggestions of
    the mass media.

    12.
    Finally, Suggestibility Prevention Programs are needed to enable all to
    be able to focus on what is really salutary.
    The distractions from the press and media are so overwhelming that
    people have lost the ability to participate rather than just mindlessly
    wait for entertainment. The passivity of
    doing nothing, of thinking nothing, and of inactive thoughtless watching
    flickering lights and reading ink smudges without really participating in an
    activity, is detrimental to one’s being.
    A good example of that is the losing of participation in the Mass by
    passive numbness as described in “The Lack Of Survival Stress” available by
    e-mail.

    Conclusion:

    Recognizing and promoting A
    Suggestibility Prevention Program will be to move to the new world, the new
    age, the new millennium, the new man (male and female), and to assist in the prevention of
    suggestibility for all that is
    antitranscendental. And maybe the Church will be able to offset the avalanche
    of seductive suggestions from the press and media. Furthermore, the projection of one’s personal
    Transcendentals will enhance the bursting forth of peace on earth. By suggestibility prevention, people will be
    better immune to the Culture of Disgust and the Age of Anathema both
    characterized by labial linguistics, proctological exuberance, flirtation with
    feces, boobsolatry, phallic abuse, psychological hubris, willful entropy, and
    violence … in other words, the defeat of the Mortuary Life and escape from
    “the fallen West” and from “the pagan (demanding agreement to non-being)
    non-West.” So stand aside to protect
    your own but vigorously challenge all suggestions against Transcendental life, taking
    comfort in your loneliness, because while the mass media gives little, the rain
    Baptizes, the wind gives Penance, the bright warm sunlight gives Holy
    Communion, the cold gives Confirmation, the heat gives Extreme Unction, the
    lightning gives Holy Orders, and the thunder gives Matrimony. By the Transcendentals, suggestibility
    becomes salutary and the Sacraments are
    everywhere; the Incarnation is
    completed; Redemption is in hand; and Resurrection is just around the
    corner. But you will hardly ever get
    any of that from the press and media but a myriad of suggestions for
    non-being. That is, all sorts of
    non-being are offered by the mass media seducing all from the transcendental
    life,…and, once again, the pursuit of non-being is evil. The more evil one does, the more one’s being
    is annihilated and one is converted into that black hole of negative
    nothingness wherein one repeats for eternity against oneself all the evil
    (promotion of non-being) one has perpetrated while on earth. But by following and living the Sacraments,
    one’s identified matter flows on a transcendental conduit of truth, oneness,
    good and beauty, to and through eternity.
    All you have to do is reject Original Sin by not being suggestible to
    non-being and what is not real. And,
    then one can relax knowing that Easter is coming.

    You are what you think. You will get what you do. Be transcendental not suggestible. A Suggestibilty Prevention Program is needed.

    • jerryg

      As a Faith Formation “teacher” of Confirmation for the last 20+ years, I would return to Confirming in conjunction with the receiving of the first Holy Communion. I constantly emphasize to the teens in FF that Confirmation is part of the “great Sacrament” of Baptism and Eucharist and believe they need the Grace of the Sacrament BEFORE they are teens to face the world we have built for them. Also, I inform them that there is no way I can make them a Catholic in 30 hours’ of class if they haven’t been formed at home. Guys, we are living in era of “fast food Catholicism” with many parents basically dropping teens off on Wednesday evening and giving them nothing of the faith at home.
      Finally if you have any hope of changing anything, stop moaning about it and get in the trenches with all of us on the front lines.

  • Jack

    Eastern Christians, Catholic or non-, all follow the Apostolic practice, are confirmed IMMEDIATELY after Baptism, and henceforth brought to communion–even infants.

    The Latin church needs to return to this.

    • BlueMit11

      While I agree that the age needs to be lowered, it’s important to point out that both East and West deviated from the apostolic practice in their own way. Yes, the West moved away from the normative sacramental order. But the East moved away from the normative minister, the bishop. As the apostles and their successors conferred the sacrament of confirmation in the early Church and still today in the West, it has signified that our bond to the Church comes through the successors of the apostles and emphasized that we all belong to a particular local Church (diocese).

      • Jack

        That’s because in the East, the priest acts not in persona Christi, but in persona Episcopi.

        Even when he celebrates Sunday Eucharistic Sacrifice, he’s acting as the delegate of the Bishop.

        • BlueMit11

          Thank you for that insight. However, the point still stands that the bishop is the ordinary minister of the sacrament according to tradition, even if the East doesn’t use that same terminology. The fact that be is acting “in the person of the bishop” add opposed to confirming by his own priestly authority, proves that they still retain some sense of this.

  • cestusdei

    Move it to before Holy Communion. It is a gift of grace. Teens see it as a joke. We had one who got confirmed because his parents paid him. Yes, some won’t like it. However, it is the right thing to do given our theology. Just make sure it is explained and implemented carefully. Personally I think the East has it right, confirm them as infants at baptism.

    • Nancy

      I am very glad all seven of our children were confirmed/chrismated at baptism or soon after. At the time our family was attending Byzantine Catholic churches (we would have continued had we not moved to an area without any Eastern Rite churches). At the time it was clearly explained to us why babies received the three “Initiation Sacraments” and that we (with the Church’s help) would be responsible for our children’s religious education and deeper understanding of these three sacraments as they matured. Since we homeschool, we have had control of our children’s religious education and we’ve stayed clear of the Roman Catholic pathetic CCD programs, even though we attend a RC parish now. The RC parishes encourage CCD attendance, but basically only require it for sacrament preparation. Once we provide proof that our kids have received the sacraments, the parish is hands-off. Besides the graces and effect of the sacraments on my children’s souls, I am most grateful early reception means we do not have to participate in parish religious education. The local CCD program is so bad – not just in banal content, but in how it is run. First, it is very difficult to find qualified teachers – often the women (and they are always women) who volunteer and are chosen have no experience in a classroom and have no idea of how to handle or run a class (one teacher at our parish quit after a day with the jr. high kids). Friends’ kids have complained about the lack of teacher control and how between that and the goofy content, they feel like the are wasting an afternoon. For many parents and kids, CCD becomes nothing more than hoop jumping and only those who are really dedicated are going to persevere in such a game. I would bet that you would find no difference in outcomes between kids who were required to attend CCD before Confirmation and those who were not or between those who were Confirmed early and those later. The real determining factor is how seriously the family takes the Faith.

    • Laura K

      I agree. It’s a sacrament of initiation, and like baptism, a gratuitous gift of God that we have to cooperate with. How much better it would be for kids to have that grace before hitting the rocky ground of adolescence. And to try to cram 3 sacraments into the age-of-reason year would be difficult for catechists and confusing for students, if the gateway to the sacraments is a pass on a comprehension test.

      Sacraments should not be carrots, luring people through their Catholic education. God should be the carrot; and we receive Him through the sacraments.

  • Florian

    Jan. 12th…A few years ago I have a series of talks to teens preparing for confirmation. The talks were well received, and even given intermittent applause. Afterwards, however, I learned that the majority of those teens had not been to Mass or the Sacraments since their First Holy Communion because their parents had not been – and they had no intention of going to Mass after Confirmation. I spoke to the Rector of the Cathedral and asked him to postpone Confirmation for those students and he said it had to go on…I forget the reason. I told him that we shouldn’t be giving the Sacraments away so easily – they become meaningless. If the faith is not lived in the home, it would be very difficult for teenagers to understand the meaning and importance of our Faith…I do believe that in depth preparation needs to begin earlier…much earlier. I have been with toddlers – 3 year olds, who ask incredibly profound questions about the faith. They seem to have an intimate relationship with their Creator and an intuitive understanding of Him and of what He desires. As they grow older, they seem to lose this – most of them. It’s important to build on their intuitive knowledge and experience of God early on…before it fades.

    • Patti Day

      I forget whether it was a saint or a saintly sister who said, “Give me a child before the age of six to catechize, and I will give you back a Catholic for life.”

  • The world is in flames and this is what you decide to publish this week? Boh…ring ZZZ ZZZ ZZZ!!!

    • Anglicanæ

      Struck me as curious too. This is a *faith* and culture magazine, so I am happy to see pieces on doctrine and practice.

      • Crisiseditor

        True. Young people losing their faith is certainly a “crisis” that orthodox Catholics would naturally seek to address. CRISIS is a Catholic magazine first and foremost. Some Catholics have mixed-up priorities.

        • Anglicanæ

          Becoming a culturally relevant catholic means having a deeply formed catholicism that means something culturally — so these pieces on theology and liturgy (and I would hope more Bible!) are truly appreciated.

    • Maria

      Wake up. Nothing boring here. The fires of Hell cannot prevail against the fire of Faith. The Holy Spirit ignites the fire of Faith in our hearts through the Sacraments instituted by Christ. The fire of the Spirit acts efficaciously in our hearts to cleanse and strengthen them with supernatural gifts of grace and its fruits that we might stand in the face of every adversity and proclaim Christ Our Lord and Saviour. This article is about the saving of souls and no other issue is more salient or timely. In fact, the issue of this article, Salvation through Christ operating in the Sacraments, is outside of time and is the truly “burning” topic of our eternal destiny.

      • Bill Beckman

        This is anything but boring and irrelevant. You might want to look for the cause of those flames. If you do, you will discover that turning out one generation after another with little or no faith is a big cause of the “world in flames.” Would that they were flames of faith cast by the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Martha

    Huzzah for early Confirmations! Our youth need the strengthening of this sacrament to get them through their turbulent teens and young adulthood, especially today. The gifts of the Spirit that come with Confirmation should not be withheld during the point when the children will need it the most. Arguing that the child should decide as an adult is as silly as saying that we shouldn’t teach them any religion until they’re old enough to make that ‘decision’ for themselves.

    The earliest our Bishop will allow is 10, and we continue to have all of our children Confirmed when they reach that happy age. They so look forward to it, and are always very proud of their faith, and that they have made such a serious, grown up commitment to it. I’m sure they’d feel that way sooner, if allowed. They are always looking for the ways in which the special gifts of the Spirit that they received are working in their lives.

    I think the most obvious argument against needing a full understanding of what you’re doing is that hardly anyone would reach that point, especially (and ironically) without the Grace that the sacrament brings with it. What about the Eucharist, then? When a friend shared her feelings that the age of reception for the Eucharist (7) is too young, remarking that the child couldn’t fully understand, I quipped back, ‘Do you?’

  • TerryC

    The problem is tying Confirmation in any way shape or form to religious formation. One of the reasons we have lost so many members of the Faithful in America is that when they received Confirmation, be it in Middle or High School they “graduated” from formation. That left them with a Middle School or High School understanding of the Faith. No wonder they were completely unprepared to face secular and anti-religious forces in collage. and no wonder that when they got to college they stopped attended Mass or practicing their faith. It’s like taking someone who has a high school understanding of chemistry and sending them to Union Carbide to defend their High School science experiment. No good will come of it.
    The fact that for many a “high school” understanding of Catholicism was really a non-orthodox, feel good, my buddy Jesus and me, water downed, heretical-Protestant version to begin with doesn’t really help.
    The real point isn’t when are children Confirmed. They’ll get the gifts of the Spirit when ever it happens, if they’re babies (as in the Eastern and Orthodox Churches) or when they’re 39 (as do converts.) The real point is that people are leaving the Church because they haven’t been told the truth about sin and the Church. They’ve been lead to believe the swill being put out by too many catechists and Church dissidents. They’ve been denied to tools they need to evangelize and protect their faith against the tools of the Enemy that for the most part control most university campuses (even Catholic ones).

  • fides

    With all do respect to you and your efforts — your comments are akin to the rearranging of deck chairs. Dig deeper in your analysis. The difficulties and problems you cite are in need of being addressed — but allow your faith to adhere to the simple fact that the grace received from these outward instituted by Christ will bring the necessary strength to each soul — it’s not in our rearranging of the recipe that souls are given the grace to cooperate with God’s plan — it’s a gift which we as the faithful deliver — reread Humanae Vitae — especially toward the last — it urges the use of the sacraments — early and often is a good goal.in leading young souls.

  • bender

    You really don’t know what Confirmation is all about, do you?

    From what you say here, despite disclaiming the “Confirmation is graduation” idea, you essentially make it little more than another item on the initiation checklist.

    The reason that Confirmation should be later is precisely because of what it is for and why such intense preparation is needed. Upon receiving the Sacrament, and the graces that go along with it, a solemn obligation is undertaken. A young child does not have the capacity to fully understand or appreciate that obligation. Teenagers can barely understand or appreciate it. And to give them the graces without the understanding is to lead to a life of them never using those graces.

    Grace does not turn us into robots. Rather, it perfects our nature. We need to use the grace. We need to pick up and use the gifts. But when you are ignorant of the gifts and don’t know what to do with them, you end up leaving them in the closet.

    The purpose of Confirmation is to be a WITNESS. It is not about you and your salvation, it is about the person next to you and his salvation. It is about being given the graces, including the grace of strength, to overcome cultural pressures and go out into the world and spread the faith. Knowing about our obligation to do that takes time and understanding. It takes preparation.

    • C Dickie

      Confirmation imposes no new obligations. One is fully Catholic at baptism.

      • Tom

        Confirmation is the completion of baptismal grace. Why are infants in danger of death confirmed? It changes the character of the soul confirmed.

        • C Dickie

          Confirmation imparts grace and a character: the power to witness. However, it does not create any new obligations as the poster I was responding to seems to imply.

    • Tom

      It is about you and your salvation. Every sacrament is a personal encounter with God. You cannot lead others to God unless you are going there too.

    • Laura K

      The purpose of Confirmation is to receive the Holy Spirit. We have the rest of our lives to cooperate with the grace of the sacrament and to grow in the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. We’re never worthy enough to receive God’s free gift of grace, and yet we’re not Jansenists. I’d have loved to have my children confirmed when they were baptized, so they’d have the supernatural strength of the sacrament to grow in holiness, rather than try to prep on their own steam.

    • Craig

      I guess Papa Ratzinger is wrong. Again, if a child can commit mortal sin at around age seven, they are already doing spiritual battle. Hence, the need for all of the available sacraments. We see in the excellent Baltimore Catechism why we need Confirmation and why a child needs it with such evils as pornagraphy, same sex advocacy, divorce and fake remarriage out in the open these days:

      175. Q. Is it a sin to neglect Confirmation?
      A. It is a sin to neglect Confirmation, especially in these evil days when faith and morals are
      exposed to so many and such violent temptations

  • hombre111

    Congratulations for stimulating some serious thought. Over fifty years I have seen this argument from multiple perspectives. The sacramental theologians point out that confirmation and baptism once went together, because converts were adults. In some countries, like Mexico (I think), babies are baptized and then confirmed.

    I think anthropologists and sociologists would stress the importance of some rite of passage for young people into adult society. We have tried to do this with confirmation. Over the years, I have seen some young people refuse confirmation, still trying to make up their mind about faith. Others are skeptical about the idea, but classes give them a renewed grip on what it means to be Catholic. Others have gone through the classes and service projects, been confirmed, and abandoned the Church. Others joyfully take the step, deepen through the experience, and go on to good Catholic lives.

    The reality is, people baptized as infants did not step up and make a real act of faith. But we have to, at some time. Here, there is a collision between a Catholic sense of being part of a living community in Christ, and Protestant individualism, with Jesus as my personal savior. The Church needs some kind of formal mechanism. So, we need a rite of initiation into an adult faith, which includes a step into, and acceptance by, the Catholic faith community.

  • Joseph

    April 15th. The bishop was asking people about their saints, and one kid said “St. Matthew”. The Bishop said, “Since Matthew was a tax collector, today really could have been his feast day”.

  • Ruth Rocker

    Like the author, I came to the Church as an adult. I went through RCIA with my cradle-Catholic husband as my sponsor. I learned little, if anything, about the faith from this class. And my poor hubby – when I asked him why we genuflect before sitting down, he said it was because Mom would smack us if we didn’t. He never received adequate instruction and he went to a Catholic school and daily Mass!!

    I was baptized and confirmed at the same time and received my first Eucharist during the Easter service. It wasn’t until much later, unfortunately, that I came to realize (through my own study) exactly what these sacraments meant.

    We definitely need to do something to teach authentic Church teaching. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

    • Laura K

      Good point. Catechesis is often lacking. We can’t depend on enrollment in Catholic school or faith formation as proof that someone is sufficiently catechized (whatever that means) to “merit” a sacrament.

      • Anglicanæ

        Catechism is primarily a parental obligation. Any notion that parents just ought to let the “experts” do it is disastrous.

        Catechism is indispensable.

  • I was confirmed at age 7 in second grade in 1952. I was well prepared by the good sisters at my Catholic school. At that age, I was well acquainted with the martyrs, the seven sacraments, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, what sin is and the different kinds of sin, and was very excited to become a soldier of Jesus Christ. The graces of Confirmation are phenomenal and I would want every child to have them as they mature. Of course, my parents were practicing Catholics. We had the Sacred Heart enthroned in our home and my parents had a great devotion to Our Lady. Because of the many dangers of corruption of the young in today’s society, I am a firm believer in Confirmation at the age of reason. As children move through latency it is a very good time to have the help of the Holy Spirit to discern the subtle evils of society.

  • mjb

    Pope after pope throughout history has advocated that young children, even infants be Confirmation. (Book: Called to Knighthood… is very good) It isn’t a “rite of passage” . It isn’t supposed to be a “coming of age” experience. Confirmation is the magnifier of all the graces received in the Eucharist. Like Baptism, which we receive without our knowledge…our LIFE is the “Amen” in response. And so with Confirmation. With the gifts given through Confirmation, a soul can have greater growth in Christ, a greater ability to turn away from temptation, an increase in our life in Christ. And we want to withhold that until we deem people “ready”? I think we end up looking at the way Protestants do things, and think that the way the Church looks at it is archaic and we need to think more “progressively”… more in line with Protestant thinking. The fact that we hold Confirmation out for the High Schoolers…. because how else will they be catechized is terribly sad reasoning. By that stage in life, these children should have already been inspired by their parents, their teachers, their priest and by living their Catholic Faith throughout their childhood, and know, now that they are teenagers, that the Catholic Church is the Bride of Christ, of which they are integral members and participants, and that She is the defender of the Truth of Jesus Christ. By that stage in life, they should already be on fire for Christ and the Church, not withering on the vine. The problems lie elsewhere. Perhaps if we give children ALL the tools necessary to live their life for Christ… and then follow that up with example and teaching and how to use those tools… we would end up with actual Soldiers for Christ.

  • dmw

    Christian initiation is completed by the reception of the Eucharist. These days, in the Latin West, Confirmation comes years after one’s first Holy Communion. This makes no sense. It turns post-baptismal chrismation precisely into a rite of passage, not a sacrament of initiation. Someone below spoke of the sociological need for a child to go through a rite of passage into adulthood. We have one. It’s very old. It’s called MARRIAGE: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:24). As long as we create an artificial, privileged class of human beings called “teenagers” and coddle them until they’re 26, all this talk of Christian initiation, catechesis, youth ministry, etc., is a big waste of time.

  • Thomas Sharpe

    I teach CCD for confirmation, and agree that the age and method to confirmation needs to change, it appears to be built on an age when persons schooling ended around 9th grade, and not current to the conditions in society.
    – Too often now it’s a carrot on a stick, and seen as a graduation not a confirmation.
    – CCD Teachers should be helper to the parents for teens, a child should be able to make their confirmation when “ready” as deemed by the CCD Teacher and Parish Priest. That could be anytime after First Communion, as long as the child is ready. The corollary to that is that if a student is not yet ready, they’re not ready-

  • puzzleannie

    disclaimer: I recently retired after 14 years DRE with responsibility for grades K-12 and all RCIA in a parish of 5000 families so my feelings are strong and experience based.

    Age in this diocese is 16 for Confirmation. I sat on synod committee 10 years ago to consider the issue and strenuously argued and documented case for age of reason, ie with 1st communion and was roundly defeated by the “they’re not ready” chorus. As if 10th graders are more ready than 3rd graders (oh, the synod moved 1st communion back a year as well with the same argument).

    Bottom line: delaying the sacrament beyond the age of reason constitutes denial of the sacrament and ignores the theology of the sacrament and frankly ignores the role of the HolySpirit in “readiness” for confirmation. The RCIA reform enjoins those responsible for sacramental preparation to follow the RCIA model, which means currently there is nothing in the theology or practice that justifies delaying confirmation after first communion. Nada.

    • Laura K

      It’s too bad you retired as a DRE. I think the Church could use more DREs like you. 🙂

  • filologos101

    Yes.

  • filologos101

    A lot of folks like to shout, with feigned distress in their voices, “No! Do not deprive them of the grace—the much-needed Grace!—of this sacrament during precisely those years when they are in danger of falling away!”

    Too bad you don’t give them the grace. They only get the grace if they cooperate with it. Not if someone else does.

    Argument dismissed.

    • Tom

      Your last paragraph would rule out infant baptism.

    • Anglicanæ

      Um, you do realize cooperation with grace is itself an effect of grace?

      As an avowed Augustinian (the one constant in my journey of faith) I can assure you there is no creeping Pelagianism in the words found in Ephesians 4:30: “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

      Working out one’s salvation is a cooperative thing accomplished in the elect. Don’t minimalize the exhortation just because God is “at work in you.”

    • Laura K

      The argument is reopened: How can you cooperate with the grace of the sacrament without receiving the grace of the sacrament?

      Isn’t it instead true that the grace of the sacrament can anticipate the desire for it?
      Consider an analogy: Parents want their children to learn to read. Some parents assume that their children will learn in school, and they don’t bother keeping books at home or reading to them. Other parents keep a little library of children’s books available for their children, anticipating their joy of reading. They read to them, too. In both scenarios, the child is passive and doesn’t cooperate. In which scenario do you suppose the child will eventually not only read, but love to read?

      Depriving a child of a grace (a gift, a gratuity, something *free*) is like depriving a child of food. We should consider very carefully whether the deprivation will cause more harm than good.

  • David Rudmin

    Let’s also rethink the teaching about Confirmation. It needs to be taught that Confirmation is a sacrament which enables you to suffer meritoriously. Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich says this, and it coincides with the model of the 3 character-bestowing sacraments as sanctifying the (1) Vegetable (Baptism), (2) Sensate (Confirmation), and (3) Rational (Ordination) levels of human nature.

  • mary

    I completely disagree. The graces from the sacrament are desperately needed long before a person hits the teen years. Ongoing formation is certainly important to help people understand & appreciate & utilize the powers these graces provide us. The fact that ongoing formation rarely occurs is where the parishes fail our young people & why so many fall away. But the graces received in this sacrament are objective realities that we dare not forego until later in life. The temptations of the secular world are powerful. Waiting for confirmation would be terribly imprudent…The Church already knows & lives this truth because we continue to teach the importance of infant baptism & continuing formation after that sacrament!!!

  • Proteios

    I take issue with this statement…”I’m convinced the problem isn’t the way we prepare our children for confirmation, but rather when we do it.”
    as being utterly incorrect. The way it is taught is entirely the problem.
    To make your point…I agree with the age only as it applies to the time investment: Consider how many hours a student prepares for graduation in a school. 12 years at 6-8 hours per day for 9 months per year. They get more time in a public school by the end of kindergarten as from start to confirmation. This argues your time commitment.
    But what they learn in this time is superficial at best, plain wrong at worst. Wrongly educating them by people who simply don’t know and come up with a lesson Saturday night is not useful beyond about age 6 or 7. I say this because my wonderful wife is a K & 1st grade catechist. She tries very hard and makes it fun. But she simply cannot truly educate deeply about these questions without giving herself a great deal more knowledge by reading, retreats, courses, etc. The other catechists are doing something similar. THe problem is they are doing these relatively trivial lessons as they are volunteers who don’t know that much. Teaching middle and high school aged kids. Are they even catechized? Are they ready to enter the mystagogia? not likely.

  • Jo Anna

    Our Diocese does Confession/Confirmation/First Communion in 2nd/3rd grade and I think it’s great. I’m a convert from the Lutheran Church where we did confirmation and first communion in 8th grade. We joined the Catholic Church when our oldest was six years old, so all seven of our children had first Confession, Confirmation, and First Communion in 2nd/3rd/4th grade. Our youngest is now 10, oldest 20, and I cannot adequately express how thankful I am that they had those Sacraments before they hit the teenage years. We had to do a lot of teaching at home because the actual program was pretty thin, but we would have done that anyway. Earlier Sacraments really have helped them to be grounded in the Faith. And it has helped us as parents because the Sacramental life and practices were all well-established before the hormones kicked in.

  • Craig

    100% agree! Give the gifts if the Holy Ghost when they are younger and this will prepare and protect them for young adulthood.

  • Craig

    Lovinh the Mass also helps, as well as being involved with the Traditional Latin Rite and homeschooling.

  • Joane

    When I was in CCD we had to do hours of “volunteer” work to be eligible for confirmation. Don’t really know how it can be volunteer if it’s mandatory….I remember wondering know I can “volunteer” without doing the sin of simony…..as a very introverted loner I find it very uncomfortable to work with other people. I really considered not getting confirmed and just finishing CCD by itself because I hated “volunteer” work a lot.

    • Joane

      I meant to write “I remember wondering HOW I can ‘volunteer’ without doing the sin of simony” not “I remember wondering know I can ‘volunteer’ without doing the sin of simony”.

  • Fargo106

    I like your first suggestion, about moving confirmation to a younger age and before first communion.
    I would, however, like to point out that thankfully not all first communion preparation is as trivial as you made it out to be. Your characterization of it as nothing more than “a few crafts and some worksheets” is really insulting to those who devote their sincere energies to developing truly informative and dogmatically faithful lessons. I understand what you describe happens, but to lump every first communion class in the country into one big ‘ol dysfunctional elementary play period as you did really discounts the good work that so many devoted Catholic catechists are doing out there.

    • Thanks, Fargo106. Point well taken — in fact, my wife (and co-DRE) made the same objection after she read the my article. And rightly so.

      My apologies to all 2nd-grade catechists and teachers out there that devote themselves so passionately to helping us prepare our kids for FHC. I certainly didn’t mean to disparage or impugn your efforts in any way.

      What I was attempting was a contrast between the relatively simple (and age appropriate) demands we place on those preparing for FHC, and the more extensive and elaborate demands we place on those preparing for confirmation. I’m sorry if it seemed like I was dismissing all FHC prep as silly — not at all! Nevertheless, we are talking about 7-year-olds here, so there’s a reasonable accommodation (or ‘condescension,’ as the Fathers would say) that we have to make for them. In any case, our FHC catechetical efforts are geared toward fostering receptivity and relationship more than intellectual insight.

      In fact, it’s why we’ve seen such great success with our parish’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. While there is a didactic dimension, it is oriented to experience, unfolding awareness, and joy — all wonderful assets when preparing kids to participate in something which none of us can truly comprehend.

      • Fargo106

        Yes, my wife (our DRE) would I’m sure make the same objection, as well. I appreciate the contrast you were trying to make and you were successful meeting that objective. I would argue, however, that in making your point you also made a second one, namely that our FHC prep in general likely needs some upgrading, too.

        Good article, though, and I think you’re on to something.

  • Andrew Dowling

    So how does this delay their departure during adolescence? When I first started reading I thought the author would be for pushing out confirmation until children are OLDER (which I would agree with; 18 would be a good age). Younger? You’re not doing anything but getting the confirmation “stamp” earlier.

  • AJS

    I offer my own experience to consider. I was raised in a very traditional Catholic family. I was baptized shortly after I was born in 1947. Both my parents were strong practicing Catholics and with their encouragement and direction I became an alter boy, a daily mass attendee, and in the late1950’s I underwent conformation. As a dutiful son, I did it all. In my 20’s, as
    I began to think for myself, I have came to believe that there is no god and, obviously, I have left the church. I regret my baptism and confirmation – it was wrong for my parents to have me go through these ceremonies without my ability to fully consent. Let potential converts make those commitments when they are full adults.

  • Marie Fordtner

    I got the impression in AZ that the bishops nationally had moved confirmation to 3rd grade, 8 yrs old. My granddaughters are not taken to Sunday Mass or religion classes now. I brought this up with a group of K of C wives and RE teachers and felt great frustration on every side. My eldest at 12 did not feel ready and I coerced him. His RE classes did continue. Once I refused to teach first communion classes in two weeks because it was like stuffing a goose before killing it. The next I knew, parents (me too) were invited to buy books, take training and prepare kids, with a meeting before the Sacrament with a priest to test them. It was a great experience for my family, learning with the child. The bishop now observed people coming for Matrimony without confirmation and it was moved from 16 to 8 yrs old. Twelve looks pretty good. I’ll try to find home schooled materials for my granddaughters. Educational psychology seems to be ignored all over. The ability to learn keeps increasing throughout the teen years, 8 yr olds are not ready for the concepts. The Fatima children understood Mary very well, enough to become Saints, but did not read or write or apparently receive First Communion.Confirmation confers REAL powers, but they need to how to use them. Once a rural priest, while the children were in classes, had adult classes on the same topics while the parents waited to drive them home. Excellent. I don’t know if a Catechetical Congress paid for, is still offered to catechists with speakers covering many topics and vendors of Bibles, etc. in our Diocese.

  • Michael Chavez

    I was confirmed at age two in 1964 by the Bishop of Tucson. Phoenix was part of the Diocese of Tucson then.

  • Molly

    I always thought it quite odd that I’d received my Confirmation before my First Holy Communion. I’d thought it was just to accommodate the Bishop’s schedule. While both took place in the same year (1942), the Confirmation was in April, while First Communion was in May. Thank you for explaining that this was the preferred order.

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