Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Should we confirm children whom we baptize at the Easter Vigil?

The chancery offices here have received a few phone calls from parishes asking if they need to confirm children (who have reached the age of reason, that is, about seven years old) whom they are baptizing this Easter, or should they wait to confirm them with their already-baptized peers at a later age.

In this case, neither the bishop of a diocese nor the parish priest can make any choice other than what is mandated by Canon Law:

Unless a grave reason prevents it, an adult who is baptized is to be confirmed immediately after baptism and participate in the celebration of the Eucharist, also receiving Communion. (#866)

What is prescribed in the canons on the baptism of an adult is applicable to all who are no longer infants but have attained the use of reason. (#852.1)
These canons are further emphasized in the National Statutes for the Catechumenate (USA):

Since children who have reached the use of reason are considered, for purposes of Christian initiation, to be adults (canon 852.1), their formation should follow the general pattern of the ordinary catechumenate as far as possible, with the appropriate adaptations permitted by the ritual. They should receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist at the Easter Vigil, together with the older catechumens. (#18)
The reason the Church mandates this is to preserve its teaching on the Trinity:
The conjunction of the two celebrations [baptism and confirmation] signifies the unity of the paschal mystery, the close link between the mission of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the connection between the two sacraments through which the Son and the Holy Spirit come with the Father to those who are baptized. (RCIA, #215).
Delaying confirmation for those baptized at Easter distorts our understanding of the Trinity and implies that the persons of the Trinity work apart from each other. Confirming immediately after baptism and then welcoming the person to the Communion table at the same celebration teaches that the Spirit and the Son are one with the Father and that God’s chosen ones are called to participate in the full life of the Trinity.

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