I remember when I was at a catechist’s training day and a Jesuit told us that Holy Communion is actually the final Sacrament of Initiation. That Confirmation was, for centuries, celebrated first. That the Eastern Rite Church still celebrated it in that order (actually Confirming children at their Baptisms).
I was intrigued.
When I was a sixth grader, Confirmation was seen as “becoming an adult in the eyes of the Church.” It’s taken me forever to realize that this is not the case. My CCD experience ended one year after I was Confirmed. And I wasn’t the only one, either. I think that there was either one or two classes for seventh grade, and that was from a group that had five or six classes when we made First Communion. (And trust me, Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church was not shrinking. I think there were about seven parishes that came from ours in the years I lived in New Jersey.)
Of course, parents are to blame here, too. I think that the whole reason it was put off until high school was because too many parents just bring their children to CCD and Mass as long as they have the carrot of another Sacrament being held out in front of them. This kind of change will require a lot of education for moms and dads who will be tempted to stop Catechism classes after their children “get” all the Sacraments they can until marriage. (Because just how prevalent are the parents who encrouage their children to consider the priesthood or religious life?)
Sorry, that’s a bit cynical, but it’s distressing how many parents see the Church as a vendor in this respect. They see it as the parish’s job to do all the religious education, and the are the consumers. It’s like piano lessons, except for there being no practice at home. And good golly, I think that the salvation of my children’s eternal souls is a bit more important than piano lessons! (Come to think of it, I have seen a lot of parents who put their children’s sports activities on a higher priority than their religious training. Come to class late, leave early, skip when there is practice on that day, skip Mass when you are out of town for a game, etc.)
UPDATE: Don Jim has a wonderful post on the topic, though not directly connected to this story. And, though the post is a result of another story, he doesn’t really comment on the woman’s situation (of which he knows only what was in the news), but on the general phenomenon of seeing the Sacraments as “party favors.” One of the parts I liked best was this:
Confirmation is not, and never has been, a “Sacrament of Maturity” or “Becoming an Adult in the Church” or “Personally Confirming Your Parents’ Decision to Baptize You.” It is not Catholic Bar Mitzvah. It is, rather, the conferral of the Holy Ghost with the grace of His Seven Gifts, and a “strengthening” (a con-“firm”-ing) of the graces of Baptism, to enable the recipient to live out his or her baptismal vows more faithfully. Together with Baptism and Holy Communion, Confirmation fully initiates one into the mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and into the life of His Body, which is the Church.
Please do go and read the entire post, though. It’s excellent and says what I tried to say with much more clarity than I can muster.