What If I Don't Want to Be Confirmed?

One of my students has asked me the following question twice now in 4 weeks: “If we don’t want to be confirmed, we don’t have to right? It’s supposed to be our choice, right?” I’ve told her both times that she is correct but that this is a decision she needs to talk over with her parents. Obivously, there’s something going on there. I hope to find an opportunity to chat with her to see if I can find out what’s going on and what is behind her asking this question. 

Some students DO find themselves in a “do as I say, not as I do” situation with their parents, who insist that they go to religious education while they themselves do not go to Mass regularly. This is very difficult on the child (and doesn’t make for such a great situation for us catechists, either!) who is preparing for the sacraments in a vacuum. On the other hand, parental non-involvement does not preclude the real possibility that this child may have a significant encounter with Jesus Christ in religious education. That, of course, is what we all strive to make possible.

About Joe Paprocki 2748 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

18 Comments on What If I Don't Want to Be Confirmed?

  1. Joe
    I think asking her what is behind the question is a very good idea there may be yet another reason for her reluctance to be confirmed that you didn’t mention.
    Four years ago I had a 10th grader who decided not to be confirmed. This was a young person with a very deep prayer life and sense of lived spirituality who was questioning not her faith in Jesus Christ and relationship with God but whether or not she was ready to make a life long committment to our Roman Catholic Faith.
    At the time we convinced her to stay connected with her class so she could continue to deepen her knowledge of our Catholic Faith, we also made it clear to her that the door to receiving the sacrament of Confirmation is always open and she may be confirmed whenever she is ready. We continue to see her at Mass even now that she is in college.
    I often tell students that receiving the sacraments is like receiving an engagement ring from God. He will not force us to receive the gift of His love he wants us to freely respond.
    When she will answer the call to confirmation is a mystery the answer to which is known only by God, but I would far rather have a student like her who has thought as deeply about their committment to their faith than those I’ve seen who are just thoughtlessly going through the motions.
    The experience with that young woman gave me an appreciation for the unexpected depths of kids souls.

  2. Thank you for sharing this story with me. I am experiencing this with my now seventeen year old son. I have taught CCE since he was three. He took a different path at age sixteen and was reluctant to attend classes. He was working on the nights the classes were being instructed and put other things before the activities offered. He mentioned he would participate, but made no effort. Yes God, I would rather my son be deeply committed to his faith than just thoughtlessly go through the motions. Gratefully, my son still attends Mass on Sunday. I believe my son believes in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. He won’t commit to the classes. Is there an online course like this virtual learning we are doing with our children in school?

    • Hi Scarlette and thanks so much for sharing your story. Many of us go through this with our children as they go through their teen years and especially when they take on jobs and their lives become “re-prioritized.” I’m glad to hear that he still attends Mass and has faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Personally, I think it would be good to offer him an opportunity to learn as an adult rather than “go to classes” right now. I recommend my book, A Well-Built Faith as a starting point to help him gain a better understanding of what it means to live as a believing Catholic. If he wants to probe further, I recommend Under the Influence of Jesus. This way, he can learn at his own pace and you can invite discussion with him on the topics of the books if he’s so inclined. If he makes a decision to celebrate Confirmation (I wasn’t clear on whether he has received this sacrament or not), you can contact your parish or the diocese to find out about adult confirmation opportunities. I hope this is helpful.

  3. Chiming in late sorry
    Interesting article though I never had kids I experienced parental life through my mom as I was the eldest. We were a unique situation where we were baptized and first communion went to mass every Sunday growing up. However where my younger siblings attending Catholic schools I attended public school. Our mother gave us the choice whether or not we wanted to stay Catholic once we turned sixteen and promised that she would respect our choice either way. Out of the siblings I was the only one who went on to be confirmed and I didn’t do that till I became an adult in my late twenties and even as an adult still don’t understand some things about Catholicism let alone am capable of defending when my non religious and non christian friends got questions. My middle sibling opted out of confirmation with mom’s blessing so did the youngest who identifies as an atheist. I’m very tempted to give any kids I have the same option my mother gave me based on the experience of my siblings and of friends who were raised in more devout Catholic households and went the total opposite.

  4. My parents forced my sibling and I to get confirmed against our express wishes. Guess how often we go to church now? Give your kids the respect they deserve, and they’ll respect your faith in return, and may be more likely to find it for themselves later in life.

  5. Honestly, I did not want to be confirmed and shared this with my parents. My parents told me it was not an option. They were very devout. My father actually belittled me and told me that that I did not know what I wanted and “You are a child!” They made me get confirmed, even skipping classes. They knew I did not want it.

    On the day of my confirmation, my parents were not in attendance. My aunt drove me and my cousin up to the cathedral an hour away in the city. At the time, I mumbled incoherently, and the archbishop then confirmed me. I cried the rest of the day. I live with panic attacks and depression, and I have relived the event for over 20+ years. It was the most humiliating moment of my life, even after having been hit by a partner and having been assaulted. When I relive something, it’s my confirmation. That was the day I realized that I did not matter and that my parents cared more about keeping up appearances rather than me.

    I’m in treatment with a mental health professional. I’ve reached out to the archdiocese asking if there was some formal way to rescind my confirmation, but all that has been offered is a note to the file in the parishes where I was baptised and the parish my parents made me attend when I was confirmed.

    At this time in my life, I’ve told my family that I am not comfortable attending Mass at all, even for ceremonial events like funerals, weddings, and baptisms. I missed my grandmother’s funeral Mass because thinking about attending Mass gave me a panic attack while I was driving.

    My own example is an extreme, but it’s a real life thing that happened. I’m now several hundred miles from my family, and living life, moving on, but I still relive the event.

    I just hope that if a parent whose child doesn’t want confirmed reads this and talks it through with the human being and respect where things go, even if it doesn’t lead to them being confirmed.

    • DJ, thank you for sharing your story, as difficult as it must be for you. I’m sorry for the pain that you carry with you from this experience and I pray that you will find healing in speaking with someone who can help you deal with the emotions you continue to grapple with. You are right that parents need to truly talk with and listen to their children about such matters.

  6. My son is 12 and stated to me that he wasn’t ready to be confirmed. I was shocked, sad, disappointed because we grew up in a Catholic house home and he attends Catholic school. My parents are rolling in their grave right now with his decision. We talked at length and I finally decided that I will respect and support his decision.
    I’m proud of him. Hopefully when he finds the answers he’s looking for, he will make an educated decision.

    • Thanks for sharing your son’s story, Marga. It is not easy but you are doing the right thing in respecting his decision.

  7. We have decided to discontinue the confirmation process for my daughter. The time commitment for her and me has been overwhelming for us. And this has lead to conversations that she does not want to be confirmed. She is committed to school and has been overwhelmed with school work and activities for confirmation. Confirmation was my dream for her. It is not her dream. I am very sad about all this, but I can’t force this on her anymore. I have also been frustrated with the process. I have been preparing my children for confirmation since birth…baptism, first Eucharist, Sunday School, weekly mass attendance, prayer at home and lots of discussion about our faith. Due to the pandemic we did not want her to attend the required retreat. Instead we were told she needed to complete 2 hours of work each week for 4 weeks, in addition to her Sunday school classes. She needs to complete service hours, interview someone about their faith and attend mass at her sponsors church and with her at our church. Why? We have been living our faith since she was born. Why all this extra work? Our lives are so busy and the pandemic has added extra stress. Maybe this is why the church is having trouble attracting young people to the church. They are asking them to do too much.

    • Thanks for sharing this difficult story, Tina. It is a hard decision to make but is very respectful of your daughter’s wishes at this time. We continue to operate in a programatic model for sacramental preparation that does not allow for individual assessment of readiness but requires everyone to work through the same “cookie-cutter” experience regardless of their level of development. You are doing the right thing, as difficult as it is. A sacrament cannot be forced and the invitation will never go away. Let us continue to pray that your daughter will one day open herself up to the grace of this sacrament!

  8. Dear Joe,
    As a fellow catechist, I am disappointed when a young man or woman tells me they don’t need or want to receive confirmation. I have had this happen more often than I care to remember. A few years back, I attended your toolbox seminar but was unable to ask you about your experience concerning this “trend”.
    I want to explore this and ask our prayer group about it. Do you have any statistics? Your assistance would be greatly appreciated. monty

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