Parishes in our diocese were asked some years ago to take on the task of introducing our families to the Restored Order of the Sacraments. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is used in regards to a shift in the preparation and celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation from the order of Baptism followed by First Eucharist at about age seven or eight, followed a few years later by Confirmation (between the ages of 12 and 18) to the early Church’s order of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.
Change is never easy at the best of times, and when you factor in the deep, nostalgic memories of parents’ own experiences in preparing for and receiving these sacraments, people’s concerns and anxiety can be exacerbated. There are a number of things that can be done to alleviate some of this anxiety as well as transform not only the child and family experience of these sacraments, but also enliven the faith life of the entire parish.
The most important thing we did was to begin the education of the entire parish as early as possible. We used a full year of announcements, bulletin inserts, school notes, and website features to get good, accurate information out to everyone in the parish.
Involving the whole family in the process has been another key to success. In the years of transition, many families took advantage of the opportunity to prepare all of their children at once, making the entire year one in which the whole household was sharing the same journey. These families experienced such great fruits in their faith lives that we have not only allowed this practice to continue, but have encouraged families to make the preparations for the sacraments a family affair.
Another part of the equation that had been missing was a concerted effort to attend to the faith formation needs of parents. In recognizing that it is based upon the faith of parents that we receive children into the Church, we also had to admit that the sacraments were never intended to be catechetical carrots used to “trick” adults and children into learning more about their faith. Instilling in parents a hunger to know more and grow more in their own faith lives and giving them opportunities to do so, is the very best gift that can be given to the children of the parish.
We have found the Restored Order of the Sacraments to be about more than simply shifting around the order in which First Eucharist and Confirmation are received by children. It has become an invitation to reclaim our Christian calling to walk with others in the faith, to rediscover what a relationship with Christ means, and to show our children that this faith is not just something we learn about and then “graduate” from, but is the start of a relationship of learning and loving they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
If your diocese celebrates the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Restored Order, see God’s Gift: Confirmation in the Restored Order.