Eucharist before Confirmation

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner


Q:  My Bishop is currently reviewing the order of celebrating the Sacraments of initiation and is seeking to return Eucharist to being received before Confirmation.  If Confirmation is the Gift of the Holy Spirit, (which you affirm so strongly in your book, “Guide for Celebrating Confirmation”), and by that gift we are one with Christ the Priest, why do we not link our catechesis of Confirmation with the giving of the priesthood to the faithful? Such a catechesis would then link Confirmation directly with Eucharist where the faithful are able to exercise their priesthood especially by the offering of sacrifice in the Eucharistic celebration and so participate “fully and actively” in the celebration.

For me this provides a very clear understanding of Confirmation as a sacrament of Initiation and is a vital link to understanding the order of celebrating these Sacraments. My argument is that one cannot fully participate in Eucharist without the Gift of the Holy Spirit (by which I exercise my baptismal priesthood) without having celebrated Confirmation. I would greatly appreciate your comments on this approach to Confirmation.

A:  In my view, it would be hard to sustain an argument that the priesthood of the faithful is conferred in confirmation. Clearly, that is what baptism does. The prayer at the anointing with chrism in the Rite of Baptism for Children introduces this theme. I performed an emergency confirmation yesterday at a hospital and was struck by the words there too. The introduction to the sacrament of confirmation states clearly that the gift of priesthood came with baptism (#290 in the Pastoral Care of the Sick).

I’ve given an hour-long presentation on this baptismal theme, which can be viewed here:

I think a different argument could be made from the Rite of Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church. The steps are these: profession of faith, reception into the Catholic Church, confirmation of the new Catholic, and then communion. The new Catholic must be confirmed before communion is given. Something in the ceremony presumes that a communicant ought to be confirmed.

Of course you’re familiar with the RCIA and its adaptations for children of catechetical age. And I assume you know the book I wrote some years ago on this theme, Confirmation: The Baby in Solomon’s Court.

A diocese will have a more consistent theology of confirmation if the sequence is maintained in all these situations. But it can be a hard sell.