Restoring the Order of the Sacraments

Birgit - holy spirit

The order of the Sacraments in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is actually different than the order of the Sacraments for our baptized Catholic Children in most Dioceses across the United States.  Our children receive Baptism before Confirmation. However, when we receive Baptism, then Confirmation, then Eucharist, in proper order, we become more disposed to the Spirit of God and His gifts. As an RCIA Coordinator, I realized there was a connection between receiving the Sacraments in the proper order and the Old Testament account of the Spirit of Elijah and his double portion.

Elijah and Elisha

In 2nd Kings, when Elisha realizes the prophet Elijah will soon pass away, he asks Elijah if he can have a double portion of his spirit (which would give him the ability to perform more miracles). Elijah tells Elisha that if he sees the prophet ascend, he will receive a double portion of his spirit. Elijah does indeed ascend in front of Elisha and God bestows the double portion on him.

We see this also at Pentecost. After Jesus ascends, the Spirit comes down upon the Apostles. We already know baptism with water and the Spirit marks you in God’s Kingdom and it is Pentecost that the church points to for the Sacrament of Confirmation. A double portion of the Spirit, Baptism and Confirmation. In both cases, the ascending brings the Pentecost, brings the double portion.

It is here we see the Birthday of the Church. Baptism and Confirmation take place as the first two of the three initiation Sacraments. The third Initiation Sacrament is the Eucharist.

The Order of the Sacraments

I realized we have the Sacraments out of order for our children in all but a handful of Dioceses. I recognized the importance of restored order of the Sacraments. First Baptism, then Confirmation, then Eucharist.

This is the order we follow in RCIA, and it is how it is written in the catechism, but it is not the order in which my children or myself received the Sacraments. Giving our children the Eucharist and withholding Confirmation is like giving a child a brand new car without any gas to get where they’re going. We have stopped expecting the Holy Spirit to act. Of course, God can make order out of our disorder, and he has in some souls, but it begs the question, why was this ever changed in the first place?

RCIA and a sparse few Diocese’s are the only places I know of that order this properly. In my ministry, I have come across so many Catholics who are not fully initiated into the church. They have no double portion. They are marked in the Kingdom of God, but access to the gifts He wants to pour out upon them has not happened. God can make anything happen, but he seeks our cooperation. We have not cooperated. Why are we making it harder? It’s like having half of the heart of God. We need the whole heart of God in us.

The Holy Spirit at Confirmation bestows the gifts of wisdom, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude, understanding and fear of the Lord. Children are open to the Spirit in a way older teens and adults often are not.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

Why in the world are we not bestowing this upon them early? Be like little children. Confirmation is not about graduating into the faith, nor is it choosing the faith for oneself because the baptized are already Catholic. Confirmation is an initiation Sacrament which bestows many gifts. These gifts beget other gifts; discernment of spirits, prophecy, healing, mercy, the list goes on. God is waiting to pour it out.

When we receive Baptism, then Confirmation, then Eucharist, in proper order we become disposed to the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy in the World.

Be Like Mary

The perfect example of this is the Blessed Mother. Though she had no need of baptism by virtue of her Immaculate Conception, it is at the Annunciation that the Spirit comes upon her. This enables her to become the living Sanctuary of the Eucharist. God in her. A daughter of God the Father, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, and the Mother of the Son. All things relationship, in proper order.

Baptism restores us to God’s Kingdom as children. Confirmation bestows upon us the gifts we were meant to receive as brothers and sisters of the Kingdom and Eucharist enables us to bring God’s love to the world as a spiritually mature giver, bringing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Bringing about a Mystical Body, a communion of Saints. These things belong together in proper order. We have disordered them. Mary shows us how to be restored; how to restore order.

In all of this disorder, I cannot help but think we are walking the Passion of the Church. The catechism tells us that the church will go through a Passion much like that of Christ.

Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh  (Catechism of the Catholic Church 675).

Surrender

We can see parallels in the actual Path of Christ and His Passion and in the path of the Passion of the Church. Mary, who is the Mother of the Church and the archetype of what the church shows us this as well. When I look at Mary down through the centuries, I realize she has been appearing all over the place. We have many approved church apparitions, and some still under investigation. She has been walking with the church. Walking with us to our Passion where we surrender to the will of God as Jesus did. Though we have known for a long time she was Assumed by God into Heaven, it was not declared Dogma until November 1, 1950. These things were never meant to be separated. There are those who have made order their god, and those who misconstrue love to be without truth or order. However, God will reorder things to His perfect love and Divine Will. We just have to surrender and listen.  Now we must wait for the double portion to renew our hurting church; The Spirit of Elijah. What an exciting time to be alive.

I think of this age of the double portion as a pouring of an Illumination of Conscience. I actually pray for it. One where the Spirit convicts us of who we are in God’s eyes. Conviction is not condemnation, it shows us our sin, while still knowing we are loved. Confession and forgiveness are the recognition of the promise of God at our Baptism and the openness to be filled with the gifts given at Confirmation. He wipes away our sin.

We are living epoch of Mary and the Holy Spirit and our double portion awaits us.

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11 thoughts on “Restoring the Order of the Sacraments”

  1. These rites of initiation were given this order when, in the early Church, most converts were adults, well formed in the faith. Now, in her wisdom, the Church urges infant baptism. How will they be formed if we move Confirmation from the youth to infancy?

  2. How about making the practice of Eastern Catholics universal? Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion all together in infancy is their practice.

    For every complex problem there is an answer that is simple, obvious, and wrong.

  3. Are you assuming Reconciliation prior to Eucharist? Is not penance before receiving still best practice? It’s not clear to me where you are placing

    1. One should always be in a state of grace prior to receiving the Sacraments (Baptism of course restores a person to this). In the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (which is the Rite followed for any unbaptized from the age of reason and older – so about age 7 to adult), those who are not Baptized receive Baptism, then Confirmation, then Eucharist during one Liturgy, typically the Easter Vigil. They have not received first reconciliation because the Baptism wipes away their sins, however, they have gone through a period of Purification and Enlightenment where they undergo the Scrutinies which contain minor exorcisms. This is to help them examine their conscience and repent as they prepare to enter the waters of Baptism.
      The Rite is adapted for those already Baptized but who are not in full communion with the church. These individuals do undergo reconciliation prior to reception of Confirmation and Eucharist so as to restore the state of Grace. RCIA is the model for the whole church. Except we don’t follow it.

  4. My children used to receive Confirmation in their final year of Primary School aged 11. All 30 of the class.Even this is a bit late. 12 years ago the Parish Committee decided to take it out of the school and postpone it to 14 to 18 years old. What a disaster. Since then there have about 50 kids confirmed in total.
    With each of my children I have had to push through a wall of indifference and heterodoxy to get them confirmed.” It has nothing to do with Pentecost”. “It has nothing to do with you as a father”. ” It wasnt even a sacrament till the 12th Century”

  5. Josephine Harkay

    Young children understand receiving the loving Jesus in their hearts. But IMO you should not receive Confirmation as a young child; you do not understand at a tender age what it means to become a soldier of Christ, to commit yourself to become literally a member of the Church Militant. When you are in your teens you have heard about Church history which makes then even more sense.

    1. Saint Jacinta Marto and Saint Francisco Marto also very much understood. The catechism states that the age of discretion as the reference point for the Latin church (Eastern Catholics receive it as infants). Age of discretion is generally thought of as around the age of 7, but if a child is in danger of death it can be given earlier, or the Bishop can decide to give it earlier.

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