Pray for Bishop Cirrilo Flores, of San Diego. He had a stroke immediately before Easter, and has been unable to preside at Liturgical Functions. He has, probably to the sorrow and shock of many Catholics, been unable to preside at the Confirmation Masses of many teenagers, probably making many adult Catholics wondering or feeling that the validity of the ceremony is in question. I decided to revive this post from a few years ago that I never published.
I have written previously on my opinion that the Roman Catholic Church ought to restore the Order of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. In this case, I wanted to invite people to imagine what the Church would be like if the Bishops weren’t still required to do Confirmations at all the Parishes.
In our current setup, a Bishop makes the rounds in Confirmation Season: Between the Second Week of Easter, and Pentecost (Sometimes it’s pushed all the way at the beginning of Lent). It is the ideal for many to have the Bishop Confirm the students at Pentecost. Since it is impossible for the Bishop to be present in every parish on this high Solemnity, we make this concession to have him, or an Auxiliary Bishop near the Solemnity of Pentecost. Our current situation, which we hold up as an ideal is merely a concession.
Currently, many people feel as if Confirmation is essentially and exclusively conferred by one’s Bishop. Pastorally, the Bishop is responsible for all the Sacraments in the Diocese, by having the annual Chrism Mass, we recognize our Communion with the Bishop. During the Eucharistic Prayers, we recall our Communion with the Universal Church signified by our Bishop. On the contrary, there are so many ways that we recognize our unity in the Church, through our Bishop, in our Liturgy. Most of our deep convictions about this Sacrament are misguided sentiments.
The Bishop delegates his priests for the Sacraments on Easter, and it would not be a stretch for him to do so for the rest of the year. Further, we can also see that we have more ancient customs in our Liturgical Tradition that typically have the priest conferring Confirmation. And considering we also have the ancient Liturgical custom of Priests (especially in the East) conferring the Sacrament of Confirmation, I think it is worth discussing.
Should we have an approach where young people receive the Sacrament of Confirmation prior to First Communion, a properly ordered Initiation, many people, I am sure will feel that we lost a significant Tradition of having the Bishop present at a Parish celebration. Many people, mistakenly believe that Confirmation is tied to adolescence/adulthood, when it is indeed a more modern concession, a modern and unnecessary concession.
Should a Bishop be in a situation where he is no longer tied down intensely during one part of the year making the Confirmation rounds, he will be freer to make more significant Pastoral visits at Parish celebrations. I would like to Imagine this: When a parish celebrates their anniversary, their annual Festival (should it not coincide with their anniversary), or the Feast of their Patron, the Bishop’s presence at any of these celebrations would be more significant for the entire Parish Community, rather then a significant event exclusively for the teens being Confirmed each year (and many of their family members who may not even be regular mass-attendees). Indeed, Many of them will disappear immediately after their Confirmation to either never return, or perhaps return with wedding or baptism demands.
That is to say, in a Church, where the Bishop is no longer pressured or required to attend every parish Confirmation celebration, will find himself immensely freed up pastorally to attend a variety of Parish Celebrations across the diocese in which he serves. I don’t know that people perceive the Bishop merely in terms of a status symbol or a sacramentary dispenser, or rather as a Shepherd. Not having the Bishop at most Confirmations, I believe, focuses people’s attention on the Bishop as the Shepherd. As much as the memory of the Auxiliary Bishop’s presence at my own Confirmation is meaningful, the persistent Pastoral Presence of Bishops over the years, somehow seems as if it could be even more meaningful.
- People literally say that Confirmation is when “You, as an adult, CONFIRM the faith of your Baptism.” This is, however a reverse of the actual theology of this Sacrament. Confirmation is conferred, and we receive it. It is not us that Confirm, it is Christ through the Minister in the Spirit. Our reception of the Sacrament is important, however Confirmation doesn’t refer to our decision as such. Sacraments are all primarily gifts from Christ through the Church
- Sometimes we fall into the temptation to presume that one Catholic’s confirmation is more powerful if conferred by a higher bishop. We forget it is the same Christ in the Pope, in the Archbishop, & in the Priest that confirms. It is the Action of Christ.