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Arguments for Reintegrating the Sacraments of Christian Initiation for Latin-rite Children J. J. Jorgensen Introduction In this essay, I propose that the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite adopt the eastern Christian practice of conferring on children the sacraments of Christian initiation – baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist . Once fully initiated, moreover, children should be admitted to the Eucharist regularly, as is the eastern tradition. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), The sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – lay the foundations of every Christian life. “The sharing in the divine nature given to men through the grace of Christ bears a certain likeness to the origin, development, and nourishing of natural life. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity.”   Throughout this essay the word “children” refers to anyone under the age of discretion (generally taken to be about seven) but to infants ordinarily , since baptism should take place within the first few weeks after birth. See 1983 Codex iuris canonici [CIC] can. 867.1; cf. 1990 Codex canonum ecclesiarum orientalium [CCEO] can. 686.1.   Eastern Christians name this sacrament “chrismation” because the recipient is anointed with sacred chrism. The fragrant perfume mixed with oil in this chrism caused a fifth-century writer to see the anointing as an unction of one who is to spread “the fragrance of Christ” by the holiness of his life (Pseudo-Dionysius, De ecclesiastica hierarchia II.8). The western use of the term “confirmation” expresses the sacrament’s relation to baptism, confirming it, sealing it, strengthening it. Throughout this essay I will use the western term consistently.   Catechism of the Catholic Church [henceforth: CCC], 2nd ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997) 1212; quoting Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution Divinae consortium naturae of 1971. All citations of the CCC are drawn from this edition. Antiphon 13.3 (2009): 264-287 265 Arguments for Reintegrating the Sacraments of Christian Initiation for Latin-rite Children Adult catechumens in the Latin and eastern churches are given the full rite of initiation in the same ceremony. In the eastern churches, children likewise receive full initiation within the same liturgical celebration . The Latin Church, on the other hand, divides the Christian initiation of children into three discrete events: baptism at infancy; then, at about age seven, confirmation and first Eucharist. However, episcopal conferences may decide on a different confirmation age. In the Latin-rite dioceses of the United States, confirmation is celebrated any time between the ages of seven and sixteen, depending on the decision of the local Ordinary. The majority of dioceses delay confirmation until adolescence, which means that most confirmation candidates have been receiving the Eucharist for several years – this, despite the fact that “all the relevant ecclesiastical documents – for example, the Catechism, the Code of Canon Law, Sacrosanctum concilium , the text of the RCIA – presume the celebration of confirmation  The Second Vatican Council prescribed the revision of the Roman rite of baptism of adults and decreed that the catechumenate for adults, divided into several steps, should be restored: Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium (4 December 1963) 64, 66.   CIC can. 867.1.   CIC can. 891.   CIC can. 914.   CIC can. 891. The law follows from a provision contained in the Introduction to the Rite of Confirmation, published by the Congregation for Divine Worship (22 August 1971): “With regard to children, in the Latin Church the administration of confirmation is generally delayed until about the seventh year. For pastoral reasons, however, especially to implant deeply in the lives of the faithful complete obedience to Christ the Lord and a firm witnessing to him, the conferences of bishops may set an age that seems more suitable. This means that the sacrament is given, after the formation proper to it, when the recipients are more mature;” in Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979: Conciliar, Papal, and Curial Texts [henceforth: DOL], ed. International Commission on English in the Liturgy [ICEL...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-9933
Print ISSN
1543-9925
Pages
pp. 264-287
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-24
Open Access
No
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