My daughter is seven and will be making her first communion next year in second grade. Our church in Michigan also has them make their confirmation at the same time. Our former home parish in Texas has confirmation when they are teens, like I did. Which is correct? I am a bit upset over this since I don’t see how a second-grader can fully understand what confirmation is all about.
Since Catholics in the Eastern rites of the Church are confirmed as infants, strictly speaking it is not necessary that a confirmand fully understand confirmation in order to be validly confirmed. This is the preparation for confirmation envisioned by the *Catechism of the Catholic Church *for those who have reached the age of reason:
Preparation for confirmation should aim at leading the Christian toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit – his actions, his gifts, and his biddings – in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life. To this end catechesis for confirmation should strive to awaken a sense of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ, the universal Church as well as the parish community. The latter bears special responsibility for the preparation of confirmands (CCC 1309).
The Code of Canon Law says the following on the instruction and suitable age of Latin-rite confirmands:
Apart from the danger of death, to receive confirmation lawfully a person who has the use of reason must be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises (canon 889 §2).
The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion, unless the episcopal conference has decided on a different age, or there is a danger of death or, in the judgement of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise (canon 891).
Since the Church has traditionally understood the age of reason to be about seven years old, it does not appear that your daughter would be too young to receive confirmation at age eight. In the United States, the bishops’ conference promulgated the following ruling in July 2002, with the approval of the Holy See:
Following recognition by the Holy See, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] has decreed that the age for conferring the sacrament of confirmation in the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States will be between “the age of discretion ‘considered to be about age seven’] and about sixteen years of age” (source).
This means that individual American bishops can decree for their dioceses that the age for confirmation within their diocese be within that range of seven to sixteen years, which is why your Texas diocese confirms teenagers and your Michigan diocese confirms children who have attained the age of reason.