Confirmation question


I recently attended a Confirmation in the traditional rite, at an FSSP parish. I have several friends who had children in the class, so I heard a lot about what they were learning and how well prepared they were for their Confirmation. I think the youngest child in the class was about 10, and I know several 11-year-olds. The normal age in this diocese is between 8th grade and Jr. in High School.

I am Byzantine Rite and we confer the sacrament immediately after Baptism, but I respect the practice of the Latin Church; although I would prefer to see the sacrament given earlier, around the age of reason. I recognize that I don’t really have a voice in this, though.

My question is about the requirement that these kids have to pass a (quite difficult) test in order to receive the sacrament. What approach is taken if a child is simply not intellectually capable of passing the test? What if, in spite of the child’s or teen’s spiritual preparation, memorizing questions from the Baltimore Catechism just isn’t gonna happen? I recall the situation of St. Bernadette, who, when the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, had not yet received her 1st Communion, because she couldn’t learn her Catechism. What provisions are made for these children, and how are they generally applied?

In a related question, what about adults who complete RCIA? Are they generally held to a similar standard in order to receive Baptism and Confirmation? Do they have to pass a test in order to come into the church? If not, what is the rationale for holding children to a higher standard than adults?

I hope this doesn’t come across as overly critical, even though it might actually be. :o I’ve been learning a lot about the Latin Church’s approach to Confirmation this past year, and it is really bothering me. It sometimes seems as if the kids “earn” the sacrament through their knowledge, service hours, etc. Is there flexibility in this approach for children and teens who don’t fit into the box, but still need the Grace of this sacrament?


For most parents, sadly, The Sacrament of Confirmation is more of a “rite-of-passage” ceremony that they expect them to be given, knowledgeable or not. It’s a big issue the Church is facing. Yes, in some standards, you do earn the sacrament. Such as you have to earn a check to pay taxes and to be socially labeled “a man”. Socially of course.

If you have a disability, not just lazy, then I believe there should be some leeway to receive the sacrament. As you respect the Latin Rite, we respect the Byzantine’s rite of confirmation after baptism. It’s a great practice, most indeed.

The big issue surrounding this “test” to receive the sacrament is that children just do not care about religion, or do not feel the need to learn the faith. How can a Loving Church give this sacrament to someone who doesn’t feel the need to give back to the Church in knowledge? A loving mother wouldn’t give her Child a gift if they didn’t deserve it, even if it would help them somehow.


If someone past the age of reason said he wanted to be baptized or confirmed but was unwilling to make any effort to learn the Faith, would you give him the sacraments? (I am not speaking of the ill or disabled.)


The different sacramental discipline is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:1290 In the first centuries Confirmation generally comprised one single celebration with Baptism, forming with it a “double sacrament,” according to the expression of St. Cyprian. Among other reasons, the multiplication of infant baptisms all through the year, the increase of rural parishes, and the growth of dioceses often prevented the bishop from being present at all baptismal celebrations. In the West the desire to reserve the completion of Baptism to the bishop caused the temporal separation of the two sacraments. the East has kept them united, so that Confirmation is conferred by the priest who baptizes. But he can do so only with the “myron” consecrated by a bishop. 100

1318 In the East this sacrament is administered immediately after Baptism and is followed by participation in the Eucharist; this tradition highlights the unity of the three sacraments of Christian initiation. In the Latin Church this sacrament is administered when the age of reason has been reached, and its celebration is ordinarily reserved to the bishop, thus signifying that this sacrament strengthens the ecclesial bond.

1319 A candidate for Confirmation who has attained the age of reason must profess the faith, be in the state of grace, have the intention of receiving the sacrament, and be prepared to assume the role of disciple and witness to Christ, both within the ecclesial community and in temporal affairs.


I don’t think it’s very difficult. I’m sure it varies from parish to parish, but most programs are fairly simple. When I did my Confirmation in high school we just had to show up to a class one night a week for two years. I work with the Confirmation students now and it consists of one year of Bible study followed by one year of Confirmation preparation where they learn about the sacrament, the Church, have to attend monthly holy hours, and have to attend a Confirmation retreat. They also have to attend the youth nights on Fridays for both years and they are encouraged to attend other youth retreats in the area. There’s really no testing involved. It would be crazy to test them when they have so much schoolwork in their lives. We want them to love the Catholic faith.

I don’t know too much about the RCIA programs. Again, I assume they vary from parish to parish. I can’t imagine they would be too difficult. People have lives and they would be turned off if they had to show up and be lectured to and tested all the time. It’s more like a workshop/seminar. You’re given information on the sacraments and Catholic faith and maybe sometimes you’ll have a small pop quiz on the lesson, but your grade on the test is probably not counted and you’ll review the questions as a class.

By the way, some parishes and dioceses do administrate the Sacrament of Confirmation at an earlier age. I know in the Diocese of Phoenix it’s done along with First Communion in the 3rd grade. I think it would be nice for kids to receive it then, when they’re little and dressed in white dresses and little ties. And it would be nice for the bishop to be able to celebrate both sacraments with the children of his diocese.

Some parishes and dioceses that give the sacraments in the restored order:


Sadly, the sacrament of Confirmation is quite abused in the Latin Church. NOWHERE in the canons will you find a requirement for a test prior to confirmation. And yes, those with intellectual disabilities can be confirmed. You will find that this test mentality is NOT present everywhere, some of us still acknowledge that the sacraments and the accompanying grace are gifts.

If someone is being denied Confirmation, when they are properly disposed and meeting the minimum criteria, it is an abuse of their canon law rights and I’d get a canon lawyer involved.

What is actually required:

Can.* 843 §1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.

Can.* 889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.

§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

Can.* 890 The faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament at the proper time. Parents and pastors of souls, especially pastors of parishes, are to take care that the faithful are properly instructed to receive the sacrament and come to it at the appropriate time.

Can.* 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.


Our knowledge isn’t a gift to the church. It is a gift to ourselves, so that we can grow in knowledge and understanding, thereby growing in faith. We give back to the Church, the people of God, through prayer and service.

[quote=] A loving mother wouldn’t give her Child a gift if they didn’t deserve it, even if it would help them somehow.

Your understanding of the gift of the Sacraments is considerably different from mine, and I believe it also differs significantly from the understanding of the Church. The Baltimore Catechism definition of a sacrament is “an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give Grace”. Grace is defined, by the same catechism as “a supernatural gift of God bestowed on us, through the merits of Jesus Christ, for our salvation.” Therefore, we do not need to deserve the sacraments.


It is good that you do not give a test, but some parishes do.

Even without a test, those are pretty stringent requirements. Required to attend youth nights on Fridays for two years? What about the quiet, studious kid who attends daily Mass at 6:00am every morning, but is filled with anxiety at the thought of attending youth nights? Or what about the kid who works on Friday nights? I’ve heard about some places that require the Confirmation prep kids to attend the LifeTeen Mass. What if the family has attended another Mass for many years, together. Now, the teenager is expected to attend separately or the whole family is expected to change Masses, just because of this arbitrary requirement?

What I’m asking is, is there flexibility in these requirements for those kids who demonstrate a desire for the sacrament and are known to be practicing Catholics, but for some reason or another are not able to meet the requirements set forth by the program?


The answer is: the law says none of this.

So, asking if there is flexibility is the wrong question, because flexibility from the requirements implies these are legitimate requirements in the first place. They are not.


when I was confirmed, we had to know certain things because during the Bishop’s homily he would ask the confirmation class certain things - like what is a Sacrament, name the gifts of the holy spirit, various things like that. Is this the type of “Test” you’re talking about?
Luckily, I was blessed to go to a Catholic school that had Religion class every day of the week during school and when it came time for confirmation preparation, one of the sisters that was a teacher for junior high religion prepared my class - which was 5th grade.


No, the test was an hour-long written test with more than 70 questions. These kids definitely know the faith.


Yes, I understand. And agree.

The reality is that this is not followed in many parishes. Parishes and dioceses do set requirements, in spite of canon law. I’m trying to figure out what actually happens when various parish requirements are not met. Do parents or children/teens really have to get a canon lawyer?


That’s what I forgot, they also have to attend a youth Mass once a month. There’s absolutely flexibility in these requirements. The youth/Confirmation coordinator is not that strict. While it’s “required” of them to do all that stuff, she doesn’t really take attendance. We want them to love and live the faith. If someone is attending daily Mass it’s definitely a sign they are on the right path. She asks them all to at least attend two youth nights a month, but she encourages them to attend all the youth nights. And even if a student misses the required youth nights, she doesn’t require them to make it up. I don’t think there are any students in the Confirmation classes who work, and even if they did work at 14 and 15 years old they are legally not allowed to work more then 3 hours on a school day and they have to be finished by 7pm which is when the youth night starts (see link below). And as long as the student is attending weekly Mass they can attend any Mass, the coordinator just asks them to attend the youth Mass because our priest likes to focus his homily on them. One of our students only speaks English (I go to a primarily Spanish speaking church), so she only goes to the English Mass which is fine.

The coordinator’s focus is to get them to understand the faith by participation. Many of the teens don’t understand concepts like the Blessed Sacrament, so when she takes them to adoration they talk and giggle and don’t seem to understand who they are in the presence of. But as they develop in the program they start to mature in the faith. She also has to reeducate them because secular society has taught them all about sex and drugs, but not about how to avoid them and how to live a moral life.


Thank you for this answer. It is very helpful, and is exactly the sort of answer I was looking for. It is good to know that there is flexibility. I still don’t see the point of putting “requirements”, such as attending a special “youth” Mass, which I don’t really get the point of anyway. And I really don’t see why Youth Ministry is tied to the sacrament of Confirmation, but I do appreciate that she is trying to give these kids a connection to the faith and to the Church that they might not be getting in their families and in the world in which they live. I really do get that.

Personally, I’m a rule follower. If someone tells me that something is a “requirement”, I will do my best to meet the requirements. I’m not one to ask for an exception to the rules just for me, which is why these requirements seem onerous to me. If somebody told me that I had to split up my family for Mass, or take the whole family to a different Mass than we prefer, and I had to do this for 2 whole years, I’d be pretty upset.

It seems like your parish is doing a good job in forming Christians in important ways, and not just in head knowledge.


I was thinking more along the lines of babysitting.


I teach confirmation class to 26 13-15 year-olds. In addition to our weekly classes we have youth retreats and various service projects. With confirmation these young people become adults in the eyes of the church. With this adulthood comes responsibility. We are to witnesses to the world, a light set on a lamp stand or a city set on a hill, that cannot be hidden. At the beginning of the confirmation year we have a 40 answer exam to see what they remembered from pre-confirmation class. I’ve given this same exam or a re-worded version two additional times. It is not a test to refuse confirmation to anyone, it is a test to stress that it is important to know what we believe as Catholics and why. Part of our goal is to prepare our young people to be to explain “why” they are Catholic to their Protestant friends (we are in south where Catholics are a minority.)

As to what to do with a child who is incapable of learning all that we would like? I would ask “why do you want to be confirmed?” Regardless, of how the answer is made, I suspect the answer would be something along the line of “because I love God and want to be like Him” or “because God loves me and I want to obey Him.” And isn’t that what it’s really all about becoming love in our own lives and showing that love to the world?


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