Disabled Youth - Confirmation Ideas

My son will be 14 years old shortly. He has Down syndrome. We live in a very rural area, and we home school. I prepared him for First Communion, which was delayed due a texture aversion, but he took FC 2 Easters ago (praise God!). Our Priest was wonderfully understanding - we needed him to not make a big deal of it, so he was sort of sneaked into the first row with the adult catechists and the announcement was only made after communion was successful so as not to put any pressure on him. When he was able to complete First Communion, Father made the announcement and we had pictures taken, etc. Folks on this forum were so helpful in figuring out how to go about all this. Thank you!!

Anyhow, since every new thing thing takes more time and planning and thinking for my young man, it is time to begin to explore what exactly we can do for Confirmation preparation.

Our local parish has no formal religious education program - no regular catechism classes or confirmation class - sometimes a parent will take it on when their own child is involved and most years, none.

We have one Priest who has 4 tiny churches spread out quite a distance. He would gladly just do the paperwork with the Bishop and confirm my son now, if we asked. Perhaps I should have asked to just have it done during his FC. But as in First Communion, I try to take the time to let my son experience a modified version of studying, praying and preparing for the sacraments. He truly loves his religious instruction, and it just seems wrong to deny him the opportunity.

Sorry this is so long, but here’s the final rub - I’m an adult convert myself, as is my husband. So we just got confirmed at the time of our baptism and FC. I need ideas for what exactly is involved in Confirmation, and help thinking of adapted versions of such instruction for a disabled child in a very sparsely populated, rural area.

Thank you for any suggestions!

  1. Remember all the sacraments are gifts from God. Just as in the Latin Rite babies are Baptized, so in the Eastern Rites babies receive First Communion and Confirmation. I mention that not to create a discussion on the prudence of either system, but to make clear that there is no real need, per se, for any special catechesis.

  2. That being said, you want your son to go through a process, suited to his abilities, that impresses upon him the meaning of being confirmed in the faith (at least that’s what I always thought they were trying to do with these programs).

  3. the catechism says:

1285 Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the “sacraments of Christian initiation,” whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace.89 For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps you can explain that in language suited to him. In a sense, he is becoming an adult in the Church.

  1. Explain the anointing

1294 …By Confirmation Christians, that is, those who are anointed, share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which he is filled, so that their lives may give off "the aroma of Christ.

He becomes, through the life of the Holy Spirit in him, one who is called to love God and love his fellow man so that all may follow Christ seen through his life - as were the Apostles at Pentecost.

  1. Perhaps let him volunteer with some organization, with children, the poor, animals - or just be kind to his friends and neighbors. In that way he begins to learn to live his life in love - as Christ has called us to do. “The Aroma of Christ” is the halo of love from loving God and our fellow man.

If he can understand that, he’s way ahead of the game. If he can’t - Christ has already taken him by the hand past the goal line (excuse the sports metaphor) and he should be confirmed under the circumstances you feel are best!

Pax te cum

Thank you! Here in California, it does seem that the Confirmation classes in larger populated areas generally involve some sort of service. In general, it just seems a hodge podge from parish to parish.

In many areas, it seems my son is more advanced in his religious understanding than many adults - he believes unconditionally, prays easily and often, loves the Lord with a simple faith, and loves others without prejudice to age, looks, disability, or state of unwash.

But I do want to let him experience a little bit of what other non-disabled peers go through in the Church. So much of his life is “different” and that can be lonely for the disabled. If we had a class for confirmation, I would just take him and adapt and facilitate the best I could. He would be thrilled to be involved and the other teens would probably get a lot out the experience.

First of all I want to say how much I admire you for homeschooling your son and teaching him the faith.

I don’t know your son’s capabilities, but in many areas of the country there is a move to Confirm children around the same time they make their First Communion, around the age of 7 or 8, so there must be catechetical material available for that grade level if he functions at that level or higher. I don’t know, however, how or where to obtain this material, perhaps one of the forum members does. Perhaps you could obtain some of this catechetical material and adapt it to your son’s needs. I also believe that there is material available for children with special needs, you might want to check into that. Unfortunately I am not familiar with the publishers of catechetical material. If there is a DRE at a nearby parish (I know you live in a rural area, but perhhaps in a city near you), maybe you can contact them and find out.

God bless both of you in this.

Thank you Carolyn! That gives me some idea of what to search for. We are very rural, but thanks to the internet, the world is at our fingertips. I’ll also contact the folks at Kolbe Academy, through whom we home school, and maybe they can contact their curriculum sources. Sam could definitely handle material for 7 or 8 year olds - that is fabulous news!

As far as Special Education catechetical materials, that seems to be an area where the Catholic Church falls short in general. There is one program that was initiated by Rose Kennedy, but it is way too expensive for individual use. I asked our Diocese if they might consider purchasing it for our entire diocese, perhaps to use on loan, but unfortunately, Special Needs is not one of their priorities at this time.

A few years back, I attended a workshop on “Religion and the Special Needs Community” at a conference for the Developmentally Disabled. There are several good non-Catholic Special Needs religious education materials available, and entire programs for parishes by various Protestant organizations about how to include people and children with Special Needs in the religious life of a community, but the Catholics were singularly and notably missing.

I would focus on the strengthening aspect of this sacrament. In Confirmation, it is not that we are “confirming” our faith (as if to supply for the fact that we had no say at our Baptism), but rather, God is “confirming” us – that is, He is strengthening us. We need this strength, this additional grace, in our Christian lives because of the great hardships and struggles we will encounter.

Help your son to realize that Confirmation is about God giving him extra strength – not because he needs it more than others, for we all need it, but because he is special to God and God wants the best for him.

Our diocese has an Office of Special Needs ministry. You might also consider contacting your diocese to see if they can help you. One of the parish pastors is the spiritual director for this ministry. What he does is have CCD classes geared towards these individuals, especially when it comes to sacramental preparation. Then, all of the candidates will receive the sacraments from the spiritual director’s parish. Although I realize that you are in a cluster-parish situation, perhaps the dioces can be of help to you.

Sojo, sending a private message which may help you.

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