What is “the Restored Order”?
An increasing number of dioceses and parishes in the United States are adopting a restored order policy for the celebration of the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist. This means, quite simply, that it becomes standard policy for Catholics who were baptized in infancy to receive Confirmation before First Communion, not after. Practically speaking, this means that the two sacraments are received at the First Communion Mass, with Confirmation being celebrated after the homily.
Why is it referred to as “the Restored Order”?
During the first 500 years or so of the history of the Roman Catholic Church (and still today in the Christian churches of the East), it was always the case that the sacraments of Christian initiation were celebrated in an invariable sequence: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. And it was almost always the case that all three sacraments were celebrated together at the same time, even with infants.
Following the lead of official documents that were issued by the Church after the Second Vatican Council, more and more places are restoring this original order to the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation.
Isn’t Confirmation a sacrament of maturity that should come after First Communion as a child grows older?
Not really. Confirmation is actually the completion of Baptism (by the full gift of the Holy Spirit). To celebrate Confirmation requires nothing more by way of age-appropriate maturity than to receive the Eucharist. Remember, there is a legitimate, parallel practice in Eastern churches of fully initiating even infants with all three sacraments.
The maturity that is required for receiving any of the sacraments of Christian initiation is only what is age-appropriate. The Church expects interior dispositions of readiness, such as understanding freedom, that are realistic at any given age, nothing more.
When we are used to a different practice after more than a thousand years, why is the Church now going back to the original sequence?
Restored order is more than just a fascination with the way it used to be. In fact, there are some very significant theological and liturgical reasons for restoring the integrity of the three sacraments of Christian initiation–all celebrated in proper order, even at the same time.
The RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) requires that children and adults in the catechumenate receive all three sacraments together, even if the children are younger than the age at which the Catholic children of the parish are routinely confirmed.
Putting the celebration of Confirmation between Baptism and Eucharist better expresses its role as the completion of Baptism. As a matter of fact, the sacrament that is the culmination of a person’s Christian initiation is the Eucharist, not Confirmation.
Theologically, it is the gift of the Holy Spirit given in all its fullness at Confirmation that best prepares one to receive Eucharist, and thus to be most fully joined to the Body of Christ.
Is it wrong, then, to be confirmed after receiving Eucharist?
Of course not. The Church has many ways of celebrating the mysteries of God’s love in the sacraments. But because Rome so strongly encourages restoring the order of celebrating the sacraments of Christian initiation, don’t be surprised if more and more communities restore the original sequence of the three sacraments of Christian initiation.
RCL Benziger’s Gifts of Life and Love Family Book and The Gifts of Life and Love Leader’s Guide helps children and families prepare for the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Eucharist and is perfect for dioceses that are using the Restored Order of sacrament reception and for children in RCIA.