I have decided that, from now on in the Archdiocese of Glasgow, the Confirmation of baptised children will take place around age 11 when children are in P7, their final year of Primary School.
This decision was motivated principally by pastoral concerns. It seemed sensible to prolong the period of sacramental initiation of baptized children to give parents a longer time to accompany their children through the reception of the sacraments and to make the best of the efforts of Catholic teachers and parish catechists. I felt too that Confirmation will mean more to children who are a little older. And I imagine that most people would agree that it will be spiritually more satisfying to celebrate Confirmation at Mass when the newly-confirmed children can receive our Lord in Holy Communion as the centre and high-point of their sacramental life.
It is also very helpful that the new RE Syllabus for our Catholic schools, This is Our Faith, fully allows for children to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at P7, P6 and P4, with age-appropriate learning. In fact, the material on Confirmation for P7 in This is Our Faith is of a very high order. Our P7 Children and their teachers will thus be able to access the appropriate material within the very syllabus which is currently being used in our schools.
So, I would envisage that the Mass of Confirmation will be celebrated each year in P7 in the time from Easter until around the Feast of the Sacred Heart (usually mid-June). Since the bishop is the ordinary minister of Confirmation (and since I love doing Confirmations!), I will celebrate as many of these Confirmation Masses as I can. Since at the moment we have 90+ parishes, I certainly will not be able to do them all, and Parish Priests will obviously be delegated to celebrate Masses of Confirmation, as they are now for the Rite of Confirmation.
So the next “season” for the Confirmation of baptized children in the Archdiocese of Glasgow will be in the final term of school year 2017-18, which gives us 4 years to prepare for this small change to our sacramental practice for baptised children, and we should be able to put all the practical arrangements in place in that time.
The timings of First Confession at P3 and of First Holy Communion at P4 remain unchanged.
Having heard the Council of Priests on this matter, and having consulted many people – priests, parents and teachers – I am confident that this new arrangement for Confirmation, which I have seen in practice, will enhance our efforts to transmit the faith to our children and young people, and to evangelize families, parishes and school communities.
Yours devotedly in the Lord,
Comment: this is a welcome restoration of the “older” age for Confirmation – but would 16 be even better? If young people had to opt to be confirmed at 16, would not that put paid to the criticism that they are only following the religion “imposed” by their parents? Or are there other – more important – considerations to be taken into account?