The Gift of the Father
Pastoral Letter from the Most Reverend James Sean Wall
On the Restoration of the Order of the Sacraments of Initiation
(Second in Series)
To the Faithful of the Diocese of Gallup:
Some Pastoral Considerations
Receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation long after the reception of Holy Communion tends to weaken the understanding of the bond and relationship that the Sacraments of Initiation have with one another. Since the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation lead the faithful to the culmination of their initiation into the Christian Life in Holy Communion, the practice of postponing the reception of Confirmation until the teenage years has not always been beneficial. An alarming percentage of our Catholic children who were baptized and received First Holy Communion, do not continue their formation for the Sacrament of Confirmation, and in too many cases, never receive the Sacrament. As your shepherd, I believe it is important for our children, before they reach their adolescent years, to receive the strength of this important Sacrament.
The Effects of the Sacrament
All the Sacraments of the Church are wonderful gifts left to us by Christ to unite us more closely to the Blessed Trinity. After being born anew in the Sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation gives us an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which strengthens us. This Sacrament brings the life in the Spirit, which was begun in Baptism, to maturity and enables us to be “more perfectly bound to the Church”. This bond with the Church brings in practice the obligation “to spread and defend the faith both by word and deed, as true witnesses to Christ”.
Although grace builds upon nature and much depends upon the disposition in faith, the piety and charity of the one who receives it, the sacraments work in us in a different way. As long as the recipient does not have any impediment, the sacraments will produce in us their grace on their own (ex opera operato) . This is important when we consider the age of the reception of the sacraments. Confirmation, sometimes called the Sacrament of Christian maturity, does not require the recipient to be physically mature in order to transmit its grace. On the contrary, the Sacrament brings the recipient into Christian maturity and is given the strength through the Sacrament to live one’s Christian life even in a heroic way. Although the recipient of the Sacrament always must seek to remove obstacles to grace in his or her life and cooperate with the strength of the grace that is offered to the individual, the power of the sacraments to transform one’s life has been well established.
Throughout the history of the Church, countless young children have shown the witness of heroic virtue and strength in the face of enormous temptations and trials. Faced with the challenges young Christians face in today’s world, it has become all the more important for them to receive the strength of the Sacrament of Confirmation as soon as possible to assist them.
Pope Saint Paul VI mentions one last effect of the Sacrament of Confirmation: that is, that “it is so closely linked to the Holy Eucharist that the faithful, after being signed by Holy Baptism and Confirmation, are incorporated fully into the Body of Christ through participation in the Eucharist”. It is this link with the Eucharist that will be emphasized by uniting the Sacrament of Confirmation with the reception of the First Holy Communion in the same celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass.