Should we change the age of Confirmation?

There is an interesting discussion on the latest 15th Station about the best age for Confirmation.

For those new to the faith, a brief outline – about 20 years ago the age for receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation was revised from 15/16 years old down to 7/8 years old.

I was Confirmed in the middle of the transition years at 12 years old. I have to say, despite going through the Confirmation lessons and being taught by nuns, I still didn't really understand the significance of the Sacrament. Everyone told me that it was my chance to "confirm" my belief and commitment to the Catholic Church. It is only since that time, when I have been responsible for the Sacramental programme in my own parish, that I realise it is actually about receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to strengthen you in your faith. 

There are many people out there who are advocates of returning Confirmation to a 'young adult' Sacrament, but I think this idea is based  on some wrong and some unfounded beliefs.

Firstly, there is still a widely held belief amongst Catholics that Confirmation is only about choosing the Catholic Church for yourself (rather than your parents choosing it for you). Confirmation is the completion of initiation into the Church, or as the Catechism puts it, "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church". The most important aspect of Confirmation, however, are the graces we receive from the Holy Spirit, that allow us to be be "enriched with a special strength" and then, consequently, the responsibilities that come with these graces, namely that we are "more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed." (CCC 1285)

I believe that it is the graces we receive that allow us to 'choose' and be "bound" to the Catholic Faith, not that we choose the Catholic Faith and that our reward are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation is based largely on the Biblical story of Pentecost. The apostles were afraid, locked in a room, fearing for their lives and doubting what they had come to believe. It was at that moment that the Holy Spirit came upon them. This was what gave them the strength to "spread and defend the faith". It wasn't so much about them choosing the Church, as the Church choosing (and empowering) them.

The reason Confirmation was changed to 7 or 8 years is that a Catholic should really be fully initiated into the Church before they recieve the Eucharist – which is the source and summit of our faith. It is only the gifts and strength of the Holy Spirit that can prepare someone to receive the very Body and Blood of Christ into themselves. It makes sense (to me at least) that we are baptised at birth, that this process is completed with Confirmation and that we then get to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, having fully been accepted into the Faith.

Another common argument is that Confirmation should be changed to High School age as it would give teenagers something to aim for during the difficult teenage years – that it would somehow bring them back to the Church and give them a focus. I think the proof is in the pudding with this one. It is my generation of Catholics that recieved Confirmation in their teens and it is my generation of Catholics who no longer attend. I don't think it makes any difference. If we want to make Confirmation all about 'choosing' the Church and commiting to it, 16 is far too young anyway. Personally, I didn't 'choose' the Catholic Church until I was in my 20s and had seen a bit of the world and lived more of life.

I don't think its a bad idea to have something, not a Sacrament, but something for Catholics, as adults, to commit their lives to the Church. I came "home" in my 20s but as I have not been married or ordained, I haven't been through any kind of ceremony through which I offer my life to God and His Church. My parish is currently looking into a course for adults who are lapsed, but thinking about returning to the fold – wouldn't it be great if there was some kind of ceremony or liturgy welcoming them back, where they got to share their new commitment? But I don't think Confimation is it.

So, that's what I think… what about you?

The Sunday Scrum

He is Risen.

The Dilemma of Hot Cross Buns

Holy week tends to provoke deep theological insights for us Catholics, and in this day and age the Internet provides us like never before with heaps of opportunity for spiritual formation  and new undertsandings of this most Holy of seasons.  My addition to the deep-thinking mix this week…

…should we eat Hot Cross buns prior to Good Friday, or not? 

this is an issue that splits our house to be honest. Some in our family (who shall remain nameless) feel strongly that hot cross buns should not be eaten until after the Good Friday service. Others with less self control eat them as soon as Countdown put them on sale (usually just after the Boxing Day sales have finished). Others wish they could eat them all year round, because they taste so good (except those ones with chocolate in them. Chocolate does not belong in a hot cross bun). 

Do you have any traditions around hot cross buns? any particuar rituals, beliefs, opinions on these tasty treats? And for the more creative – share a recipe for them in the comments section also! 

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

We had a beautiful Mass here on the weekend for Passion Sunday. Palms were blessed, hosannas were sung and we all stood to listen to the Passion. I don't know about you, but no matter how many times I hear the story of Jesus' death it still leaves me with a host of emotions. 

What I can never get my head around is that two of the Gospel writers, Matthew and Mark, tell us that Jesus' last words were, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Why were these his last words? Surely he knew that his Father was with him? And if his faith faltered, what hope do the rest of us have when we face difficult times?

It's probably my least favourite line in all of the Bible, because I just don't get it. A pentecostal friend explained that it was because at that exact moment, Jesus took on all of the sins of the world and so God turned away. I don't know about that… surely that's when God would be most present?

What's your take on it? Why were Jesus' last words about God deserting him?

The Sunday Scrum – Canonisation Edition!

Vatican City, 31 March 2014 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the initiatives forming part of the preparations for the canonisations of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, to be celebrated on 27 April. The speakers were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome, along with Msgr. Giulio Dellavite, secretary general for the Curia of Bergamo, Msgr. Walter Insero, head of the Office for Social Communications for the Vicariate of Rome, and Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office.

The initiatives will include a digital platform, the aim of which is to enable the faithful and pilgrims to have access to news and information regarding the ceremonies as well as a series of spiritual reflections on the life and teachings of both popes. Indeed, the official site is an almost-completed portal which offers contacts, sections for press offices, information, videos and images as well as biographical documentation on John XXIII and John Paul II. It will be available in five languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish and Polish.

The application entitled “Santo Subito”, which may be downloaded free in both Android and IOS formats (in Italian, English, Spanish and Polish) and whose title draws on the famed saintliness of both Popes even during their lifetimes, will offer logistical information, as well as access to the main news on the canonisations, and will allow material relating to the various liturgical events to be downloaded.

Existing media include:

Official page of the Postulation with content in five languages:

Official Twitter page with content in five languages:

YouTube channel for the Postulation:


This latter, developed in 2011 for the beatification of Karol Wojtyla, gives a detailed illustration of the stages in the canonical process leading to the recognition of the saintliness of John Paul II and is available in several languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Romanian.

The parallel project #2popesaints, realised in collaboration with the students of communication sciences from the Roman university LUMSA involves a series of networks enabling young people to get to know the lives, teachings and testimony of faith of the two new saints. There will be a Facebook page entitled 2popesaints; on Twitter, the account @2popesaints; on Instagram, #2popesaints; and on YouTube, 2popesaints. Every day each one of the above will propose a theme relating to both popes in the media, starting from 16 April until the canonisation, and each event will be transmitted live on each network.

On Google+ there will be the possibility of following in a “hangout” the daily briefings during the week leading up to the canonisation. A QR code will also be created to allow rapid access to the site The initiative “Rome connecting to the World”, a form of “twinning” between the faithful arriving in Rome and the young people of the city, will make it possible to get to know the most important locations in Rome along with the history of John XXIII and John Paul II, providing information on the Facebook page.

In the diocese of Rome, on 22 April in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Cardinal Agostino Vallini will preside at a meeting addressing young people, with the postulators for the causes of both saints: Msgr. Slavomir Oder (John Paul II) and Fr. Giovangiuseppe Califano (John XXIII). On 26 April, starting at 9 p.m., there will be a “White night of prayer” and the churches throughout the centre of Rome will remain open for prayer and confession in various languages.

Similarly, the diocese of Bergamo will pay homage to XIII with the initiative “Le Opere Segno”, a series of activities dedicated to charity, human development and solidarity which affect daily lives. They include an aid project for Haiti to guarantee three years' education in the John XXIII school; an invitation to priests to contribute a month's salary and all the alms collected by the parish communities on 27 April to a fund set up in aid of families afflicted by the economic crisis; and the commemoration, on 12 April, of the publication of the encyclical “Pacem in Terris”, to be attended by ambassadors representing the countries where Angelo Roncalli carried out his diplomatic mission as an apostolic nuncio (Bulgaria, Turkey, Greek and France), and which will be presented by Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission

Left Behind Again??

I had to read the news item twice to make sure I wasn't going mad, but it's true: Nicolas Cage is starring in a new adaptation of the Left Behind books. There's already been one version made which was pretty forgettable, and quite why Mr Cage feels that he wants to remake it is unclear. To the best of my knowledge he isn't Christian, so I think it is safe to say he doesn't have an evangelistic motive behind it. 

This news reminded me of the books, and I am sure I wasn't the only BF'er back in the nineties reading them. The first few books start off as speculative fiction set as the Rapture occurs, and looks at the lives of those who have been, as the title makes clear, Left Behind. I really enjoyed the first book for what it was – pulp fiction – and slogged through a few more before finding them just getting too whacky to perservere with. The depiction of the Pope in the story is not positive and there is some thought that the books are anti-Catholic. I have to admit, that characterisation did jar for me, I felt it was unneccessary. There were some other characters in particular that I really liked, and genuninely engaged with their journeys. And of course I was interested to see how the story would end!!

I had long forgotten about the series, until I realised that our local public library remarkably had the whole series sitting on their shelves – all 16 books. I set myself the target of reading through them three or four years ago over a summer break, however I got as far as book 9 and just gave up – I couldn't stick with it. Just couldn't get interested enough or muster the enthusiasm to push through those last few books. 

This new movie for me has the appeal of a trainwreck about it – I just can't look away – and despite my better judgement I will be watching it. Definitely not shelling out $20 to go to the movies on opening night, but it will be ending up in my DVD player at some point.  

Anyone else here willing to admit their interest? Or am I well and truly alone on this one?


Holy Week eve

I don't know about you, but Holy Week is my favourite time in the Church's year. I love it! And right now I have that "night-before-Christmas" feeling as I think about it approaching next week.

The delights of Holy Week are endless…the glories of palm Sunday with the processions and the singing, coming home to plant a palm behind a holy picture, the beautiful Chrism Mass on Tuesday night that brings together all of the priests in the Diocese – their singing and fervour is something to behold, Mass on Holy Thursday night with the beautiful ceremony where the priest washes parishioners' feet, the solemnity and reverence of the Good Friday service and then all the drama of the Easter vigil… I can't wait!

My favourite part of Holy Week has to be Holy Thursday Mass. I love the Eucharist and attend faithfully on Sundays of course, but also on any other weekday when work permits. I feel like in remembering the Last Supper we are commemorating the foundation of the Eucharist and all it means for us. I love seeing parish priests humble themselves as Jesus did by washing the feet of others. I feel as though Holy Thursday sums up much of what we espouse as members of our great Church.

Holy Week is also the final culmination of all of our Lenten sacrifices. It's where we can give (or give up) a little extra because the Resurrection is near.

So… who's looking forward to Holy Week? And what's your favourite part?