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?