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Q. As a catechist I have been reading up on the Sacrament of Confirmation, but I am confused. In Church documents, confirmation is spoken of as a sacrament of initiation. How can there be a further sacrament of initiation after first Communion? How can I teach about confirmation in eighth grade?
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the celebration of confirmation after first Communion. You are correct in your assessment that confirmation is a sacrament of initiation; but it can only be this if it is celebrated before first Communion.
In Catholic tradition, baptism is the beginning of initiation, confirmation is the continuation of initiation and (first) Communion is the completion of the process. This order is the norm for the baptism of children in danger of death, for children of catechetical age, for all those who go through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, for those baptized but never catechized or given confirmation and first Communion, and for those in danger of death. This order is the norm for the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and was the norm for the first 20 centuries of the Latin-rite Church.
It is difficult to catechize for confirmation people in eighth grade who have already received first Communion. Certainly one cannot use initiation language. To do so goes against 20 centuries of Catholic theology and practice.
I am among those who hope that the disorder in the sacraments of initiation will be redressed eventually. This, I hope, may occur in the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. This would lead to the complete restoration of the order of baptism-confirmation-Eucharist.
In the meantime, I encourage catechists preparing eighth-graders for confirmation to avoid initiation language and to treat the Sacrament of Confirmation as an opportunity for candidates to renew their faith in a general way. Confirmation programs could be adapted to help review theological and moral tenets of the faith.
Saved Outside the Church?
Q. Does the Catholic Church teach that there is salvation outside the church and that many will be saved? Has this always been a teaching of the Church? And, if this is true, then, as Catholics, why and who are we evangelizing? Only atheists?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council declared, “The universal Church of the faithful is one outside of which none is saved.” This teaching has been reinforced over the years, and Pope Pius IX observed, “It is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation.” This sounds harsh, so the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Re-formulated positively, [this] means … salvation comes from Christ … through the Church which is his Body” (No. 846).
St. Paul writes that God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tm 2:4, RSV). This is the reason for the Church’s evangelizing apostolate. Nonetheless, the Church maintains that those uninstructed in the faith “are not for this reason guilty in the eyes of the Lord.”
Whom do we evangelize? Last October, the world’s bishops gathered to discuss a New Evangelization for the current Year of Faith that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. This New Evangelization is an outreach to those with no understanding of Christianity, but it is also an opportunity for us to be evangelized. Pope Paul VI observed, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers.… It is therefore primarily by her conduct … that the Church will evangelize the world.”
Dating and Courtship
Q. My granddaughter, age 22, is seriously dating a young Lutheran man. She has grown up with what the Catholic Church teaches. Do you have anything to share with us about how she may approach the subject of “religion” in their relationship? I would have to say that the young man is persistent in his beliefs, but hers seem to go so much deeper, and she really is suffering.
M.R., Scobey, Mont.
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
It sounds like your granddaughter is in love with a fine young man, and that this relationship could lead to marriage. It will be very important for the two of them to have a clear understanding of the place of religion in their lives.
From what I have observed over the past 20 years as a priest, if a Catholic is serious about his or her faith — that is, they attend weekly Mass, pray daily, study the faith and frequent the sacraments — then they will most likely stay strong in their faith, because “practice makes perfect.”
In such cases, the Catholic party to a marriage will insist on raising the children in the Catholic faith (see Canon 1125.1). Your granddaughter needs to tell her boyfriend that she will not budge on the issue of raising the kids Catholic. If he truly loves her, he will respect such deep conviction.
On the other hand, if a person is a nominal Catholic — that is, baptized and confirmed but rarely attends Mass or confession, or rarely prays — it is unlikely that they will insist on practicing as a Catholic or raising the children as Catholic.
In either case, the person who is stronger and more dedicated in the practice of their faith usually wins the day.
All the more important then is the responsibility parents have of practicing the faith themselves, thereby providing good example to their children. Fathers have a special responsibility to attend weekly Mass, as well as confess and pray regularly.
Prayer of Jabez?
Q. Would you tell me what exactly is the Prayer of Jabez? Was there a Jabez in the Bible?
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, Jabez’s name occurs in a detailed listing of descendants of David. Jabez’s parentage is not specified: “Jabez was the most distinguished of his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I bore him with pain.’ Jabez prayed to the God of Israel: ‘Oh, that you may truly bless me and extend my boundaries! Help me and make me free of misfortune, without pain!’ And God granted his prayer.”
About a dozen years ago appeared a book by Bruce Wilkinson, entitled “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking through to the Blessed Life.” The author urged Christians to use this prayer each day. His book was a best-seller. As a result, a whole line of Jabez merchandise has appeared on the market.
Why Must We Confess to a Priest?
Q. Where in the Bible does it state that we should confess to a priest?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Bible does not explicitly command confession to a priest. However, Jesus claims power to forgive sin (see Mt 9:6), and Catholic theology teaches he shared this authority with Peter and the other apostles when he said: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt. 16:19).
Our Savior would not have prescribed a remedy had he not perceived a need, and one authority remarks that this leads to confession, for “the imposition of an atonement approximate to the guilt presupposes a detailed knowledge of the sins committed” (Ludwig Ott, “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma”).
Some have argued that the power of binding and loosing was given solely to Peter, or that it ceased with the apostles’ death. Either of these positions places limits on Jesus’ generosity that cannot reasonably be maintained, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, reflecting the work of the Second Vatican Council, states, “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head” (No. 1444).
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