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When to Confirm

9 Oct

Through the years I’ve encountered many opinions from Catholic leaders and religious educators regarding the appropriate age for Confirmation. While we can agree to disagree as to what would be the best approach in a given pastoral setting, it’s important that we know and understand the parameters that the Church has provided us on this topic.

We begin by examining the Church’s guidelines regarding those to be confirmed (in the Latin Rite), taken from the Code of Canon Law, canons 889-91:

Can. 889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.

§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

Can. 890 The faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament at the proper time. Parents and pastors of souls, especially pastors of parishes, are to take care that the faithful are properly instructed to receive the sacrament and come to it at the appropriate time.

Can. 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.

As one can readily see, the requirements are vague and not particularly onerous. In order to receive Confirmation, one needs to be baptized, obviously, and also “suitably instructed,” “properly disposed,” and “able to renew the baptismal promises.” These requirements are meant to be read in the context of canon 891, which foresees the “age of discretion” (about seven years of age) as a normative, “appropriate” age. So, the sacrament does not require a fully “mature” faith, but rather the faith of a “suitably instructed” seven-year-old. Continue reading