One of the most-discussed aspects of the sacrament of Confirmation is the appropriate age when it should be received. In the various Catholic Churches which arose in Eastern Europe and Asia (and in the Eastern Orthodox Churches which exist side-by-side with them) the Sacraments of Initiation are always conferred together. This means that even infants are confirmed and receive first holy communion at the time there are baptized!
In our “western” Church Confirmation came to be separated from Baptism: historically the “connection” with the bishop was emphasized, and he couldn’t baptize everyone! Until a century ago, however, Confirmation was typically received by children about the age of seven (remember, it was Pope St. Pius X in 1910 who extended eucharistic sharing to children, so first communion usually was put off until the teen years). Once seven-year-olds began to receive communion, it became common in English-speaking countries to defer Confirmation until later.
Right now Church law allows bishops in the U.S.A. to administer Confirmation to young persons between the ages of 7 and 21. In the late 1980’s Bishop Ott consulted with the priests and catechists of the Diocese of Baton Rouge and determined that administering Confirmation to high school age Catholics generally would offer the best, unique opportunity for them to rediscover the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Thus the age of Confirmation here was set to be the eleventh grade of school.
That’s the way it is. In the next Morceau I’ll talk about some pluses and minuses which our current Confirmation programs encounter.