SACRAMENTAL PREPARATION

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1 SACRAMENTAL PREPARATION FOR CHILDREN OF APPROPRIATE CATECHETICAL AGE IN THE DIOCESE OF BIRMINGHAM IN ALABAMA

2 GENERAL GUIDELINES Pastors of souls have the duty to take care that those who seek the sacraments are prepared to receive them by proper evangelization and catechetical instruction, attentive to the norms issued by competent authority. (canon 843 2) A pastor may delay the reception of any sacrament, to provide time for sacramental preparation. Just as Baptism is the source of responsibilities and duties, the baptized person also enjoys rights within the Church: To receive the sacraments, to be nourished with the word of God, and to be sustained by other spiritual helps of the Church. (CCC 1269) The right to receive each sacrament is balanced by the responsibility of being properly prepared to receive it. Pastors should provide every available resource to teach a child of the appropriate age what he or she needs to know in order to worthily receive each sacrament. In many cases, this will mean formal classroom instruction of some kind, though in some circumstances it may be best to appoint a sponsor or godparent who will work with a child individually, outside of regular classroom time. Students who are attending regional Catholic Schools, not attached to their Parish, have the option of receiving the Sacraments of First Penance, First Holy Communion and Confirmation either along with their Catholic School class or along with their Parish School of Religion class. Students who are Home-Schooled need to receive the Sacraments of First Penance, First Holy Communion and Confirmation along with their Parish School of Religion class at their Parish. It is essential that Parents keep their Pastor advised of the Sacramental Plans they have for their children, as every Pastor is responsible for insuring that each student is properly catechized in the faith. Following the tradition of the Church, and the norms defined by the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, canon law 1 supports the unity of the initiatory sacraments: The sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Most Holy Eucharist are so interrelated that they are required for full Christian initiation ( 842.2). Just as with adults, the parish priest is authorized to confirm children who are no longer infants ( 883.2) and the candidate for Confirmation should be at about the age of discretion: (seven or eight years old) ( 891). Canon law supports a pastoral practice in which children of catechetical age are initiated into the Catholic Church through the preparation for and celebration of the unified Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. 1Code of Canon Law (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1983)

3 General Guidelines PREPARATION FOR FIRST RECONCILIATION Instruction for and reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to precede First Communion. An understanding of oneself as a sinner, of the different kinds of sin, and of the conditions requisite for a serious sin are necessary preliminaries in catechesis for this sacrament. Catechetical Guidelines Catechists should take this opportunity to instruct the parents of the children by planning and holding parent meetings. Children should be taught the beginnings of conscience formation, the Ten Commandments, and the understanding of what it means to be forgiven and to forgive. Children should be taught to have sorrow for sin, and to see Christ s suffering and death as the way we are redeemed from sin. Children should be taught to make a full, honest and humble confession. Catechists should train them to confess the kind and number of sins. An Act of Contrition, one of the three proposed by the Church should be memorized. The preferred Act of Contrition is the one printed in the catechetical guide Handing on the Faith. Ritual Guidelines Children should be made familiar with the Confessional or Reconciliation room. They should be offered the opportunity to confess their sins either anonymously behind a screen or face-to-face with their confessor. (Cf. canon and BLS 103) The celebration of First Penance should be solemn and short.

4 Preparation for First Communion General Guidelines Instruction for First Communion should be conducted separately from instruction for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Each sacrament deserves its own concentrated preparation. Those who receive Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through Holy Communion, Christ unites the faithful into one body: the Church. Holy Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation, which is already achieved by Baptism. (CCC 1396) Priests, parents, and catechists are responsible for making sure children are correctly prepared to receive First Communion. (Cf. canon 914) It is not mandatory to send notification of the reception of First Eucharist to the church of Baptism. Catechetical Guidelines Children should know in faith that the consecrated Host is very different from ordinary bread or from an unconsecrated host, and they should know that the Precious Blood is very different from ordinary wine. Children should be taught that the Holy Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ; that what appears to be bread and wine is actually his living body, (NCD 122) Children should know in faith that Jesus is fully present under both forms; that they receive the Real Presence of Jesus whether they receive the host or partake of the cup. Children should be taught that one must fast from all food and drink for one hour before receiving Holy Communion. Only water and medicine do not break the fast. (canon 919 1) Children should be taught to make a proper prayer of Thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion.

5 Ritual Guidelines Children should be given the option of receiving the Holy Eucharist either on their tongue or in their hand. Children should practice the proper gestures and postures expected during Mass. They should be taught how to genuflect, and the proper times during Mass to sit, to stand, and to kneel. Children should be taught to make an act of reverence before receiving Holy Communion. A profound bow is the preferred gesture. (Prot. NO. 1381/01/L; adaptation for the dioceses of the United States of America to IGMR 160 paragraph 2) The appropriate dress for the first communicants would be their Sunday best (sport coats and ties for boys and white dresses for girls) but should allow for culture and economic status. Parents may give their children a traditional prayer book, rosary, or scapular set.

6 PREPARATION FOR CONFIRMATION General Guidelines It is evident from the celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. (CCC 1302) Preparation for Confirmation should be a joyful and pleasant experience. It should involve not only prayer and study but also service to the Church and the community. The catechesis on prayer should emphasize the Mass as the most powerful prayer along with daily personal prayer such as praying the Morning Offering. Candidates should have a ready understanding of the Seven Sacraments and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Candidates should participate in as many of the 4 dimensions of Stewardship as possible, namely: 1. Sharing their Time- visiting those who are sick or alone or in need of help. 2. Sharing their Talent-using one s gifts and abilities to assist others. 3. Sharing their Treasure-giving a portion of one s money to help others in need. 4. Sharing their Tradition-discussing their faith and inviting others to embrace it. The Sacrament of Confirmation confers the fullness of the Holy Spirit such that: Confirmation unites us more firmly to Christ. Confirmation increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us. Confirmation makes our bond with the Church more perfect. Confirmation gives us special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross. (CCC 1303) Candidates must choose a Saint s name for their Confirmation name. Baptismal names may be used if they are a Saint s name. Candidates should research the life of the Saint, so that the name will have special meaning and importance in their lives.

7 A sponsor for Confirmation must be a practicing Catholic who has been confirmed, is at least sixteen years of age, and is in full Communion with the Catholic Church. The sponsor should not be the father or mother of the one to be confirmed. The sponsor should be a model for the person being confirmed. (CCC 1311; canons and 874) Notification of reception of the sacrament of Confirmation must be sent to the church where the child was baptized. Catechetical Guidelines Preparation for Confirmation should aim at leading the Catholic toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit; his actions, his gifts, and his biddings, in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life. To this end, catechesis for Confirmation should strive to awaken a sense of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ: to the universal Church as well as to the parish community. (CCC 1309) Preparation for Confirmation should be presented as one more step in the lifelong formation of a Catholic. It should not give the appearance of graduating from formation. Actual preparation time should be short, about eight or ten weeks. Prayer should be an important component of preparation. A retreat should be offered to all candidates; however, inability to participate in a retreat should not be used as a reason for delaying reception of the sacrament. All Confirmation preparation activities should be directly related to receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Candidates should write letters of anticipation to the Bishop only if the catechist feels this gesture would aid the candidate in his or her preparation to receive the sacrament. Spontaneity is appreciated. Ritual Guidelines The appropriate dress for Confirmation is Sunday best (sport coats and ties for boys and dresses for girls). Formal robes should not be worn. Stoles are not a proper symbol for Confirmation and should not be worn. The readings of the day are always used for Sunday Confirmation liturgies. The Mass for Confirmation shall be used where Liturgical laws permit. The Gloria is not sung or said in the Votive Mass; red vestments are to be worn.

8 It is my hope that these guidelines will enable pastors, catechists, and parents to more completely fulfill their graced responsibility to educate our children in the faith, leading them into the fullness of sacramental life, while keeping before their eyes the salvation of souls, which is always the supreme law of the Church ( 1752). In Christ s love, Most Reverend Robert J. Baker, S.T.D. Bishop of Birmingham in Alabama

9 Key to Citations CCC Canons NCD BLS IGMR Catechism of the Catholic Church Code of Canon Law National Catechetical Directory Built of Living Stones Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani

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