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Confirmation: A Misunderstood Sacrament

Why is it so difficult to explain the Sacrament of Confirmation? And why does the Latin Church seem to offer it just at the wrong time? Simone Rizkallah digs into the controversy.


Cy Kellett:

Hello and welcome to Focus, the Catholic Answers Podcast for living, understanding and defending your Catholic faith. I am Cy Kellett, your host, and one of the things we need to live better, understand better and defend better, so we’re going to cover all three in this episode, is the sacrament of confirmation. Well, one of the reasons we have to defend it is there’s a general lack of understanding about it. And certainly our Protestant brothers and sisters will say to us, “Where is that in the Bible and why do you have this thing? Is this a tradition of men?” And even many Catholics are a bit baffled by how do we even talk about confirmation? What is it? So that’s what we are going to get into. And maybe one benefit of that is we will live our confirmation graces more fully if we understand it better. But certainly one benefit will be able to explain it better to the kids when they ask about it, and to our Protestant brothers and sisters when they ask about it.

Here to help us do that is Simone Rizkallah, who is an affiliate apologist here. I love saying that, that Simone is an affiliate apologist here at Catholic Answers, and she told me just before we started, she’s the-

Simone Rizkallah:

Director of Program Growth.

Cy Kellett:

Director of Program Growth at ENDOW, which is what? What’s ENDOW Simone.

Simone Rizkallah:

ENDOW. ENDOW stands for Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women. So we’re Catholic women’s apostolate and we get women together to study important documents of the Catholic Church.

Cy Kellett:

And thank you for doing your own introduction. I appreciate that, Simone. And welcome. Thanks for being here.

Simone Rizkallah:

Thanks. Cy. Happy to be here.

Cy Kellett:

It’s particularly nice because you’re in studio with us today and-

Simone Rizkallah:

I know.

Cy Kellett:

You’re from a completely different part of California.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

And we’re really glad that you came. It’s nice to have you here.

Simone Rizkallah:

It’s so good to be here. Love this office.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, well, thank you. Thanks very much. Okay, so confirmation. Back in the old days when you were Miss Riz teaching high schoolers, did you have to teach them about confirmation?

Simone Rizkallah:

Did I did, but I stuck to moral theology and church history.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, that was your-

Simone Rizkallah:

We did a… Yeah, that was my thing.

Cy Kellett:

But you’re interested in confirmation and part of that interest comes personally from the fact that you’re an Egyptian yourself.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

And so you’re familiar with both Eastern and Western Catholicism, the traditions in both.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yes. I breathe with both lungs as John Paul II said to do. I know both of them.

Cy Kellett:

I know.

Simone Rizkallah:

The east and the west.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, there’s-

Simone Rizkallah:

Why separate?

Cy Kellett:

I know, that’s exactly right. But most of us don’t have that advantage. And so because in the east and the west of the church, confirmation is spoken of differently. Different words are used to describe it. And it’s practiced differently. It’s actually practiced differently on each lung.

Simone Rizkallah:

That’s right. Well, I would was chrismated, I wouldn’t say confirmed unless I were talking to a westerner. So I was confirmed. I was chrismated when I was baptized, which was at six months.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. Six months old.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

So this is what I don’t understand about these-

Simone Rizkallah:

No three months. I’m sorry. Three months.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. Three months old, even worse. So how did you make your felt banner, do your service project and get your service hours in at three months old? I don’t… That seems so unfair to babies.

Simone Rizkallah:

I know. I didn’t have to… I mean, I didn’t get to do any of that. I just got to receive the gift, which is what sacraments are. They’re just pure gifts of grace. I didn’t have to earn anything.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, you’re one of those kind of Catholics. All right, well, okay. So maybe let’s start with just what is confirmation, and then we’re going to have to talk about how it’s connected to the person of Jesus. Did He have anything to do with founding the sacrament? Is this a sacrament that was invented after Jesus or what? And so in order to answer the questions that people will have, we got to know what we’re talking about. So what’s confirmation and where does it come from?

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. Well, it’s definitely a legitimate sacrament. The way that the catechism talks about it and it’s connection with baptism and that it’s a double sacrament. And I think the reason why it’s talked about in that way is not just because the ancient practice that both baptism and confirmation were given together, but that there isn’t really long lengthy explanations of what confirmation is. It’s simply understood as a perfection of baptismal grace, a strengthening of the Holy Spirit. We use those words in the west, sealing of the Holy Spirit. So there’s a lot of theological work I could say that could be done on what exactly is this sacrament?

Cy Kellett:

Isn’t that something that we have a whole sacrament of the Catholic church, one seventh of our sacramental patrimony. We actually need more theology done on this. We need more people to-

Simone Rizkallah:

We do. We need more thinkers on this. And I remember being in graduate school and doing a lot of research on confirmation, especially because I’m an Eastern Catholic and received it when I was a baby. And I went to go talk to the diocese and liturgists, and Sacramentals guy. And I said, “Look, there’s not a lot here. Am I missing something?” And he’s like, “No, no, there isn’t a lot here.” It’s a mysterious sac- I mean, all sacraments are mysteries, but this one in particular.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, it’s a mystery both in the fact that it’s established by God and given to us, and it signifies something far beyond what we… And also we just haven’t done enough thinking about it.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Simone Rizkallah:

I think so.

Cy Kellett:

We could solve that second problem with some more thinking, but okay, so the here’s problem in the way, even when I hear you talk about it, Simone, that I think it’s jarring in a certain way to the mind. And that baptism is so easy to understand. New life, we are grafted onto the vine of Christ. I’m saved, we have all this language of a sharp, abrupt change in baptism. And that was only part of them. I could go on and on with the list of ways we talk about baptism as this very sharp turn that brings us from death to life, from darkness to light, all of that. And then you go, and confirmation makes that more perfect. What?

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. Why do I need to make it more perfect. Why wasn’t it perfect right away?

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. What’s that about?

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. I mean, you tell me. I agree with you on that. I’ve thought about that a lot. Like why with baptism, like you said, the doorway to the sacraments, we received the divine life of God himself, sanctifying grace, which actually gives us a relationship with Him. Why does that need to be perfected? But I guess it does because it is a sacrament, and I guess we can think about it… I mean, somebody who did think about this and who does have some good theology work on this is St. Thomas Aquinas. And so again, this is a medieval Aquinas way to think about confirmation, which is that this special strengthening, this perfection of this baptismal grace, then equips you… Again, we get the Holy Spirit in baptism, right?

Cy Kellett:

Sure.

Simone Rizkallah:

We get the seven gifts in baptism. We get the charisms in baptism, but we also talk about receiving the gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit in a particular way in confirmation. And so Aquinas’s outlook on it, a medieval perspective on it, is that now you’re more perfectly equipped to then go out and witness to the faith. There’s a certain power of the Holy Spirit that you receive in confirmation to go out there and to witness in a particular way, a special sealing or strengthening that you didn’t quite have before in baptism.

Cy Kellett:

In a certain way that… I mean, when you think about grace building on nature, we can identify that with that in the sense of that being born and maturing are two different things in the order of nature. And so being born and maturing in the faith are two different things in the realm of grace.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right. And Aquinas will say that, that the life of the body doesn’t determine the life of the soul. So yes, the soul is born, our spiritual birthday is in baptism, our spiritual maturing is in confirmation. Even if that sacrament is given as a baby, that doesn’t matter if we’re adults or not.

Cy Kellett:

So I have to say, Simone, that description of what the sacrament does, then if we take what you said from Aquinas seriously, if we take that to be a reasonable description of what’s happening, I think that that’s an argument for earlier confirmation, not later confirmation.

Simone Rizkallah:

I would agree with you.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. So I want to know why you agree with me.

Simone Rizkallah:

Why would you-

Cy Kellett:

I was getting ready to make the argument.

Simone Rizkallah:

I know. Well, why hold back? First of all, the practice of confirmation of infants in the west, that was happening up until the 13th century. So more of our history has been that we’ve confirmed at baptism in infancy, because why would you hold… If it’s true, and we do believe it’s true. Otherwise we wouldn’t be Catholics, that the perfection of baptismal grace is in confirmation, why withhold that perfection? Why withhold it?

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. And I think with particular urgency, why withhold it now when we have… I just can’t get over the Pew research study that says the average Catholic is losing their faith by 12 years old. And that’s so striking that we’re starting the confirmation process at about 13 or 14 now. I mean, it depends on what diocese you’re in.

Simone Rizkallah:

Oh, yeah.

Cy Kellett:

And those who are not Catholic should know this, that in the United States and around the world, confirmation is given at different times in different diocese. There is no set rule. It’s up to the bishop.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. We’re starting when they’ve already mentally and emotionally exited.

Cy Kellett:

They’re already out.

Simone Rizkallah:

They’re already out.

Cy Kellett:

And we’re confirming them.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah, and like you just said, if grace builds on nature, why are we waiting until their nature is like, “You know what? I’m already kind of worldly. I’m already kind of secular. I’ve already checked out of the church thing.” And now we’re going to moralistically give you the sacrament, treating it like it’s going to be magic when we’ve ignored this whole decade of your life where the grace really could have been activated.

Cy Kellett:

Because you faced challenges on the internet to your faith. You faced temptations on the internet that no children in history have faced what children today face. I mean, children raised in the Roman Empire, didn’t see the horrors, the moral horrors, the physical horrors, the propaganda horrors that children of 10 or 11 years old have. I mean, they’re the most worldly children in the history of the world.

Simone Rizkallah:

And we’re not giving them that strengthening, that strength that they need right away. I mean, we were talking about this earlier, but Pope Leo the XIII in the 1890s was arguing that the faith will require the graces given in confirmation in their youth to prepare them to receive the Eucharist. So you’re giving them confirmation when they’ve already checked out at the church, and then they continue to receive the Eucharist, but they’re really disposed to have its power operate in their life.

Cy Kellett:

There does seem to me to be some, in some sense, a connection between a, we’ll get it to them when they get to be teenager’s, attitude and an actual lack of faith in the power of the sacrament. Because if you really believe that sacrament is powerful and does something spiritually powerful to the person that’s of value to them, before you let them look at the phone or the laptop, you would want them to have it, if you really believed that it did that.

Simone Rizkallah:

Oh yeah. If we really believed in it. I mean, there’s the issue of the age. There’s also the issue of combining it with baptism, which both in the traditional practice, the church, and in the scriptures, you did. So they were received, confirmation was received with baptism, and they were both received before the Eucharist.

Cy Kellett:

And that’s the way we do it with adults now.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

It’s when you come into the church, if you know you’re 50 and you convert to the Catholic faith, at the Easter vigil, or whenever they welcome you into the church, you’re going to be baptized first, confirmed, and then received the Eucharist.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right. You certainly wouldn’t be getting confirmation after the Eucharist, since the Eucharist is the source in the summit.

Cy Kellett:

I see what you’re saying. Okay, so the reception of the confirmation then, the reception of confirmation is connected to being well-disposed and spiritually mature enough to receive the Eucharist-

Simone Rizkallah:

Right.

Cy Kellett:

Is what you’re saying.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, so we got the order messed up.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

So because I was very easily talked into, because I think it’s very sensible, we should be confirming seven-year-olds. And I remember years ago when the pastoral letter came out from the bishop in Arizona, who’s no longer the bishop there, but-

Simone Rizkallah:

Bishop Olmstead.

Cy Kellett:

Bishop Olmstead. Lovely letter that was like, “Oh yeah. Everything he said just made…” It wasn’t controversial, at least I didn’t read it as controversial. It was just, this is what sacrament is, this is how we should… And he started administering the sacrament at seven years old. That seemed fine to me. Seven years old.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah, and I think.

Cy Kellett:

But you’re radical.

Simone Rizkallah:

I’m, yeah, the Easterners. Yeah. So they get confirmed and then received first communion, which makes sense. But I say, take it to infancy.

Cy Kellett:

Just get it done.

Simone Rizkallah:

Just get it done. We’re in a crisis situation here. And don’t we want you-

Cy Kellett:

You’re exactly right.

Simone Rizkallah:

Don’t we want Eucharistic revival as well. Is that what we’re calling for?

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Okay. But now if you’re Eastern, what about… Don’t a lot of the Eastern babies get Eucharist even when they’re babies?

Simone Rizkallah:

They do. Not all of them, but most of them.

Cy Kellett:

In some like-

Simone Rizkallah:

Most of them, most of the Eastern churches will receive all three sacraments of initiation.

Cy Kellett:

As infants.

Simone Rizkallah:

As infants.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. That would be a radical change. But like you said, it’s a crisis.

Simone Rizkallah:

It’s a crisis.

Cy Kellett:

And if we’re talking about Eucharistic revival, do you think an early confirmation is related to success in Eucharistic revival?

Simone Rizkallah:

I mean, that’s what our documents seem to suggest. I mean, in the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium as well as Sacrosanctum Concilium, I mean, I’ll read it to you, “The right of confirmation is to be revised. And the intimate connection with this sacrament has, with the whole of Christian initiation, is to be more clearly set forth.”

Cy Kellett:

That didn’t happen. I mean, I shouldn’t say it didn’t happen because in places it’s happening, and you could always teach it as intimately connected. But there’s a difference between teaching a thing and living a thing. There’s a way in which, the way you do it is what you’re teaching about it.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. Here’s what Lumen Gentium says, that the catechism references, “Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of confirmation together constitute the sacraments of Christ nation whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace.” So of all these people running around that haven’t had their baptismal grace completed, and here’s what they say, here’s what the catechism says again, and again this is from Lumen Gentium, “For by the sacrament of confirmation that baptizes are more perfectly bound to the church and are enriched with the special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence, they are as true witnesses of Christ more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word indeed.” And so if we’re doing this, like you said, to kids who are already checked out.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right. Well, but there’s a lot of people who will argue Simone, and they’re not stupid people. I don’t want to act like this is just, there’s no good arguments on various sides of this. And they’ll say, “Look, we need something to keep teenagers connected to the church.” And the sacrament of confirmation as we’re currently practicing it, is doing that.

Simone Rizkallah:

Is it? I mean, 50% of Catholics, 50% of Catholics who leave, leave before the age of 23, median age is 13. You’ve mentioned age 12, maybe it’s back to being 12. So are we really successful? Are pastoral practices that successful? I don’t think they are. For every… We lose seven Catholics for every one convert. That’s rough.

Cy Kellett:

Wait, that’s not going to work out over the long run. I just did the math on that. Over the long run, that’s a disaster.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Losing seven for every one.

Simone Rizkallah:

I know this… Yeah. I know this sounds crazy.

Cy Kellett:

Like that won’t work, Simone.

Simone Rizkallah:

It just doesn’t work. It’s not working.

Cy Kellett:

We’re going to have to reverse that at some point.

Simone Rizkallah:

It’s not working. It’s not working. And I mean, yeah, with the Eucharistic revival, again, it’s going to have more power if we have the sacrament of power. Jesus said, “I’m going to leave. I have to leave. The Spirit’s going to come and you’re going to be endowed with power.” So that power is handicapped because we’re pushing a revival, but then one of the greatest tools is the sacrament of confirmation. And then that’s-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, I see what you’re saying.

Simone Rizkallah:

Getting left behind.

Cy Kellett:

Well, it does seem like when we talk about apologetics, Catholic apologetics, it answers all kinds of questions. We have to, for everyone from the atheist who might seem at least, but in many cases is very far from us, at least on the intellectual level, all the way to those who are closest to us, which would maybe be a Greek Orthodox or something. It was so close that it’s almost embarrassing to say that we have… It is embarrassing to say that there’s any separation between us. And so all the catechists, all the apologetics there is on very intimate close things. Well, with the Orthodox, there’s no apologetics that has to be done around confirmation. So when we’re talking about apologetics for the sacrament of confirmation, it’s either to fellow Catholics or to Protestants. The primary objection Protestants will have, I want to throw by you.

Simone Rizkallah:

Okay.

Cy Kellett:

And get your response to, which is, this is not biblical, this whole thing that you’re doing of… We can see baptism in the New Testament. We don’t see confirmation in the New Testament.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. That wasn’t true for the early reformers. They believed in confirmation. At least Luther did.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Simone Rizkallah:

But yes, later on with all of these break offs and denominations. But it is in the scriptures. It’s in Hebrews, it’s in Acts, it’s in Ephesians, Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve, the Holy Spirit of God in whom you were sealed for in the day of redemption.” That word sealed, where I think we get that language for how to talk about-

Cy Kellett:

So this is-

Simone Rizkallah:

Confirmation.

Cy Kellett:

You’re talking about in Ephesians, Paul is talking to Christians and reminding them they’ve been sealed in the Holy Spirit. So what was that sealing in the Holy Spirit? You’re saying it’s the sacrament.

Simone Rizkallah:

That’s the sacrament. Yep. And then Acts Chapters 8, 9, 19, very explicit. Oh, and Hebrews very explicitly says, “Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” The laying on of hands. That’s what we doing in-

Cy Kellett:

He’s just describing the sacramental life of the very earliest church.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right.

Cy Kellett:

And there it is. We baptize, we lay hand.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right.

Cy Kellett:

We lay hands on. Okay.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right. Peter and John, they heard that people in Samaria had received the word of God, and then they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit for it had not fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. So they had been baptized, but they hadn’t been confirmed. So scriptures say, “Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”

Cy Kellett:

Oh, that’s the sacrament of confirmation.

Simone Rizkallah:

There you have it. There it is.

Cy Kellett:

There it is. Oh, it turns out that is in the Bible.

Simone Rizkallah:

It is in the Bible.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. So you have a picture of the apostolic church with two sacraments.

Simone Rizkallah:

With two sacraments.

Cy Kellett:

For the very earliest initiation.

Simone Rizkallah:

Exactly.

Cy Kellett:

We’ve got to baptize you, and we got to lay hands on you.

Simone Rizkallah:

And they weren’t… The early church, as you can see from the scriptures I read, they weren’t like, “Hold on, you got to do a few projects first.”

Cy Kellett:

You are going to need a felt banner.

Simone Rizkallah:

The word of the scriptures is they immediately… Was like, “Oh, you haven’t been confirmed. Bam. We’re going to confirm you.”

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right. And at what point did they get separated? At what point did we… Because in the east, they never got separated.

Simone Rizkallah:

No.

Cy Kellett:

So we have millions and hundreds of millions of Catholics, of Christians, sacrament, receiving Christians who’ve never had the experience of these two separated. The early church, they were not separated. So in the west, when did they get separated?

Simone Rizkallah:

13th century. Shortly after the fourth laddering council, which was in 1215, there was that custom of delaying confirmation. And that’s a historical accident in the west. The bishop is the ordinary minister of confirmation, unlike in the east.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, that’s what I was going to ask you about.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

How do you do it, because right now, the bishop’s got to come around.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

I used to work for a bishop, and every spring he would say… I needed an appointment to see a bishop. He’d say, “No appointments from now until June 1st.”

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Because I’m going to be confirming every day.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right.

Cy Kellett:

So that’s the life of a Catholic bishop is there’s a season where you just go out parish to parish, community to community, confirming.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right.

Cy Kellett:

So with infants being baptized and confirmed in the east, tell me the method.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. So the priests have faculties to confirm, so they don’t need the bishop there.

Cy Kellett:

No.

Simone Rizkallah:

So we could do that in the west, and we do that in the west when it comes to adult confirmations. I mean, the pastor, the priest has to write a letter to the bishop and say, “Hey, here are the names of these confirmandi that I’d like to confirm.” And he gives his permission because he’s the bishop, he’s also the ordinary minister in the west. He gives permission and then the priest can confirm. So there’s no reason why we couldn’t do it in the west. And we do do it in-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

That’s how my wife, when she came into the church as an adult.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

On the eve of Easter.

Simone Rizkallah:

Let’s start partying like it’s 13th century.

Cy Kellett:

Party like it’s the 13th century.

Simone Rizkallah:

Let’s go back to way we used to.

Cy Kellett:

Party like the plague is coming.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right, right. We don’t… But even though confirmation started to get delayed after the 13th century, it was still received before the Eucharist.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. So say I… I’m a 15th century person.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

I’m not getting baptism and confirmation, but I’m getting something like they do in Arizona now since bishop-

Simone Rizkallah:

Exactly. So this is what happened. It gets delayed because things got bigger, the Catholic church was expanding, the bishop took longer to get around to the parishes. So it gets delayed, but it was still happening before the Eucharist. But then people were getting the Eucharist later because they understood that it’s more perfect to receive confirmation before the Eucharist and then low and behold-

Cy Kellett:

So then you end up with people later and later getting even to receive the Eucharist.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right, right.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Simone Rizkallah:

So then later on, Pius X was like, “Hold on, we don’t want to keep delaying the Eucharist. Let’s bring it back to the age of seven.” And that’s good because we don’t want to wait forever to receive the Eucharist.

Cy Kellett:

No, that was a great move that Pius X did.

Simone Rizkallah:

It was, but then everybody forgot about confirmation.

Cy Kellett:

So confirmation is just hanging out there now.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

It’s like, okay. So it got later and later out of habit really having to do with larger and larger dioceses. And then you moved the Eucharist back. Oops.

Simone Rizkallah:

Oops.

Cy Kellett:

You forgot to bring-

Simone Rizkallah:

He just forgot one little foot, just one little thing.

Cy Kellett:

He’s a saint.

Simone Rizkallah:

He’s a saint.

Cy Kellett:

He’s a saint.

Simone Rizkallah:

He’s not perfect. He forgot something. He forgot something. And then that’s how we ended up with the whole reversal. That’s how we ended up with baptism, Eucharist, confirmation.

Cy Kellett:

Which is not-

Simone Rizkallah:

No bueno.

Cy Kellett:

It’s not the traditional order. It’s not the order of the early church. It’s not the order of the church throughout most times and places in most of history.

Simone Rizkallah:

No.

Cy Kellett:

It’s a 19th century problem.

Simone Rizkallah:

It’s a 19th century problem. And anybody who’s like, “Yeah, I want to talk to my friends about this and I need some…” Just open up the catechism, the catechism talks.

Cy Kellett:

It has all this?

Simone Rizkallah:

It has all this, and it talks about baptism and confirmation being a double sacrament. It talks about all… It references that in two documents, it references older documents. So it’s actually not that hard to find the information. And actually just after a little bit of study go, “Oh, actually, this is literally historical accidents in the church.” Our pastoral practices have been determined by historical accidents, so to speak.

Cy Kellett:

Right. And we live in an age when that accidental arrangement of things is actually now a disservice to young people.

Simone Rizkallah:

I mean, yeah.

Cy Kellett:

They need this sacrament at a very young age.

Simone Rizkallah:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I love what Pope Benedict wrote in 2007 on his Post-Synodal Exhortation, sacrament of charity on the Eucharist. He says, “As the Father said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities, the close link between baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist is sufficiently recognized. It must never be forgotten that our reception of baptism and confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist. Accordingly, our pastoral practice should reflect a more unitary understanding of the process of Christian initiation.”

Cy Kellett:

See it all as one.

Simone Rizkallah:

All one piece.

Cy Kellett:

All one piece that has an order to it. And that order is, it’s helpful to us in the spiritual life. It’s the way we profit most from these sacraments.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. And I think the frustrating thing is, because we’re talking about like it’s a crisis and the kids need it, and they’re checked out by the age of 12, and that’s all true. But imagine the positive vision we’re going to paint, that when they receive it younger, when they’re more disposed to grace, when they’re excited about it. And when I say that as whether it’s as infants or as children before the skepticism and all the crazy technology has gotten to them. But we also get a strengthening of our charisms and the exercise of our charism. So it’s not just like, “Oh, we want to protect them against the big bad world.” But also, no, we actually want them to go be salt and light and exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit out there in the world.

Cy Kellett:

And they can, children can do that.

Simone Rizkallah:

And they can. They’re amazing. Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right. And other children, unbaptized children or other fellow Catholics or Christians, they’ll benefit from that child having those charisms too, because charisms are important in the world.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. I mean, they’re essential. A lot of my own conversion was… And reversion and everybody’s conversions, reversion stories are different. But when I learned about the charisms as a young adult, it was really exciting to me. So instead of having scarcity mentality, which is a spirit of fear, which is not a spirit of the Lord, and saying, “Oh, we need this to keep the sacrament pastoral practice the way it is, because we got to find some way to keep the kids in.” That doesn’t work. God doesn’t have grandkids. So maybe you’re doing it for mom and dad now, maybe you’re doing it for grandma and grandpa now, but the kids who are checked out by 12, they don’t care about having their kids baptized just because their family was Catholic. That era is gone. That’s over.

So how can you? Not having scarcity mentality, how can we “keep kids in” without having to dangle the sacrament at them? We’ll just say, “Hey, you want to go learn about the unique gifts that God has given you?” Don’t have to earn anything at the end of it. It’s showing up and saying, “Hey, you’ve been given these gifts when you were baptized and confirmed.” They can learn and we can actually educate on the charisms, which we don’t really do anyway. Not that much.

Cy Kellett:

No. No. And maybe they’ll have some part of them that’s spiritually ready because they received the sacrament before. But I think you’re right. There is a fear of losing. But I hate to say it this way, Simone, but it does strike me that sometimes the church can be held hostage by the least Catholic Catholics in the sense that, they don’t really care about a sacrament. What they care about is a ceremony. And this tradition of, “I received it when I was 14. My kids will receive it when they’re 14, and they’ll get presents and we’ll have a party and all that.” And they’re not thinking sacramentally at all. They’re thinking ritually.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. And that kind of thinking doesn’t keep kids in the church. So then let’s spend our energy actually evangelizing that kind of thinking so that we have long-term fruit and long-term Christian heritage. Because those same people would also be very sad and need a wake-up call that the party that you care so much about for your kids, they’re not going to care about it for their kids if they’re getting married and having kids at all.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, that’s right. I mean, that’s very sad, but that’s the reality, isn’t it?

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. And the one story, having been in Catholic media now decades, the one story that you just hear over and over again, and in some cases, depending on which child we’re talking about, live this myself, is I thought that I was transmitting the faith to them, but I woke up one day shocked to find out it didn’t. It wasn’t transmitted to them. I don’t know what I did. And I think there’s a lot of guilt. A lot of parents have guilt about that. And I don’t think that that’s actually helpful because you’re not that powerful. I mean, you can’t give the gift of faith. That’s not a gift you have to give. You can help. But still, I’ve heard the story so much and now have lived it and it’s awful. It’s an awful, awful story. And something’s got to change, or we’re not going to live that story less. We’re going to live it more.

Simone Rizkallah:

No, and again, we’re evangelizing all sorts of things in the church, but is it the gospel? Because evangelizing the gospel actually does work. It works, but you evangelize mutated forms a bit-

Cy Kellett:

Right?

Simone Rizkallah:

That doesn’t work. And it certainly doesn’t work with kids. Kids are not stupid.

Cy Kellett:

No, they’re not stupid. And then we say things to them, they say, “Well, what’s a confirmation?” And we say things like, “It’s your adult acceptance of the faith.” And they know that they’re not making that commitment.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right. It’s not their choice anyway. They’re doing it for their families.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. So what if I don’t want to make that adult? No, you’re going to make that adult. Okay, well, they know-

Simone Rizkallah:

So it’s the same thing.

Cy Kellett:

That story is not making any sense.

Simone Rizkallah:

So then might as well get them to the sacrament ASAP.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. Because that’s not actually what the sacrament is. Sacraments aren’t choices. They’re covenantal gestures of pure grace and gifts.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, I think it would take a lot of stress off a lot of 13 and 14 year olds if we would say, “This is a gift.” We should… You and I both agree on this, that we shouldn’t be predominantly doing this at 13 and 14 years old, but if we’re going to, if we would just stress gift, it would take a lot of stress… This is just a gift the church wants to give you, your Father in heaven wants to give you.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

This has nothing to do with you having to be a superhero of the faith or something.

Simone Rizkallah:

Or your service hours.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Or you completed your service. It’s got nothing to do with that. This is a gift for you.

Simone Rizkallah:

It’s a total gift. And that is much, much better received. I remember a friend of mine who she, in her diocese, I think it was like 16 I think, but at the age of 11, she really felt this desire to be confirmed. And she asked her priest, she said, “I want confirmation.” I think she had learned about it somehow, and she was so moved by it. So she asked and he said, “No.” And then by the time she was a teenager, she didn’t care anymore. And then later on she had an adult conversion and she was just like, “I had a hunger for that grace. I had a hunger for that sacrament, and I was rejected.” And that was actually… This is somebody who actually had the authentic choice. If we are going to go with the choice thing.

Cy Kellett:

And the priest was following diocese and policy or something, and you have this bureaucratizing of the sacrament. And the church is big, and it’s got a lot of things it’s got to keep track of. But imagine if that priest had said, “You know what? God wants you to have that too. God wants you to have that. So let’s find a way to do that.”

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

With the permission of your parents or whatever else you need to get. But I mean, you have a person who is spiritually mature enough to ask for a sacrament.

Simone Rizkallah:

I mean, really.

Cy Kellett:

And is ready.

Simone Rizkallah:

And she was ready.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Isn’t that heartbreaking?

Simone Rizkallah:

It’s heartbreaking. But think about how many people, how many kids might have that kind of heart and that-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, it’s not a driver’s license. Like stop acting like, “Well, I’m sorry. State law says you can get your permit.”

Simone Rizkallah:

I know.

Cy Kellett:

That’s really, that’s really… Whatever else you might say about him, I don’t think Pope Francis would’ve done that.

Simone Rizkallah:

No, I don’t think he would have.

Cy Kellett:

I think he would’ve said, “Kid, you’re right. You do need this and you’re ready for it.”

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah. Yeah. I agree. There’s so much to say about it. I mean, the history around confirmation is really fascinating to me. It’s so strange. And maybe it’s the one that’s so… I mean, this is just me thinking out loud. Because it is the sacrament to the Holy Spirit, and you can’t really put a Holy Spirit in the category, maybe that’s why it’s so hard to talk about, because-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right.

Simone Rizkallah:

There’s so much power and creativity behind it, but maybe that’s why it’s a sacrament that has been attacked with all these weird historical things. Because we know that if the Holy Spirit gets in there, people are unstoppable.

Cy Kellett:

Yep. That’s right. We’ve seen that in Pentecost.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

That’s the story of Pentecost.

Simone Rizkallah:

It is.

Cy Kellett:

An unstoppable, fearless church. And boy, the devil doesn’t want that.

Simone Rizkallah:

Nope.

Cy Kellett:

He doesn’t. He doesn’t. I don’t think he likes you very much either, Simone. I’m going to tell you the truth. You are a powerful witness for the Christian faith. I don’t think he likes you.

Simone Rizkallah:

Right back at you, Cy.

Cy Kellett:

I don’t know. And sometimes I get this sad feeling, like maybe he doesn’t even think about me. I’m not much of a problem to him.

Simone Rizkallah:

Oh my gosh.

Cy Kellett:

Simone, thank you.

Simone Rizkallah:

Oh, my pleasure, Cy.

Cy Kellett:

It’s always great to talk to you, but I feel in a special way. It’s great to talk to you when you’re an affiliate apologist of Catholic Answers. That makes it feel like-

Simone Rizkallah:

So official.

Cy Kellett:

I know. It’s so official.

Simone Rizkallah:

Love it. Thank you, Cy.

Cy Kellett:

So if people want to know about ENDOW, I do want to give you the opportunity. Tell them where the website is so they can find out about women being educated in the faith.

Simone Rizkallah:

Yes. ENDOW spelled E-N-D-O-W, endowgroups.org. Please check us out, especially if you want a way to study the church’s teachings or writings of John Paul II on the Feminine Genius. We have actually… We’ve been talking about Lumen Gentium. We have a study on Lumen Gentium, that Vatican two document. If you’re like, “You know what? I want to learn more about this.” We have a study on Lumen Gentium. We have a lot of studies, and our next study’s on St. Torres, the Little Flower who-

Cy Kellett:

Doctor of the church.

Simone Rizkallah:

She’s a big deal.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, she is a big deal. All right. Well, thank you, Simone. Thank you very, very much. Simone Rizkallah, our guest. Thank you very much for joining us here at Catholic Answers Focus. We appreciate very much that you do. If you’d like to communicate with us, send us an email, focus@catholic.com is our email address focus@catholic.com. We do need a few dollars to do this, so if you’ve got a few you want to let go of and you’d like to support our work, you can do that by going to givecatholic.com, givecatholic.com. So you don’t know this Simone, but no gifts over $1 million. That’s our absolute limit. No… If you give $1 million, that’s it. No more than that. And then also if you’re… Well, I shouldn’t say if you’re… Wherever you’re listening on your podcast machine, if you give us that five stars and a few nice words of a review that will help grow the podcast. I am Cy Kellett, your host. Thanks for being with us. We’ll see you next time. God willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

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