Sacramentum Caritatis 17: The Eucharist and Christian Initiation

Three numbered sections treat briefly the links between Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, how they relate, how they are arranged in the life of the believer, and other concerns for children, youth, adults, and people arriving from other religious traditions. Pope Benedict reminds us of The Eucharist, the fullness of Christian initiation and yet Roman Catholic practice isn’t always consistent in that regard.

17. If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the Church’s life and mission, it follows that the process of Christian initiation must constantly be directed to the reception of this sacrament. As the Synod Fathers said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities the close link between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is sufficiently recognized. (Cf. Propositio 13)

The first and last of these are claimed easily enough. Indeed, much of Christendom has some level of agreement about their importance and relationship. Confirmation is where we continue with much hand-wringing in the West. Some of Western Christianity doesn’t recognize it. And even Catholics neglect it, or at best, place it as a celebration or process involving a rite of passage. At worst, not even recognizing its importance for discipleship. Instead, it becomes a box to check for persons wishing to marry or enter seminary. The modern RCIA does its best, but when confronted with people between the ages of seven and eighteen, often crosses its fingers and parts from the linkage of Confirmation with Baptism and Eucharist.

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.

Theoretically, the traditional order makes the most sense, but Pope Benedict acknowledges that pastoral practice might not be aligned. So it will take time.

No problem with Baptism as the gateway to the other six:

The sacrament of Baptism, by which we were conformed to Christ, (Cf. Lumen Gentium 7) incorporated in the Church and made children of God, is the portal to all the sacraments. It makes us part of the one Body of Christ (cf.1 Corinthians 12:13), a priestly people. Still, it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12) and for ever greater witness to the Gospel in the world. (Cf. ibid., 11; Ad Gentes, 9, 13) The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the center and goal of all sacramental life. (Cf. John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae 7; Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5)

And yet, Confirmation is often set adrift from the Eucharist. No connection there, not pastorally. I served in a diocese once that made it a practice to confirm at a Liturgy of the Word. Celebration of Mass wasn’t allowed.

This document is copyright © 2007 Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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