Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo said he is delighted to have firsthand papal approval for changing the order by which children in his diocese receive the sacraments.
“I was very surprised in what the Pope said to me, in terms of how happy he was that the sacraments of initiation have been restored to their proper order of baptism, confirmation then first Eucharist,” said Bishop Aquila, after meeting Pope Benedict on March 8.
Bishop Aquila was one of five bishops from North and South Dakota to meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican as part of their March 5-10 ad limina visit to the Rome.
Over the past seven years, the Diocese of Fargo has changed the typical order of the sacraments of initiation. Instead of confirmation coming third and at an older age, it is now conferred on children at a younger age and prior to first Communion.
Bishop Aquila said he made the changes because “it really puts the emphasis on the Eucharist as being what completes the sacraments of initiation” and on confirmation as “sealing and completing baptism.”
When the sacraments are conferred in this order, he said, it becomes more obvious that “both baptism and confirmation lead to the Eucharist.” This sacramental assistance helps Catholics live “that intimate relationship of being the beloved sons and daughters of the Father in our daily lives,” he added.
The Bishop of Fargo said the changes have also distanced the sacrament of confirmation from “some false theologies that see it as being a sacrament of maturity or as a sacrament for ‘me choosing God.’”
Instead, young people in Fargo now have “the fullness of the Spirit and the completion of the gifts of the Spirit” to assist them in “living their lives within the world,” especially “in the trials they face in junior high and high school.”
Bishop Aquila explained his theological thinking to Pope Benedict during their meeting.
In response, he said, the Pope asked if he had “begun to speak to other bishops about this.” He told the Holy Father that he had and that “certainly bishops within the Dakotas are now really looking towards the implementation in the restoration in the ordering of the sacraments.”