An issue that the youth minister at my parish and I have talked about ad nauseum is teenagers and confirmation. Namely, all of the parents who see confirmation as a rite of passage that the teen has to go through whether they like it or not.
This topic also came up in my Bible study one time and it was enlightening. Many of the women in my Bible study were in this camp. They were of the opinion of "We had to do it, so should they." Also, the mentality that Wendell speaks about in the book of "The Sacrament will take care of anything lacking in intention." I had to bite my tongue not to say something I would later regret.
As a convert, I do have a very different relationship with the sacraments. I received Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion all in the same ceremony after 16 months or so of preparation. Before even entering a Catholic Church, I had looked for God for at least a decade of my life. I journaled every day for the month prior to the rites, examining my life up to that point and thinking about what the rites meant to me. My family isn't Catholic, the rites weren't part of my family heritage or hoops to jump through.
I wish I had this chapter with me when this conversation at my Bible study occurred. I wonder if this chapter could stand alone for copies to be given to all parents of the teens going into confirmation. (Sherry, I know you read some of these, can we get permission to do that?) To be honest, this idea of the two parts of the Sacraments was not brought up in my theological studies. But, then again, my specialty was Bible not Liturgy, so they might have covered this, but not in any of the classes I took.
The standard practice at my parish is that every teen going for confirmation has to have an interview with the youth minister. If in the course of that interview, the teen expresses that they do not want to be confirmed and can give a good reason, the youth minister will call the parents in. The youth minister will then argue on the behalf of the teenager for the teenager's right to say "no."
In my classes with the Confirmation students, I share with them my conversion story. I try to make it clear to them that they have to want this. I also tell them it is not a one time deal, they can refuse and come back later. RCIA is always an option. Half of the candidates in the last RCIA class we had were young adults who had refused to get confirmed as teenagers and changed their minds as adults. Similarly, this is not "graduating Catholicism." There will always be new things to learn and new ways to grow in your relationship with Christ.
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The women in my Bible study were full of beautiful stories about forcing their teens to be Confirmed and their kids then leave the faith only to they rediscover the faith later on in life. They all linked it back to the day they forced them to get Confirmed. They feel that if they didn't force their child to get Confirmed, they would have never returned to the Church.
The women might not be that far off the mark. They mistakenly think that the Sacrament works even if the person doesn't want it. However, once the person does want it, the grace that was previously blocked can begin to flow.
I am still of the opinion that Confirmation should be later, when the young adult can appreciate it more. I have heard, however, great arguments the other way. I just think it's a mess and a half to have these poorly catechized teenagers with hormones raging and the attention span of gnats go through a Sacrament that leaves a permanent mark on the soul. (I love my teens, but, holy cow, they can be difficult.)
Maybe an all around change in parish culture like that proposed in Forming Intentional Disciples could make the whole process go smoother and the teens would get more out of it. They would get better catechesis from the beginning. They would from day one be encouraged to have a more personal relationship with Jesus. Then the hormones and the attention span wouldn't be nearly the problem they are now and the grace can simply flow.