From the Pastor: For Those Not at the Confirmation Ceremony
By the time you read this, I will have (God willing and the creek didn’t rise) conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Traditional Rite upon a group of new “soldiers” in Christ’s army, the Church Militant. While studying the old books to make sure I both licitly and validly bestowed the sacrament, I came across some wonderful information which I would like to share with you. The following quotes are found in the 1950 Roman Ritual.
“First, in regard to the minister of the sacrament of confirmation, the Code of Canon Law (canon 782), restating the dogmatic definition of the Council of Trent, says that the ordinary minister is a bishop only, but the extraordinary minister is a priest to whom this power has been granted either by common law or by a special indult of the Holy See.” So delegating priests to confer confirmation, though not the norm, is obviously not a novelty, either, though now the local bishop can make the delegation. A bit later it continues, “This goes back to the practice already followed by this Sacred Congregation in the indults granted to ordinary priests the power to confer confirmation in certain unusual instances...these priests would either already be honored with the distinction of Protonotary Apostolic, or that they be elevated to such, so as to carry out their function with greater dignity.” For those of you who missed it, that means that I should have, according to the old Rite, been given the title, “Monsignor” when I was granted delegation. I got ripped off! It even says that I, as “the substitute for the ordinary minister of confirmation be constituted, so far as possible, in some ecclesiastical dignity and that he (I) belong to the diocese, so that for example, he (I) could enjoy the use of the pontifical vestments and appurtenances, as also the other honors and privileges and distinctions which customarily belong to Protonotary Apostolics (Monsignors).” What exactly those “pontifical vestments and appurtenances” are, I have no idea. But I should have been able to wear them! Another rip off!
Enough about me, though. Here are some parts which I really enjoyed reading about which deal with the confirmandi and sponsor. “The candidates for confirmation should take care that they approach this sacrament with clean countenance and hair properly combed. They as well as the sponsors should be dressed modestly and simply. The female candidates especially and their sponsors should not come to church decked out with ornaments of vanity or rouged faces; instead they should be modest and reverent in attire and appearance.” Do you really think they were telling both boys and girls that they had to bathe and brush their hair? Not hardly. Today, though, they might have included the boys in the admonition to not wear ear and face piercings (ornaments of vanity) and perhaps even the rouge.
Here is perhaps my favorite instruction for the ceremony. “...the adult candidates should place one foot on the right foot of the sponsor...” What? I had to reread that several time to see if I was missing something. I even checked with several “old” people to see if anyone remembered that. Nobody did. Notice that I ended in the middle of the sentence, though, which continued with another option. “...;or that the sponsor should place his right hand on the right shoulder of the subject, whether child or adult.” That second option (and usually options are given in the order of preference; therefore the foot stepping is the prefered method), is the only one I can find anyone admitting. If your confirmation included stepping on your sponsor’s right foot (with your right foot? Your left foot?), please let me know. I would love to hear stories of how that worked!
One final quote to leave you with. Often, the “old ways” demanded much more of us Catholics than the “new ways.” Not so with confirmation. How many of you who were confirmed in the past few decades had to struggle through the boredom of at least two years of classes before you were allowed to be confirmed? That’s the new way. The old way? Get a load of this instruction. “In conclusion the priest is seated, and he counsels the sponsors to foster within their godchildren right living, that they may shun evil and do good; moreover, he instructs the sponsors to teach their godchildren the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Hail Mary, since such is their obligation.” Yes, in the Traditional Rite of the old days, it was expected that you would be confirmed by the delegated priest before you knew even the most basic prayers! You now have my permission to go slap that beastly DRE who berated you for trying to get out of the terrible “Faith Formation” classes and the dreaded “Confirmation retreat/slumber party.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka