ORE THAN likely, readers of this blog will be familiar with the term “restored order.” It refers to the administration of the Sacraments of Initiation in their original order (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist), rather than in the ordering that became common in the early twentieth-century (Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation). 1 Desire for the “restored order” is one of the happy, but all-too-infrequent, points of agreement between liturgical progressives and liturgical conservatives.
I have previously shared my own thoughts in favor of the “restored order” (here). Several US bishops who have adopted the “restored order” have also explained their own rationales (see here, here, and here). Today, I would like to draw attention to an important new article by Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu, HI, which addresses very practically why he made the decision in 2015 to implement the “restored order.”
Bishop Silva’s article appears in the latest issue of a new periodical, The International Journal of Evangelization and Catechetics. 2 The journal includes a Studia section of academic articles and a Practica section of pastoral pieces, along with a collection of book reviews. Silva’s article is found in the Practica section.
Implementing the “restored order” in Honolulu, the bishop admits from the outset, was not his own idea. It was, rather, an idea presented to him by several members of his staff.
Why did he decide to pursue this recommendation? Silva offers two reasons: “It is clear that the Church intended this order from the beginning; and it puts the emphasis on God’s action and grace rather than our own.” 3
The first of these stated reasons is easily proven. There is no question that Baptism-Confirmation-Holy Eucharist is both the original order of these Sacraments and the dominant order throughout nearly the whole of Church history. With respect to the second reason, Silva argues that the modern conception of Confirmation as a Sacrament of Christian maturity (a sort of Catholic bar/bat mitzvah) unwittingly feeds a consumerist mentality, wherein the emphasis falls too heavily on what the recipient of the Sacrament is doing, rather than on what God is doing.
The bishop explains:
It was primarily to recognize that God is the first one who moves toward us with his love that I decided to celebrate the sacraments of initiation in the Diocese of Honolulu by restoring their original order: Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion. I pray this restoration of the original order of these sacraments will fulfill the Lord’s dream of having a Church he can love as his own Bride, who serves as he serves, and gives her life as he gives his life. And this is not only a Church of mature adults, but one that includes even little children, who in the power of the Holy Spirit give witness to Jesus.
The article explains, step-by-step, how the Diocese of Honolulu went about enacting this change over a three-year period. Bishop Silva does not ignore the common objections to the “restored order,” especially the reasonable fear that it might decimate parish religious education programs. This was one of the bishop’s own fears, and he says that his diocese committed to a twofold approach so as to avoid the ruination of religious education programs. The first step was to move Confirmation before First Communion (at the same liturgical celebration), and the second step was to strengthen diocesan and parochial ministry to youth.
Any bishop or diocese contemplating a shift to the “restored order” would do well to read Bishop Silva’s article, which includes an entire section entitled “The Nuts and Bolts of the Transition.” 4
At present, 13 dioceses in the United States have adopted the “restored order,” all in the last quarter-century. These include: Saginaw, MI (1995), Great Falls-Billings, MT (1996), Portland, ME (1997), Spokane, WA (1998), Fargo, ND (2002), Gaylord, MI (2003), Tyler, TX (2005), Phoenix, AZ (2005), Honolulu, HI (2015), Denver, CO (2015), Manchester, NH (2017), Springfield, IL (2017), and Gallup, NM (2019). There are also two US dioceses (Greensburg, PA and Marquette, MI) that adopted the “restored order” for a time but have since reverted to the twentieth-century practice. (These data are taken from the National Catholic Register.)
For those who are interested in a fuller discussion of the merits of the “restored order,” I would direct your attention to two particular works:
1. Paul Turner, “Benedict XVI, and the Sequence of the Sacraments of Initiation,” Worship 82, no. 2 (2008): 132-140.
2. Liam G. Walsh, Sacraments of Initiation: A Theology of Rite, Word, and Life (Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2011).
I cannot recommend Bishop Silva’s article highly enough (periodical available for purchase here). It gives a rich account of the theological rationale for the “restored order,” but not to the neglect of the important pastoral issues associated with moving in this direction. The article conveys the wisdom of a pastor who, with the help of his staff, became convinced that the “restored order” makes sense and developed a pastoral plan for its fruitful implementation.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Although the practice of Baptism-Confirmation-Holy Eucharist only became widespread following Pope St. Pius X’s Quam singulari, this novelty had developed in certain places (e.g., in France) as early as the 19th century.
2 See Larry Silva, “Reflections on the Restoration of the Original Order of the Sacraments of Initiation,” IJEC 1, no. 2 (Fall 2020): 215-222. This issue of the journal is available for purchase here.
3 Silva, “Reflections on the Restoration of the Original Order of the Sacraments of Initiation,” 215.
4 Silva, “Reflections on the Restoration of the Original Order of the Sacraments of Initiation,” 220-222.