I have seen this question asked many times in different places and thought it would be fun to address it directly as I am currently preparing 4 children (ages 8-14 years) to receive their Confirmation in May.
The first answer is NO.
If we consider for a moment that it is still normal practice in Eastern Rite Catholicism to chrismate newly baptized babies, we can say with assurance that any child who is baptized and in a state of grace is adequately prepared for Confirmation. The curriculum is not directly relevant.
Please note that complete conviction of the truth of the Catholic Faith is a gift of God, not something that can be arrived at by reason alone. –Laura Berquist, MODG Sacraments and Apologetics Syllabus
I am thinking that this is the crux of the issue of Confirmation preparation. We are hoping intellectual understanding will somehow make the theological gift of faith happen. We don’t trust God, and so we force extra information and additional curricula on our children with the hope that these will give what we think God has not!
The next answer is YES. In fact, Mother of Divine Grace’s curriculum generously prepares a child for Confirmation.
There are two general modes through which a child can be developed to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation with a fuller faith and knowledge than he would have had he received the sacrament immediately after baptism.
THE THEOLOGICAL GIFT OF FAITH
Faith is a gift of God, and only He can increase it in the soul. He is the one who opens the heart of the believer so that it can receive supernatural light, and that is what we should be praying for. But at the same time, certain interior dispositions are necessary: they are dispositions of humility, of purity, of openness … of love which opens the way to greater and greater security. –Fr. Frances Fernandez, In Conversation with God Vol 3, Seventh Week: Monday
A family who homeschools is a family who will probably be one that is working in cooperation with grace. Therefore, we can look at how we can best cooperate with grace to prepare a child to develop the gift of faith and ask ourselves where we can improve in this area.
I would like to start by touching on openness. Any child who must be instructed has a certain kind of openness or receptiveness to information being presented from another. A child whose main teacher is his own parent has the additional benefit of having his first teacher continue to instruct and form him, a teacher whose love for her student cannot be surpassed by any other teacher under normal circumstances. From the earliest years, a mother using the MODG curriculum teaches and models a sense of wonder and delight in God’s creation and in the intellectual offerings of the curriculum, from the beauty of poetry to the orderliness of St. Thomas distilled in the Baltimore Catechism. The openness and wonder encouraged through the curriculum also encourages an openness to God’s grace.
Regarding humility, this letter from Uncle Screwtape has given me many years of quiet meditation on what true humility is:
“You [Wormwood] must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it, not as a self-forgetfulness, but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character.”—Screwtape Letters, Letter XIV by C. S. Lewis
The gentle mother who teaches her child models and encourages true humility by learning alongside the child, by graciously allowing the child to be wrong, by admitting herself also to be wrong at times. She allows the child to have a true opinion of his own abilities and acknowledge from Whom they come rather than encouraging him to have a low one with the idea that a high opinion of one’s abilities is prideful.
Any homeschooling child has a particular opportunity to retain his innocence and purity longer than the child sent to school simply because the parents have more control over the negative influences the child is exposed to. Some consider this a kind of over-protectiveness and production of “hothouse flowers”, but I prefer Dr. Shinichi Suzuki’s description of children as seedlings. “Unless the seedlings are well cared for, beautiful flowers cannot be expected.” (Ability Development from Age Zero, Senzay, 1981) This abundance of loving care provided through homeschooling is what allows our children to be beautiful flowers in an ugly world.
We homeschooling parents determine how much secular culture to expose our child to. I consider my own family as being moderately secular. Compared to many Catholic families, we allow greater freedom to our kids when it comes to books, music, TV and movies. However, they have retained a large degree of innocence which allows me to teach religion and sex ed, for example, to children who are mostly undamaged and not disordered by pervasive secular culture. This gives us a great freedom to teach what is true without having to unteach false ideas.
Finally, the love of the homeschooling mother is no different from the love of any other mother, but the homeschooling mother has the opportunity of embracing her children in a culture of love all day, every day. She does not need to spend a large part of her day healing the wounds caused by other children’s behavior or teachers’ treatment at school; she can simply teach in an environment founded in love and security. The MODG curriculum, teaching from classical methodology, enhances this environment by respecting the developmental stages of the child, allowing him to be challenged and taught in a method that works with his natural abilities and growth. For example, a child who is asked to memorize the catechism at an age when that is an easy task is not frustrated and resentful. Even the child for whom this task is difficult or tedious may have his mother adjust the curriculum to encourage him to do the work he *can* do.
In this way, I believe that homeschooling in general, and Mother of Divine Grace in particular, gives a child the love and security which allows him to be disposed to receive the theological gift of faith in the way that Fr. Fernandez suggests.
But how to develop this faith, especially in preparation for Confirmation?
The most obvious answer is for the child to be kept as close to the sacraments as possible to allow for grace to be constantly at work on the child’s soul. Weekly Mass and Holy Communion and monthly opportunities for Confession will allow the Holy Spirit to prepare His seedling to support the additional gifts and graces that come with Confirmation.
For our older children, Confirmation is a good time to revisit the Examination of Conscience at a level that addresses their maturity and the sins that come with it. Giving the child a way to say, “I was impure with myself”, for example, is to release him from the fear that he is the only person who struggles in this area and from the fear of how to say such a thing to a priest! Fr. Larry Richard’s free CD on the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an especially good resource as his humor and experience working with teen boys allows him to say what we are sometimes uncomfortable saying.
However, the MODG child already has been taught the 10 Commandments and the 6 Precepts of the Church when he memorized the pink catechism (grades 2-5). In the gray catechism (grades 5-8) he reviews them and spends extra time memorizing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in addition to the elements of a good Confession. These alone are sufficient to prepare a child to make a good Confession. The information offered is more than complete. But as in all things, the parents as teachers must provide the opportunities to put the child’s knowledge into practice by keeping the child in the habit of going to Mass and Confession.
THE INTELLECTUAL UNDERSTANDING OF FAITH
The Mother of Divine Grace develops this understanding at every level in an orderly and developmentally appropriate way.
To develop our child’s understanding of his Catholic faith as appropriate to his age in preparation for Confirmation happens throughout the curriculum. The first major synthesis of this information happens in 10th grade in the Apologetics syllabus (and repeats senior year) when the child is asked to argue the 5 motives of credibility. However, the supportive information to make these arguments for the 5 motives has already been presented across the curriculum starting at Kindergarten. Let’s consider how and where:
- There is a God. Of course, since our child’s Baptism we have relied on the belief that there is a God. In the Baltimore Catechism series, especially the gray catechism, who God is and how we can know Him by reason alone has been explicitly taught. In 7th grade when the child studies Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, the question of how we can know God exists by reason is discussed. Staying close to the sacraments as mentioned above also gives the child the opportunity to remain open to awe, wonder, and order in the world around him as has been emphasized throughout the science curriculum.
- The Bible is trustworthy. Again, this is a truth we have relied on since Kindergarten or earlier. A pre-Confirmation review of salvation history allows you to discuss again where Bible history intersects with profane history. The child has heard and narrated these stories several times by now, and in junior high through The Story of the Church and in high school through the history curriculum and especially the Warren Carroll books, this intersection is highlighted again and again reminding the child that Jesus Christ is *THE* reason for history. All history has been a preparation for His coming, has been the actual historical fact of His salvation of mankind, or is the story of the dissemination of His salvation to all nations. Our family is doing our review with a help of the list of the stories of salvation history found on the timeline in The Great Adventure Bible study by Jeff Cavins. His timeline gives a nice visual.
- Jesus is the Son of God as the Bible states. The Bible stories and the BCs have already taught the child who Jesus is. The thorough discussion of how we can know He is truly the Son of God is addressed in the 6th grade study of the Gospels, 10th grade Fr. Laux books, and I think in Lewis also.
- He founded a church. The study of Acts of the Apostles in 7th grade gives particular attention to the founding of the Church by Christ through the sending of the Holy Spirit. Before Confirmation, it is good to go back to the BC and remind the child what he has already learned about who the Holy Spirit is and what He does (BC 108), when He came into the Church, the 3 theological virtues and 7 gifts He gives us, especially through the sacraments (see Theological Gift of Faith above), and that the effects of these gifts are the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and the Beatitudes (BC 125). I mentioned in another post that one of the greatest influences on a child practicing his faith into adulthood is if he does service with his family. This is how those service hours that are so often required make sense. We must look for opportunities to serve as a family where we see the face of Christ in those we serve. Our family has particularly enjoyed interacting with homeless people who stay at our church, eating together and playing games.This is also when we introduce conversation with the child about their Confirmation saint. How does this saint embody the gifts and virtues given through the Holy Spirit? By now he knows have a vast body of noble heroes from the many books, narrations, and oral reports that he has done through MODG.Another conversation to have is how will his sponsor be particularly suited to support him in his development of faith? This is a beautiful opportunity to chose a lifetime spiritual support and mentor.
And finally, we should remind him he should be daily praying for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit with regards to his vocation, which is where he will most frequently use the gifts The Spirit gives.
- The Church founded by Christ is the Catholic Church. Again, from earliest childhood we have been teaching the child the truths of Catholicism in a reasonable and orderly way at the developmental level the child can understand. In 8th grade in particular the 4 Marks and the 3 attributes of the Church are memorized and discussed and will be addressed in more depth in high school.
EFFECTS OF THE SACRAMENT
I am also doing a final review of the effects of the Sacraments of Initiation which were covered in the gray catechism. We are reviewing the particular details of each child’s sacrament and where the records are kept. I want them to appreciate what is happening at the Sacrament of Confirmation, but I also want them to understand it in the larger context of the Sacraments of Initiation.
As you can see, from birth to whatever age your child is at Confirmation, you have been preparing him to receive the sacrament both through your family’s culture but also throughout the curriculum. The ability to articulate the 5 Motives of Credibility, which is one of the goals of the curriculum, gives us the framework to assess how our child is being prepared intellectually to know his faith. And you will continue to help him develop both by constantly improving your family culture and by continuing to teach using Mother of Divine Grace. I do think the one specific preparation given for Confirmation would be a final review of the points I outlined above so the child can also see how his school curriculum has helped prepare him for the sacrament. It is an opportunity to look back and reflect; something I often fail at doing. We are doing our review at a series of once a week afternoon teas so that we can have a relaxed atmosphere outside of our regular school day. Staring this week, we will be easily done by May.
The one thing MODG doesn’t provide are the clothes to wear! Good luck with that. I will suggest that something **modest** and white is always appropriate for a Sacrament of Initiation.