Canonical age for Confirmation

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Question from John on 5/1/2008:

Dear Fr. Gantley,

Could you expand on your recent response that stated the Canonical age for Confirmation is 7 years old? This is very interesting to me because I know of several parishes, including my own, where Confirmation is scheduled for age 15 or 16. (Many years ago, I was confirmed at age 12.) Could you give the reference in Canon Law?

Thank you for your help and advice in this Forum.

Regards, John
Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 5/23/2008:

The canonical age for confirmation in the Latin Church is 7. The Eastern Churches confirm (chrismate) with baptism, so ordinarily this occurs at an even younger age.

Canon 891 states: "The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion, unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise." The age of discretion is 7. Danger of death can result in the need of confirming children under the age of 7.

In the United States, the following Complemenary Norm has been promulgated: "The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 891, hereby decrees that the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Latin Rite shall be conferred between the age of discretion and about sixteen years of age, within the limits determined by the diocesan bishop and with regard for the legitimate exceptions given in canon 891." Thus, you have seen confirmation delayed to quite late in a young person's life.

Personally, I believe in the power of the sacraments. Confirmation confers the gifts of the Holy Spirit -- courage, pity, fear of the Lord, etc. I believe that our young people need these gifts at a younger age, not at a later age, and certainly well before the age of 16.

The problem of conferring confirmation at a later age also is that the sacraments of initiation are celebrated out of order. The proper order for the sacraments of initiation is baptism, confirmation, and then first Holy Communion.

Also, if someone is mature enough at age 7 to receive Holy Communion, then why isn't that person mature enough to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit?


  1. While we do not normally consider the 7 sacraments as dependent upon our disposition in order for them to confer grace, I still somehow beleive that age matters with confirmation. Yes, we want our children to receive grace from an early age, but that is the case for infant baptism. Confirmatio is the acceptance of ourbaptism, but also our initiation into a more mature Christian relationship with God. I feel by entering into this sacrament at the age of 7-8 we may be limiting the capacity of our children to fully appreciate and comprehend this sacrament.

  2. The sacraments , by their nature, do not depend upon our disposition in order to confer grace, however, I am uncomfortable with Confirmation at age 7-8. It seems that the arguement which states that we want them to obtain this grace as soon as possible is really just the arguement for infant baptism restated. Confirmation is a child's acceptance of their Christian heritage, and I beleive that the older they are, the more meaningful this profession will be for them and to them. Greater maturity, I believe, will also improve their disposition to receive all the grace of this sacrament. At age 7, we are old enough to be fed and develop maturity, but Is till prefer to see Confirmation as an indication of attaining some level of maturity or age of majority. Communion is also not a one time thing, and so we can and hopefully do grow in our undrestanding and appreciation of that sacrament. Once you are confirmed..., it's done!

  3. "Confirmation is a child's acceptance of their Christian heritage"

    That is not true. And since this misconception is common it is useful to confirm at an early age.