The foundational Sacraments are the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. All Catholics share these Sacraments as the expression of their belonging to the Catholic Church. To be a Catholic who is fully initiated is to have experienced the celebration of these Sacraments. There are, of course, some Catholics who have only received one or two of them; they are not fully initiated until they receive all three.
In the early Church, the three Sacraments of Initiation were celebrated at the Easter Vigil. This continues into our day for those who enter the Church as adults through the R.C.I.A., the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. As time went on, due to the growth of the Church, the Sacraments began to be celebrated at different times. Baptism, which we share in common with all Christians, continued to be the doorway to the other Sacraments, and was most often celebrated for infants born into the Catholic Family. The Bishop is closely associated with Confirmation, as the successor to the Apostles, and so it would fall to him in the West, that is, in the Latin Church, to complete the initiation through Confirmation at a later time. In the East, among the Byzantines, priests celebrate the three Sacraments of Initiation even for infants.
The custom in early years was to keep the order of the Sacraments for all. Confirmation was given later and Holy Communion would be done at a greater age as well. Pope Pius X created a situation where this changed by opening Eucharist to children who reached the age of reason, about age seven. This resulted in the change of order that most of us experienced if we grew up in a Catholic family, namely Baptism as infants, First Holy Communion in second grade, and Confirmation in a later grade, usually around the eighth grade.
Think about your own experience of the Sacraments. Do you know when they were celebrated? What are your memories of these days of your life that forever marked you?
In the weeks and months ahead, I will offer some thoughts about each of the Sacraments and suggestions concerning how they can be highlighted in the life of our parish.