QHow old should you be to receive Confirmation?

A: That is a very good question, because the age of reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation varies from diocese to diocese. Still, our Church law instructs that Confirmation is to be received at the age of discretion. In other words, about the age of 7 is the youngest at which one may be “Confirmed.” The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, with the approval of the Holy See, decreed that the Sacrament of Confirmation should be conferred on those from the age of discretion (about 7 years of age) and 16 years of age.

Of course, for pastoral reasons, it is left to the local ordinary (the bishop) to determine the age for reception of the Sacrament. In our case, in the Diocese of Steubenville, I take in consideration the number of parishes, their populations and their proximity to one another, in order to determine the “Confirmation schedule.”  Our pastors and the members of their pastoral teams are a great help in this decision-making process.

QDo priests go to purgatory?

A: Priests have been chosen by God from among the people of God. In other words, members of the presbyterate are members of the people of God. Therefore, priests (and bishops) who die may also have to undergo the purging process of purgatory which is necessary before entering eternal life with God, namely, heaven.

God’s mercy extends to all of us and so the possibility of purgatory also is applicable to priests and bishops. While we priests and bishops focus our efforts to get everyone to heaven, we want to be there with you as well. To be a priest is no guarantee that he has a free ticket to heaven. A priest’s responsibility is to get you a ticket to heaven, and thank goodness the tickets are never in short supply. How about we all act in a way that we can just avoid purgatory and go right to heaven? In the end, we live our lives not to avoid purgatory, but to spend eternal life with God.

QWhy can’t we eat before we go to Mass?

A: Since the earliest days in the Church, there has been the practice of the Eucharistic Fast, that is, to prepare ourselves for the reception of the Holy Eucharist.  Some 1,500 years ago the fast become a universal practice throughout the Catholic Church. While various modifications have occurred over the centuries, the recent fast guidelines are an hour before Mass for the priest and an hour before Communion for the laity. Separate guidelines are in place for the elderly and sick who may not be able to wait the hour.

Nevertheless, we prepare ourselves during the fast for receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood. This waiting time becomes a striking reminder to you and to me that we are going to participate in the saving moment in our lives, Jesus’ complete gift of himself to us in the Holy Eucharist.

Think about it, when you play sports you do not exhaust yourself before a game. No, you prepare your mind and body for the coming event so that you will be at your best at the beginning of the game. So too we prepare ourselves in body, mind and spirit during the fast in order to receive Jesus with all our body, mind and spirit.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, who sustains us in the Holy Eucharist continue to bless you and your families.          

To “Ask the Bishop,” address questions to Joseph M. Taylor, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator in the Diocese of Steubenville Office of Christian Formation and Schools.

Address “Ask the Bishop” to Taylor at P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952. Questions can be emailed to Taylor at jtaylor@diosteub.org. Also, he can be reached by telephone at the chancery in Steubenville, (740) 282-3631.