"What exactly is the deal with Confirmation? Different parishes do it at different ages, some programs are two years long and some are two months long. Some have strict requirements and others don’t. Are there some standards we should be following?"

The Vatican asked the U.S. Bishops the same thing about ten years ago. Rome wanted some uniformity regarding the age for celebration of the sacrament. The U.S. Bishops decided that Confirmation can be administered to candidates between a wide range of ages and that each bishop could set diocesan guidelines for Confirmation prep. That's why there is so much diversity today.

A few dioceses link celebration of Confirmation to Baptism and Eucharist in what is referred to as "restored order," akin to the reception of the sacraments in the early Church. A study done by the National Federation of Youth Ministry in Washington found out that about 40% of dioceses confirm during the high school, 20% confirm both high school and junior high youth, and about 40% confirm in junior high. About 500,000 young people are confirmed annually.

The Catechism connects Confirmation to the baptismal seal of the Spirit and the process of initiation into the Church. Too many candidates see Confirmation as the completion of their formation. There is growing interest in figuring out how we can "end Confirmation as the end" and promote discipleship as the expectation for life after Confirmation. Contact your diocesan director of youth ministry or catechesis and see what's being done in your diocese, or try to turn up the volume on this theme in your own parish program.