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WHY CANíT MY SON RECEIVE THE EUCHARIST?
First Things ^ | April 8, 2014 | Anna Nussbaum Keating

Posted on 04/10/2014 1:49:20 AM PDT by NYer

My two-and-a-half-year-old son has never liked to be still. Everywhere he goes, he runs. So taking this little rambunctious boy to Mass on Sundays has often been a chore. For months we never made it through an entire liturgy without someone having to take him outside to run. I hated being relegated to the cry room, so I engaged him in what was going on. I would whisper in his ear, drawing his attention to the statues, the candles, or the stained glass. “Is that Jesus? Look, there’s Mary and Joseph.” I would attempt to teach him the responses, whispering, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

And when he lost interest, I would sneak him a cracker.

To my surprise, it worked. He learned how to stay in the pew. He doesn’t sit still, but he does stay put. He loves the sign of peace and even says some of the responses, loudly and usually a beat too late.

So, one Sunday I whispered in his ear about the Eucharist. “We’re going up to receive Jesus now,” I said. Not long after being told about Communion, he began asking about it and for it. When we carried him up to receive a blessing he said, “Please, can I have some Eucharist?”

I wanted to tell him, “Yes, it’s Christ’s body given up for you.” But Canon Law forbids Catholic children under the age of seven from receiving. I didn’t know what to say.

He was insistent. Many Sundays, after I had received, he would ask me, “Can I have a little bit?” Sometimes he would even try to open my mouth with his tiny fingers to extract a piece. On several occasions, in the car on the way to church he asked, “Is the Eucharist for me?”

I am not someone who is uncomfortable saying “no” to my child. I say “no” to him a dozen times a day. In fact, other parents often look askance when I make him say “please” and “thank you” or reply with “yes, mama.” But the Eucharist isn’t something I want him not to want.

So as my son persists in asking, I can’t stop thinking about his request. The Eucharist is, according to Lumen Gentium, the “source and summit of the Christian life.” If as Jesus says in John 6:54, “He who eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life,” what does it mean to deny it to our children? Children in the hospital cannot receive the Eucharist before going into surgery. Catholic children who may be ready but are not quite seven years of age are denied. Why are we withholding this source of grace from the youngest members of our community?

In the early church, infants received Communion. The practice is noted by Augustine, who preached in one of his sermons: “Yes, they’re infants, but they are his members. They’re infants, but they receive his sacraments. They are infants, but they share in his table, in order to have life in themselves.”

For the first thousand years or more, the rites of initiation (baptism, first communion and confirmation) were given all at one time to children. (The only people not present for the Eucharist in the early church were catechumens and penitents.) Parents brought their children up with them to receive the body and blood of Christ. To this day, this remains the practice in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic rites, as well as in many Reformed churches and some Anglican ones.

In the Middle Ages, receiving communion became more rare as many people were in such awe of the consecrated host that they preferred to pray before it, rather than consume it. Lay people tended to receive infrequently or only on their deathbeds. So in the thirteenth century, completion of the rites of initiation came to be postponed until the age of reason, which was determined by the Scholastics to be seven years of age. The separation of the single sacrament of initiation was made Church law in the mid-sixteenth century, at the council of Trent.

Canon Law states that before first communion children must understand what the Eucharist is, that the consecrated host is no longer ordinary bread but has become the body of Christ. Canons 913-14 are worth quoting at length:

The administration of the Most Holy Eucharist to children requires that they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they . . . are able to receive the body of Christ with faith and devotion. It is primarily the duty of parents . . . as well as the duty of pastors, to take care that children who have reached the use of reason are prepared properly and, after they have made sacramental confession, are refreshed with this divine food as soon as possible.

Stressed here is the value of formally instructing older children (those “who have reached the use of reason”) as to what the sacrament means, so that they might receive it reverently. One wonders, however, if this emphasis on reason hasn’t become wrapped up in what Pope Benedict XVI once called a “Baroque Thomism.”

Children learn by doing. They learn by lighting candles in the darkness around the Advent wreath. They learn by putting bills in the collection basket. They learn by saying prayers before bed. As parents, we don’t wait until they can fully understand the concept of almsgiving before giving them money to put in the collection basket. The practice of almsgiving necessarily precedes and reinforces its explanation. What’s more, if almsgiving, or any other virtue, is to become a deeply ingrained habit, it’s best to begin at a young age. If something is the most sacred part of one’s week since early childhood, it is hard to imagine life without it; if a habit is picked up later in life, it can be more easily shed.

Is infant communion so different from infant baptism? We already teach children who have previously been baptized what their baptism means, and yet, baptism is a gift freely given. It is not dependent on one’s intelligence or comprehension. Formal instruction occurs after the sacrament has been experienced.

My son was baptized into the Church as a newborn. As a two year old he has expressed a desire for Jesus in the Eucharist, and I think he understands, insofar as any of us do, that the Eucharist is not just ordinary bread and wine, but Jesus’ body and blood in the form of a meal. I have told him so and he believes me.

Perhaps now is the time to rediscover the practice of infant communion. Pope Francis has said that the Eucharist is “not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” He has also written in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel that, “The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded. . . . Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason.”

In the meantime, I hope that my son will always desire Jesus in the Eucharist as much as he does now. He has been asking every Sunday for many months “Is the Eucharist for me?” but last Sunday he stayed quiet. I think he has finally realized that the answer would always be no.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Worship
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1 posted on 04/10/2014 1:49:20 AM PDT by NYer
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To: Tax-chick; GregB; Berlin_Freeper; SumProVita; narses; bboop; SevenofNine; Ronaldus Magnus; tiki; ...

For those who watch EWTN Live, Fr. Mitch touched on this topic last night with his guest, Abbot Nicholas Zachariadis from the community of Byzantine monks at The Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin. In the Byzantine Church, children are baptized, chrismated and receive communion on the same day. These are the Sacraments of Initiation.


2 posted on 04/10/2014 1:52:37 AM PDT by NYer ("You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." James 4:14)
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To: NYer

“WHY CAN’T MY SON RECEIVE THE EUCHARIST?”
_______________________________________________
I grew up in the Episcopal church, before it was corrupted by gays and socialist. To receive communion, one was to first be “confirmed”. I was in my young teens when I went through confirmation classes.
While I understand the rule, I think that in certain situations, anyone of any age should be allowed to receive the body and blood of Christ.


3 posted on 04/10/2014 2:00:51 AM PDT by AlexW
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To: NYer

In the early church, infants received Communion. The practice is noted by Augustine,


Maybe you should read what Paul says about it.

1Cor 11
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

A two and one half year old is hardly a man.


4 posted on 04/10/2014 2:09:34 AM PDT by ravenwolf
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To: NYer

What an idiot!


5 posted on 04/10/2014 2:18:32 AM PDT by Bigg Red (1 Pt 1: As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct.)
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To: NYer

This actually DOES sound like a mother who cannot say “no.” I guess it’s now a civil right to be able to receive Communion anytime, anywhere, any age.


6 posted on 04/10/2014 2:41:40 AM PDT by miss marmelstein (Richard Lives Yet!)
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To: ravenwolf
1Cor 11 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. A two and one half year old is hardly a man.

Not a woman either. Does that mean women can't receive the Eucharist?


7 posted on 04/10/2014 2:44:16 AM PDT by raybbr (Obamacare needs a death panel.)
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To: NYer
He has been asking every Sunday for many months “Is the Eucharist for me?”

I'm going to call BS on the two-and-a-half-year-old behaving in quite this way.

8 posted on 04/10/2014 3:15:27 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy
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To: NYer
My two-and-a-half-year-old son has never liked to be still.
Not uncommon for children in their “terrible twos”. A small independent Baptist church in Pennsylvania had a nursery for small children during church service, my late wife was hired to run it. Every week I’d give her a bible story for the kids. She had group games to keep them occupied. It worked fine.
9 posted on 04/10/2014 3:17:21 AM PDT by R. Scott (Humanity i love you because when you're hard up you pawn your Intelligence to buy a drink)
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To: raybbr

Not a woman either. Does that mean women can’t receive the Eucharist?>>>>>

I have nothing against it, any one who knows what the last supper was all about and are willing to give their life for Christ as the apostles did should have a right to do it.

But we can only commit ourselves, not some one else, that is why Paul said examine yourself, not get examined by some one else.


10 posted on 04/10/2014 3:35:46 AM PDT by ravenwolf
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To: NYer

For what purpose? , a 2.5 year old thinks Bugs Bunny is real ... just not ready.


11 posted on 04/10/2014 4:03:38 AM PDT by Neidermeyer (I used to be disgusted , now I try to be amused.)
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To: Neidermeyer

I received First Holy Communion in the first grade, at age seven. It was a solemn occasion that I remember well; boys wore suits & girls wore white communion dresses. As children we understood that we were receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, for we had been so instructed for months before the holy event. Age seven is the age of reason IIRC.

THAT’s why Communion should not be given to two year olds.


12 posted on 04/10/2014 4:31:33 AM PDT by elcid1970 ("In the modern world, Muslims are living fossils.")
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To: ClearCase_guy

It sounds to me like more of a “You have it, so I want it” reaction, which is typical for a two-year-old.


13 posted on 04/10/2014 4:32:53 AM PDT by Haiku Guy (Health Care Haiku: If You Have a Right / To the Labor I Provide / I Must Be Your Slave)
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To: elcid1970

My youngest daughter will receive her First Holy Communion on Mother’s Day. After reading this article, I asked her if she thought a two year old should receive it as well. Her response is simple.. “no way, a two year old can’t even poop in the toilet by themselves. They shouldn’t get the Body and Blood of Jesus YET!” I am still laughing! Even at her young age, she knows that this Sacrament is blessed and special—reserved for the more mature.


14 posted on 04/10/2014 4:36:04 AM PDT by momtothree
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To: Neidermeyer
For what purpose? , a 2.5 year old thinks Bugs Bunny is real ... just not ready.

The question hinges upon whether or not communion is a human act done by us for God (as, say, the Baptists believe), or a divine act done by God for us. If it is a human act, then it becomes part of the law, and not part of the gospel. But when Jesus proclaims "This is my body," He is also proclaiming that communion is a divine act. If it is therefore a divine act, then the cognitive ability of the recipient is not at issue, because it is an act of grace.

Would a Catholic church refuse communion to a 25-year-old whose cognitive abilities were of a 2.5 year old? I don't know for certain, but I don't think so--I know that LCMS Lutherans would not refuse solely on the basis of mental age. And I say this knowing that LCMS requires a two-year confirmation process that concludes at age 14 in order to receive communion, something with which I disagreed when both my children had to wait to receive communion until that age, though I made no stink about it at the time, except to admit my disagreement to the pastor in private. But I think the Orthodox have it right: if baptism is an act of God and communion is an act of God, then both should be available as soon as possible, and in the case of communion as often as possible, in the life of the Christian, whether incipient or self-proclaimed.

15 posted on 04/10/2014 4:50:11 AM PDT by chajin ("There is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12)
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To: elcid1970

Plus also not just be intructed months ahead of time, but also make first confession as well. The years just prior would be the preperation for the kid.


16 posted on 04/10/2014 4:52:29 AM PDT by Biggirl (¬ďGo, do not be afraid, and serve¬Ē-Pope Francis)
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To: NYer

I would assume that for Eastern Rite Catholics they do in fact receive communion from infant age onward as the Orthodox do.


17 posted on 04/10/2014 4:54:14 AM PDT by wonkowasright (Wonko from outside the asylum)
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To: momtothree

She is very wise for her age!


18 posted on 04/10/2014 4:54:35 AM PDT by Biggirl (¬ďGo, do not be afraid, and serve¬Ē-Pope Francis)
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To: wonkowasright

Yes.


19 posted on 04/10/2014 4:55:05 AM PDT by Biggirl (¬ďGo, do not be afraid, and serve¬Ē-Pope Francis)
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To: momtothree
The Holy Eucharist in Eastern Catholic churches, where everyone -- infants included -- receives after their baptism, and young children receive at any Divine Liturgy with their parents' permission, isn't "holy and special," then?

I don't see any theological reason not to communicate young children, only a practical one (very little ones may spit it out).

Even in the Latin church, babies in danger of death may be given Viaticum.

20 posted on 04/10/2014 4:56:26 AM PDT by Campion
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