Skip to comments.WHY CANT MY SON RECEIVE THE EUCHARIST?
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.
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.
“WHY CANT 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.
In the early church, infants received Communion. The practice is noted by Augustine,
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.
What an idiot!
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.
Not a woman either. Does that mean women can't receive the Eucharist?
I'm going to call BS on the two-and-a-half-year-old behaving in quite this way.
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 Id give her a bible story for the kids. She had group games to keep them occupied. It worked fine.
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.
For what purpose? , a 2.5 year old thinks Bugs Bunny is real ... just not ready.
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.
It sounds to me like more of a “You have it, so I want it” reaction, which is typical for a two-year-old.
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.
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.
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.
I would assume that for Eastern Rite Catholics they do in fact receive communion from infant age onward as the Orthodox do.
She is very wise for her age!
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.
I don’t even think the 2 1/2 year old son should be taken to church. I remember back in the 70’s at the school I went to. They set up a special day care room on Sunday’s were parents could leave their children while they attended service (Lutheran, Missouri Synod).
Not a fan of the teach children about Jesus, Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.
In my parish church, once a month on a Sunday morning, the kids choir sing and the Sunday CCD classes process into my church. The older kids do the readings. The only adults who are involved are the cantors for the psalm and either a priest or a deacon does the Gospel.
Forgot about first Confession. Maybe that’s because in those days your typical seven year old didn’t have a whole lot to confess.
“Uh, bless me Father, because I have sinned. I uh, uh what did I do that was wrong? Oh - I made a face at Shirley on the playground and she ran away.”
“Three Our Fathers & three Hail Mary’s, young man, & now make a good Act of Contrition.”
Because he’s not a pro-abort Democrat politician?
I didn’t say that other churches Communion wasn’t holy and special. That being said, Catholics view the Body and Blood of Christ very differently than many other Christian religions. For example... Penance, First Holy Communion and Confirmation has to be age appropriate. The child has to be aware of the full undertaking, responsibility and sacredness of the Sacrament. Sorry if you are offended by what I wrote. Perhaps if the writer of the article is really upset about the Church’s stance... she can convert to another religion. IMHO.
Yet if my memory is correct, does not the Church require that, based on what Paul said to “examine oneself”. I know with kids getting ready to make First Communion, they may not understand, but it is more or less a teaching moment.
Also in the years following VC II, the sacrament of cofession was often delayed until either 3rd or 4th grade. I think Blessed John Paul II put back the requirement that it be done in the 2nd grade.
Because babies spit up.
There is no reason to change the way things are done, even if a mother writes an emotional article about it.
You have to know what you’re receiving and understand the meaning of what’s going on. Two and half-year old boys don’t. End of story.
I’m happy to hear this mother takes her son to church, and that he’s hopefully learning to sit still and absorb what is going on.
But, she also sounds like one of these modern parents who can’t say no to her children, and becomes one of these parents who wants an exception to the rules and regulations because, well just because, her baby is sooo special.
I find myself agreeing with the poster. As was pointed out the RCC did allow infant communion until the middle ages (or should we just assume the early Catholic Church was clueless not having enough time to distance themselves from Christ - please read that last comment as sarcasm, not an insult). I previously took a brief look at this and it was confirmed in the Vatican archives.
I think the real issue is 7 year olds receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord! The Eucharist is reserved for members of the church in good standing. Confirmation or Chrismation (West vs East) is required for membership. In the RCC most don’t get confirmed till about 17 (please correct if I have the age incorrect - however if in error, it will be slight and unintentional).
Until the Middle Ages the RCC, and still currently the Eastern Catholics and Orthodox will give infant communion, but there is a significant part that the author of the piece pointed out but was somehow relegated to cursory comment. The child was already a full member of the Church due to Confirmation/Chrismation! The order is Baptism, Confirmation and then First Holy Communion. The change to the RCC in the Middle Ages significantly altered this.
Maybe the question should be, “Should my child wait until they’re Confirmed to received?” and then followed up with, “When should my child be Confirmed?”
“... RCC most don’t get Confirmed till about 17...”
No. My other daughter got Confirmed last month. She was 13. Eighth grade is the age for Confirmation (13 or 14 depending on the birth date of the child).
It varies by diocese, in the United States. In Tulsa, it was 11th grade, average age about 17. In Charlotte, it’s 9th grade, average age about 14. In some places it’s as early as 6th grade.
My personal preference would be for any time after about 12 years old, if the child went through the preparation process as decided by the local Bishop. I’m not a fan of age-cohorts or “seat-time” requirements. Just give them the exam or other assignments when they’re ready to do it.
Again, my apologies on the age for Confirmation. I’m not Catholic so I wasn’t quite sure even though I’m generally very familiar with RCC teaching.
Again, I feel the issue is giving the Body and Blood of our Lord to a non-member of the Church (Confirmation/Chrismation grants membership in the Church). Besides being Baptized Catholic and being 7 or older, what other requirement is there to receive? The RCC doesn’t rebaptize those from proper Trinitarian faiths, so should they receive if they are over 7? The RCC allows Eastern Catholics and Orthodox to receive in an RCC Mass, so someone from the East could bring up their infant or younger child (for purposes of this article 2½) and have them receive in front of everyone (it might look scandalous, but it would be proper).
I’m not 100% certain of this next item, but I believe it to be true. Your child at say 11 has been receiving in the RCC for several years, but you decide to visit an Eastern Catholic Church (ECC for short as there are more than just Byzantine). Would your child be allowed to receive as they have not yet been Chrismated? I suspect not, but an ECC child younger than 2 could receive in the RCC.
Obviously full membership was important (Confirmation/Chrismation) to the first millennium of the RCC as they offered Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion in that order even to infants and this practice is carried by the Eastern Churches.
Eastern Catholics *are* Catholics. They aren’t “members of another religion”.
Regarding attendance in churches other than what one is used to, the wisest course, in my opinion, would be to ask the “host” pastor or a representative. You usually can’t go wrong by using good manners.
My parish waits until high school age, around 15-16.
“Obviously full membership was important (Confirmation/Chrismation) to the first millennium of the RCC as they offered Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion in that order even to infants and this practice is carried by the Eastern Churches.”
The only time that the sacrament of confirmation is given in its true proper order is when there adults in the RCIA.
That is true now for the RCC, but was otherwise for the first millennium and is still otherwise for Eastern Catholics and Orthodox.
The order changed for the RCC in the middle ages as stated in the Vatican Archives.
If what you are saying is correct then the first millennium of the Church including the specific acts of the Apostles would not have been in the proper order.
I just reread your post and believe I captured the wrong meaning the first time. Please ignore my previous post to you.
If you are agreeing on the same proper order only occurring with adults in RCIA then I will definitely agree with you.
Well baptism has to come first, it is what I call the front door sacrament. What is done in the RCIA is simply doing what was done during the first few centuries of the Church.