Frequent readers will know that it is my firm belief that waning belief in the Real Presence is the single biggest problem confronting the Church–that from this problem all the other problems flow. According to several polls I’ve seen, close to a majority or perhaps more than a majority of self-identified weekly Mass-going Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Even more frequent readers will know that I have, at the very least, a great fondness for the Eastern Orthodox practice of infant communion. Children, I believe, benefit tremendously from receiving the Body of Christ, and the Lord wants the little children at His table.
This is not the road that the Western Church has chosen. The Church has chosen to follow the advice of St Paul in stressing the importance of “discern[ing] the body”. The Church does not condemn infant communion, but the Council of Trent does condemn those who condemn the institution of First Communion as it has evolved within the Church, and as a faithful son of Holy Mother Church I must acknowledge her greater wisdom.
With all this being said, and truly being said, I do believe that there is a special charism between children and the Eucharist. In children, the eyes of faith often see clearly what “grown-up reason” can sometimes obscure. I was at a recent meeting of catechists where one catechists said that the Real Presence is hard to teach to children because it is a complicated doctrine. She was talking about children aged 8 to 11 where they can formulate many objections so I do not believe her view was groundless. But I nonetheless believe that the Real Presence is exceedingly simple, and I furthermore intensely believe that it can be readily understood by even very small children, perhaps understood (insofar as any great mystery can be understood, of course) much better by small children than by world-wise adults.
Well, there is another very great and very important tradition of the Western Church, an incredible spiritual wellspring, and that is the practice of Eucharistic Adoration. To prayerfully adore Christ in the Host is a truly powerful fount of grace.
And so I think that children, including, indeed especially, pre-communicant children, children as young as three, should, with due preparation, have Eucharistic Adoration as a regular part of their catechetical formation. They should be taught to contemplate and pray before the Holy Eucharist, and therefore develop a deep fellowship with the Emmanuel God.