Receiving Communion at Age 6?

Receiving Communion at Age 6? August 9, 2010

Horrible Little Girl on a Great Day, Age 6

There is a question being bandied about, thanks to A Cardinal’s Musings::

Children today are maturing so quickly and are exposed to so many different influences that it might be time to consider allowing them to prepare for and receive their first Communion even before their 7th birthdays, said the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

“A child’s first Communion is like the beginning of a journey with Jesus, in communion with him: the beginning of a friendship destined to last and to grow for his entire life,” wrote Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera.

Today, he said, “children live immersed in a thousand difficulties, surrounded by a difficult environment that does not encourage them to be what God wants them to be.”

“Let us not deprive them of the gift of God,” the cardinal wrote Aug. 8 in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Orthodox children
receive Holy Communion and Confirmation at baptism. Can’t speak to that, myself, but I CAN speak to the validity of a 6 year-old receiving Holy Communion, as I did, and as I have here and here. It was, as I say, a very great day:

I knelt at my seat, thanking and welcoming Jesus, as I’d been taught, and suddenly I was in the grip of something I had never felt before – an indescribable sweetness, an overwhelming sense of… what, exactly? I could not have then articulated the ringing sense, deep within myself, of “holy, holy, holy” like the peal of a bell. It vibrated up from my core, powerful enough to bring tears, and I did not hide them. I was not alone; beside me a pretty strawberry-blonde named Aileen also wept. Hearing her sniffles, I turned my head and we exchanged soggy smiles in perfect understanding. Something beautiful had happened, and everything leading up to it within the preceding hour – the music, the reverence, the bowed heads of our parents, the precision of the altar boys and the seriousness of the priests – had contributed to this singular moment, and had reinforced it, too.

Afterwards, still sobbing, I was led away from my classmates by Sr. Mary Alice, my second-grade teacher, who knelt before me and asked what was wrong.

“Sister, I want to be left back! You have to make me repeat the second grade!” I told her.

“But why, dear?” She asked.

“Because I want to do that again!” I wailed. “And I can only make first Holy Communion in the second grade!”

Over at Inside Catholic, Margaret Cabaniss writes:

It’s difficult to find that balance between making sure children are prepared to receive a sacrament and giving them the benefit of its graces even if they don’t fully understand it. (I always think of that retort to the person who argues that children “don’t understand” what is happening in the Eucharist: Do you?) The “age of reason” can vary dramatically from person to person; I know of a few five year olds who probably have a better grasp on the Eucharist right now than some of the 16-year-olds in my Confirmation class did. And our current system leaves little room for children to postpone or speed up the process, either, if their parents think it would be beneficial.

Is this just making the best of a tricky situation? Or are there other, better options here?

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