There has been a new proposal floated out of the Vatican, specifically the Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship, regarding the age of receiving First Holy Communion. Actually it is not necessarily new, but it has resurfaced as a new idea. It has been proposed that perhaps lowering the age of reception would be of benefit to the salvation of the little ones. This is true as to benefit but the question arises with regard to the age of reason. Is a child younger than the age of seven truly aware of what it is they are receiving and the concept of transubstantiation, what is truly and really received in the Sacrament?
I have been an advocate for the lowering of the age of Confirmation for the exact reasons cited above. If the Sacrament confers the gifts and graces we profess it to confer, then these children, in this day and age, would truly benefit from Confirmation at a younger age than sixteen or seventeen. They need these gifts to strengthen them against the evils of the secular world. But as a teacher of the faith for the past ten years, I wonder if it might not be more beneficial for a child to understand the reasoning and significance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to receiving Holy Communion and to emphasize that what they are receiving is truly the Body and Blood of Christ. What is being proposed would be a return to the practice of conferring the sacraments simultaneously with the Sacrament of Baptism. This would place the reception of Communion and Confirmation with Baptism, Reconciliation would come along at a later date as needed.
Apart from the fact that the job of the catechist with regard to sacramental preparation is concerned would be easier, the teaching and catechizing would fall to the parents. The Holy Father has emphasized that the family should be the primary catechists to their children and I wholeheartedly agree. This is accomplished by word and action, done by parents who live the faith according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, parents who Know what the Catholic Church teaches. Ahhh, and there it is, the fly in the ointment. And this is my concern. My fear is that the receiving of the Precious Body and Blood will become taken for granted and will just be another practice one goes through while at a Sunday service, much like watching people recite the Our Father, no longer meaningful, just going through the motions. We must never lose sight of the fact that the receiving of this Sacrament is not a right, it is a gift given by God. We, as Catholics, adopted children of God have done nothing to merit this gift. Having the privilege of preparing second graders for the receiving of their First Holy Communion, I have witnessed the wonder and awe that they have experienced as they become aware of what it is they are receiving from God.
As parents, we must emphasize and reiterate the reverence due our Precious Lord. If the age for receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion is lowered and becomes a reality, we must remember our responsibility and example to never take the reception of Holy Communion lightly. Actually our children should witness our reverence for the Sacrifice of the Mass at all times, but if the formal preparation falls to parents then it would be a good idea for all parents to brush up on their catechism and be more aware of their example at Mass. You know, as parents we shouldn't wait, we should be mindful of our behavior in front of our children no matter the age, because we are the primary catechist. Get out your Catechism of the Catholic Church, register for a class given by your local Office of Religious Education, read the rubrics of the Liturgical Mass, brush up and be informed, remind yourself what it means to be a Roman Catholic and how we can arm our children, and ourselves, against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
As a catechist and DRE I am always answering questions about our faith. I love that people are curious like me and want to learn more about the faith as Catholics, to learn more about God and Jesus. I hope this blog does just that, to help us learn more.