Monday, August 13, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

WHAT IF....First Communion Edition

Guiseppe Sarto...future Pope Pius X. 

"... the fact that in ancient times the remaining particles of the Sacred Species were even given to nursing infants seems to indicate that no extraordinary preparation should now be demanded of children who are in the happy state of innocence and purity of soul, and who, amidst so many dangers and seductions of the present time have a special need of this heavenly food." 
 Decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacraments on First Communion August 8, 1910   Pope Pius X

Within a month of the 100th anniversary of this important document my two oldest received their First Holy Communion. At the time I attributed to Pope Pius X the extraordinary circumstances in which my six year old was invited to receive for the first time. I didn't, however, realize that the year 2010 marked 100 years since Pope Pius X had opened wide the doors to young children to approach Jesus in this intimate way. 

We are currently reading about this amazing man's life in The Farmer Boy Who Became Pope by Walter Dietelm. Just a few days ago we read about the promulgation of the document on First Holy Communion and the author suggested that children should celebrate this day in a special way. Of course the best way would be to attend Mass, which we hope to do today. We may also add a special dessert and maybe a craft or coloring page. 

Most of all, this anniversary gives me another opportunity to reflect on the wisdom of the Church, specifically in the person of Pope Pius X, in correcting the error of making children wait until they have jumped through so many hoops--think of St. Bernadette of Souburous who was made to wait until age 14 for her First Holy Communion because she could not articulate the teaching on the Trinity! 

Though this was done in an effort to safeguard the sacrament, as the Holy Father said at the time: 
It happened that children in their innocence were forced away from the embrace of Christ and deprived of the food of their interior life; and from this it also happened that in their youth, destitute of this strong help, surrounded by so many temptations, they lost their innocence and fell into vicious habits even before tasting of the Sacred Mysteries.
I can't help but think of our times--the 21st century-- when he speaks of "so many temptations" and "vicious habits". Do we risk the innocence of our children when we make them wait until they have reached a certain age, or grade level, or until they have been enrolled in at least two years of our precious parish programs? 

What if we truly believed in the power of this sacrament? What if we truly believed Jesus when He said "Let the little children come to me"? What if our priests said to parents "Bring your children to me when you see that they understand the difference between Sacramental Bread and ordinary bread and desire to receive Jesus in this way"?

I can hear all the DRE's crying out in objection here. But...but MOST parents won't/can't/will fake it/need to be forced to jump through hoops...

Why do we make policy based on those who abdicate their responsibilities....therefore punishing those who take their job as primary educators seriously? I am not talking about homeschoolers---I mean those who see that their child's growth in faith is in large part the responsibility of the parent. The First Communion class of 20 kids taught by someone else's mom should be the exception, not the rule!!

What if I could bring my six year old daughter to Father and say "I believe she is ready to make her First Confession and then go to Communion" and he would say "Lets meet next week and see what we can do." WHAT IF? 

THAT should be the norm. In my humble opinion. 

Oh...and also in the humble opinion of Pope St. Pius X who quotes the Roman Catechism in his document:

"At what age children are to receive the Holy Mysteries no one can better judge than their father and the priest who is their confessor. For it is their duty to ascertain by questioning the children whether they have any understanding of this admirable Sacrament and if they have any desire for it."