Age for first holy communion

Is it true that the church is moving First Holy Communion to the third grade?

The children in my daughter’s catholic school do not receive their First Communion unil the the spring of third grade. I always remember it being in second grade. Most chldren I know received their First Communion in second grade, even recently. Someone told me that everyone is moving first communion up a year.

My daughter is already 7 and just started first grade. This means she will be going on 10 by the time she recieves her First Holy Communion. This just seems old to me. Is moving Communion up a year a new thing, or is my daughter’s school odd?

in this diocese, synod legislation enacted in 2006 revised particular canon law for the diocese, and set the age for first communion at 3rd grade or age 8. That is the bishop’s perogative, because like the age for confirmation, the age for baptized Catholic youth is anywhere over the age of reason, from about 7 to majority, 18, and it is left for individual bishops to set the age for their diocese. Actually several parishes had already been doing this and the reason cited was that the majority of 2nd graders were “not ready” for first communion.

go to and click on synod legislation to see details.

the catechesis for sacramental preparation is also specified, and is part of the guide published by the Office of Catechetics, as an appendix to the synod legislation.

It calls for one year of initial formation, followed by two years of sacramental preparation, with first confession celebrated in the second year, and first communion during the third year. The actual timing within the year is left to the parishes, but it is expected at least 6 months will elapse between the two sacraments, and the state reason for that is pedagogical, that candidates and families will distinguish between the two sacraments. The content of sacramental catechsis, and of required parent-sponsor meetings was also codified.

Since the synod document did not specifically address the issue of RCIA for unbaptized children and the age for sacraments, it was discussed in a follow-up memo. Confirmation age remained at age 16 or 10th grade, and requirements for confirmation catechesis were also set forth in subsequent addenda.

the age for first communion in your diocese is whatever the bishop says it is. if your parish is out of step with diocesan policy, consult the chancery, bishop’s office, vicar general, priest in charge of liturgy and sacraments or office of catechesis for clarification.

While the Bishop can set a higher age as the custom of the diocese, if a child beyond the age of reason is prepared for the Sacrament (actually, the three Sacraments tied to the age of reason: Confession, Confirmation, and Communion), they are not to be refused. (from Responsum ad dubium on age of Confirmation)

Thank you so much for your quick reply. Your letter does seem to say that everyone is leaning towards moving Communion to the third grade. My daughter is in a Private school in the Philadelphia archdiocese. So while the school must follow what the archdiocese says, since it is a private school they can make their own rules (yes I know, as long as they are in line with what is dictated) I will check out your link.

I was just curious, about this because the children in the school she was in last year make First Holy Communion in second grade. Maybe the Philly area is just slow to adjust to the change.

Is this before or after first confession?

When I was a kid, our first communion in 2nd grade came a few months after first confession. Later in 4th grade after having gone to confession for years, I was required to participate in first confession again because that diocese had first confession at 4th grade. To me, even back then it made no sense to have first communion before first confession.

Which order do they have it these days?

In our Diocese, the Sacraments are celebrated in the parish, rather than in the school. This way, it is up to the parents to decide at what age their children will receive them; not the school.

I think this is very sane and good - I don’t see what the schools have to do with it, or how it is any of their business, in the first place.

Probably because that is the way the priest/pastor wants it. It is his responsibility to see that every child presented for the sacraments is ready to receive them, and since he cannot possibly test each child himself, he has to rely on some gauge. Since the children are receiving their instruction in the school, in some places they are the ones who present the child for the sacraments. And as noted earlier, it may be the parents decision in your diocese, but only with the help of a DRE, or the pastor, or someone acknowledging that the child is prepared. In other words, just because I want my child to receive the sacrament at age 7, doesn’t mean that the child will receive if Father feels that she isn’t ready.

In our diocese, some churches celebrate in 2nd grade, but many (including ours) have moved it to 3rd grade. If you’ve ever taught 2nd grade rel. ed., you would readily see why–many, many of the children get no support at home as far as knowing anything about their faith. We have found, in the 2 years since we’ve changed it, that 3rd graders are, for the most part, more mature & easier to teach. In other words, everything goes much more smoothly for the DRE, pastor, and the CCD teachers. Sad to say, but true! This has effected my own daughter, who will be 9 when she receives in May. She is the youngest of 4 siblings, so it has been very hard for her to wait. :shrug:

They must receive First Confession before Eucharist. That came from the Vatican, and it is a universal given, but I couldn’t tell you when!

It may be of interest to re-read Quam Singulari, the decree that lowered the age of First Communion back to the age of reason, or about seven years of age.

The delaying of the Sacrament beyond the age of reason may indeed be problematic in the face of requirement (dating back at least to the Fourth Lateran Council) that all who have reached the age of reason are bound to the “Easter duty” (annual Confession and reception of Communion). The contrary position (that they were not required) was anathematized at Trent.

You’ve received some good responses so far, but I would just like to reitereate that it is really up to the local bishop to set the age. According to Canon Law, in the Latin rite, children typically receive First Communion after the age of reason (age 7) and after suitable preparation (canon 914).

We can’t really make comments about general trends to move First Communion to third grade. There are still plenty of dioceses where it remains in second grade. Nothing has changed in Canon Law that would dictate parishes or dioceses have to make such a change (though, of course they are free to do so if the bishop permits it and/or requires it).

I don’t know about everyone, just my own diocese. You may inquire in the Phila a.d. to find out. Actually the same legislation I refer to specifies that while Catholic children receive catechesis in the Catholic school, immediate preparation for the sacraments, including the parent meetings, and actual celebration of the sacraments belongs in the child’s home parish, not the school. Probably one of the most often broken prescriptions in the history of such legislation.

this was always wrong, it was never right, it was never permitted, generally a local experiment in localized areas.

First Confession should always come before First Communion. If you think about it, it makes sense:

*]You cannot receive Communion until you have reached the age of reason.
*]Once you have reached the age of reason, it becomes possible for you to commit mortal sin.
*]If you have committed mortal sin, you cannot receive Communion until after you have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
*]Therefore, First Confession should come first.


All my grandchildren received their First Communions in the 2nd grade. The oldest was 8 as she had been held back because she started kindergarten in public school and didn’t learn anything and when we decided to put her in Catholic school we knew that the children were very far ahead than the public schools. The others also made theirs in 2nd grade.

The oldest went to a private Catholic school in England but the children had to go through their own parishes for First Communion,

Yours in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary



This is why I think parish-based programs are superior. Kids go through the Sacraments in the order and on the timing that their parents choose (with support from the parish, including a Sacramental Preparation process) but once they have received their Sacrament, there would be no way to “force” them to retake it, unless the parents themselves wanted their child to receive a refresher course on the subject.

To me, even back then it made no sense to have first communion before first confession.

Me neither. But in our case, it’s up to the parents. Some parents have their kids receive First Holy Communion first, and others prefer that their children receive First Reconciliation first. Our process is set up so that it’s easiest to do First Confession first, but if the parents choose the opposite order, they can also do that. The Diocese traditionally has preferred that First Holy Communion take place in the second and third grades, and that First Reconciliation take place in the third and fourth grades, but with the system I’m working with in our parish, nobody follows that - I’ve assisted whole families to go through all three Sacraments in a single year, and nobody from the Diocese said anything about it. :slight_smile:

Looking at Philly’s sacramental guidlelines, it seems they have guidelines for the place of the celebration of First Communion click here], but nothing about the age of the first communicant.

As far as the first question, I find it highly suspect that the Church as a whole is moving the reception of Communion. In light of the documents I quoted above, it would be a very serious thing to change. Given that the right and responsibility to receive the Sacraments is binding from the age of reason (so long as the child is prepared and disposed), it is troubling that it is being withheld, particularly on such a common basis.

Joe 5859, as far as the bishop’s right to impose a different age, this is limited by the right of the faithful to the Sacraments (actually severely limited in any such case). The consistent ruling from Rome (a history is detailed in Quam Singulari, predating even the Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law to the Response ad Dubium posted above) is that while the Bishop can set a higher age, they cannot refuse anyone who is properly disposed and is above the age of reason, for both Communion (and of course Confession) and Confirmation.

Thanks everyone for the input !!!

I guess it does make sense to wait until the children are older, to be sure that they fully understand what they are about to do. So the more I think about it maybe waiting until the children are older makes sense. It is just unfortunate that my daughter will be so much older. But I am ok with that now.

As far as children receiving their sacraments in their home parishes, I am not sure where I stand with that. If children are in a Catholic school and getting religious instruction in that school, shouldn’t they receive their sacraments with the other children that they have been learning with, rather than a bunch of kids that they do not know? My church does have its own school, so the children that are not in CCD (the CCD kids do receive their communion within a Sunday Mass), will come to church in their First Communion attire the first time that they attend mass after their First Communion, so they can be recognized within the church community.

Confirmation HAS moved to our parishes. I am not sure how that will work in my parish. I will find that our when my daughter makes her confirmation.

Well, usually the parish school and the parish church are in the same neighborhood, so the kids who go to your church would normally be the same kids who go to your child’s school. It just puts the element of choice into the parent’s hands (where it belongs) instead of being up to school administrators, and then having kids being required to take the same Sacrament twice, due to changing schools - or missing it altogether, for the same reason.

Yes, thank you for adding the qualifier. As far as I know, there have been no recent documents from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments that advocate pushing the age back. Any changes in practice must be coming from individual bishops (or pastors if the bishop has left it to the discretion of his priests).

I can see both sides. The parent in me wants the graces of the sacraments available to my children as soon as possible. If my kids are old enough to sin (as they are at the age of reason), I most definitely want them to have access to the sacraments that will help them fight the good fight against sin (Reconciliation, Confirmation, and the Eucharist).

However, the catechist in me doesn’t want to see a bunch of kids with no prior catechesis stroll in to receive the sacraments so they can punch it off their “Catholic card” and go back to missing Mass for soccer games.

I guess I understand why some priests and bishops feel the need to push it back, but I lament the fact that it seems necessary to them to do so.

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