(Age of) Reason and Communion

I didn’t want to hijack the thread on First Communion, and something said there intrigued me:

our Bishop (who laughed out loud) he told us…“So what would the priest do with a child who was not capable of traditional grade-schooling, however, was able to have “reason”? Would they never receive the sacrament?”

In RC, what haapens to those that are NOT able to have reason, the mentally challenged, the people who remain children, so to speak, all their lives? When are they “ready” to receive the Eucharist? How can you tell they “understand” what it is?

If they are allowed to receive, I’m afraid that makes a good argument for infants being allowed to receive too. :slight_smile:

Yes, I’m Orthodox, how did you guess? :smiley:

You bring up a good question! I don’t have the answer for you! Hopefully someone will be able to explain it correctly!

I do, however understand your question - if anyone can receive it - why not infants?

The Bishop that I was speaking with was referencing his niece who was “retarded” (forgive me - I’m not sure of the current PC term), however, was able to verbally express that she understood that it was the body and blood of Christ (even though she was unable to get past Kindergarten).

I really am interested in how the church deals with other situations that are not so straight forward!

I am sure puzzleannie can explain it better and will have the documents, as she is a DRE of some standing.

Mentally challenged children make their First Holy Communions and are confirmed. The ones in the Roman Rite have special programs. They are allowed to do so insofar as their capacities understand that they are not just receiving a very light snack at Mass, and that they are receiving the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I have agreed that the Roman Rite should adapt the tradition of Eastern Catholics, and have their babies receive all three sacraments of initiation at once. I have suggested ways for the bishop to confirm (chrismate) babies and little children.

You are correct. It is a pastoral decision when children with special needs are ready to receive. Those who will never reach the “age of Reason” are treated like infants and yes infants are able to receive Holy Communion and be Confirmed, it may require the Bishops permission in each case. Eastern Catholic Churches do this also.

Because that is the law in the Latin Church, Theologically they are able to receive as infants both Holy Communion and Confirmation.

What? Then how are infants able to receive Communion and Confirmation in the Byzantine rite theologically?

As it is in the law of the Latin Church it is merely a matter of discipline.

Isn’t that what I just said?

we have discussed the Eastern Rites practice of fully initiating infants elsewhere, so we are not going there on this thread.

At present “the age of reason” or the age of discretion, or catechetical age, means capable of receiving and profiting from religious instruction, capable of distinguishing right from wrong (necessary for preparing for confession which must precede 1st communion), or age to understand the difference between ordinary bread and wine and the Sacred Species, that Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist, to exhibit a desire to receive Jesus, to understand at least the basics of the Mass and old enough to follow along, with an aid suitable to the child’s age if necessary (rather than playing with transformers or coloring and eating goldfish all through Mass).

A child of diminished ability to learn academically is not necessarily unable to learn enough to receive communion worthily. Many of these children, even those who are not verbal, can express eloquently their perception of Jesus present in the Sacrament and their desire to receive him, and can do so reverently and worthily.

It is an individual judgment made in the final instance by the pastor with the input of parents, godparents, catechists and others who know the child well.

before someone asks, because it always comes up in this context, yes, there are children who probably will never have a mental development of the capacity to freely, knowingly commit mortal sin. These children must still be prepared to the extent of their ability to understand the difference between right and wrong, ie. “hurting others and hurting yourself”, and offered the opportunity for first confession. It may very well be that they never “need” confession, but should always be given the opportunity if they ask for it. If they otherwise exhibit the understanding necessary to receive communion, the presumption should always be made in favor of receiving the sacraament.

No matter what the mental or physical condition of the child, all should be confirmed at the usual age in their diocese, or earlier if their condition is such that life expectancy is shortened.

I knew you’d know.

If they otherwise exhibit the understanding necessary to receive communion

So, there are those that can NEVER receive?

I’m sure I’ve seen people who are unable to express or understand… anything really, receive the Eucharist in the Orthodox Church.

All people are created in the image of God and all come into being through Christ. It is therefore logical that all souls love God and yearn for Him, and are thus “worthy” of receiving (no one is really worthy, hence the quotation marks), unless they are separated from God through sin. Now, those completely incapacitated by mental illness are quite possibly unable to sin seriously.

It seems unfair to deprive someone of Communion just b/c he was created by God in a different way. Or are these completely incapacitated people thought not to need Communion? I think I could accept that.

Thank you, puzzleannie.

I don’t think she said that.

To my mind, she said that even those who can’t communicate verbally STILL can express what is necessary to receive. Further, she said that even though a child does not have the capacity to commit mortal sin, he must still be prepared for confession, and given the opportunity to confess if he desires.

I believe (not completely sure) “captive souls” have even received.

In the everyday practice of bringing the mentally challenged to the Eucharist, some of the blame falls upon parents who are ignorant of the fact that their children, though made differently, have that opportunity. Most dioceses offer catechesis for such children, into their adult years, scaled to their capacity, including sacramental preparation. The parents either don’t know about it, or for some reason think erroneously their children are not eligible.

I admit i didn’t quite understand if this was what puzzleannie said. That’s why I asked for clarification. :slight_smile:

From what I understand, a person should be able to express, even in a non-verbal way, understanding of the Eucharist and a wish to receive it. What if a person can’t do even that? Would they still be somehow eligible to receive in the RCC?

Thank you.

It’s a level of understanding according to their mental capacity. The only people who may not regularly receive Holy Communion are those who cannot physically eat or drink. Then it may still be possible to place a single drop of Precious Blood in their mouth. But this takes special care.

I have given Holy Communion to Alzhimers (sp?) patients who did not know who they were or where they were, but knew exactly what Holy Communion was and said the Our Father along with me.

We have several severly handicapped children at our parish. I do not know the families so I cannot say with certainty exactly what the children are able to understand, but from observation I would say very ilttle. However, these children do receive Communion. They are brought to the front by their parents and you can see the change on their faces as they receive. One girl who regularly attends daily Mass with her mother makes me teary eyed each time I see he commune.

On another note, at our previous church (Lutheran) we had several mentally-challenged teens receive Confirmation in the same year once. They had a volunteer who worked with them to prepare them. At the Confirmation service when the other children recited a Bible passage and said what it meant to them, they (coached by the Pastor) said that they “loved Jesus more than anyone”. It brings tears to my eyes still.

no one should be deprived of the Eucharist unless there is a reason why they simply cannot receive, which is usually a physical one, inability to swallow etc. we have had several autistic children receive the sacraments lately, but two of them physically simply cannot, in the judgement of their parents and teacherss, receive without profaning the Eucharist, exhibit no desire and understanding whatever. the moment their situation changes they will be invited to receive.

the archdiocese of Chicago has an explemplary program which I hope will become a model for every diocese.

It’s the same in Orthodoxy - those who are physically unable to receive w/o profaning the Eucharist don’t receive. This also includes some babies with reflux issues etc.

Thank you!

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