Children receiving Communion

When and why did the Church stop communicating infants and children? Doesn’t Jesus say that without His Body and Blood we have no life in us? If entire families were baptized in the NT, including infants and small children, and we continue that practice today, why do we not also allow them the Eucharist, as the Orthodox do?

Jesus says a lot of different things are required in order to find life. It is the Church alone who decides the proper disciplines and requirements for the Sacraments, (as well as how to correctly interpret Scripture). The Catholic Church requires that communicants be of the age of reason, that they have an understanding of What and Who it is they are receiving. If a child were to die before their 1st Holy Communion it does not consign them to damnation. All this is covered in the Catechism.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but only the Roman Catholic Church out of the 23 Catholic Churches, have adopted this “age of reason” to apply to the Sacraments.

I agree, bring back Communion for all. It has been the way the Church has done things in the early days. If it was good for the Apostles and and Early Church Fathers, why is it not good for us today?

Both my kids (2 and 4 months) receive Communion.

We give children physical food for their nourishment - this allows them to grow

Why should we not give them spiritual food - the very Body and Blood of Christ - to allow them to grow spiritually ?

Receiving the Blessed Sacrament is an intense, mystical act. We have had throughout history examples of many saints who, as children, were well aware of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and longed to receive it. One example is St. Gerard Maiella, who was 8 years old at a time in which he was not yet allowed to receive the Eucharist, and yet he received the Eucharist from the hands of St. Michael Archangel.

Children must have reached the age of reason in order to understand that Christ is present in the Eucharist, that is, in order to give themselves to Christ, rather than just receiving Him.

“Bring back”??? We must remember that children were not allowed to receive the Eucharist at all until an age of 12 to 14 years old. It was St. Pius X who, greatly enlightened by the Holy Spirit, lowered the age to the “age of reason”, which the Church determined to be around 7 years old, when the child can distinguish between good and evil, but most importantly, when the child is able to distinguish that the species are not bread, but the real Body of Christ.

As for the 7 previous years, we still give them spiritual food…please remember the words of Chirst on this very matter:

“It is written,“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

We will have to agree to disagree

The history of children receiving the Eucharist from the time they are baptized goes back to the First Century. It was only at the beginning of the Second Millennium when the Roman Catholic Church changed the age for reception. So yes, it is “bringing back” this age-old, traditional practice. If children can receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism before age of reason, why can’t children receive Christ in the Eucharist?

The fact that relatively few Roman Catholics are aware of the fact that

a)Paedo-communion was the norm for the first millenium and

b)That it is still in use in some of the particular Churches in communion with Rome is lamentable and illustrates once again tellingly how little we know of other other 22 Churches and the various traditions and customs pertaining to them.

Point b above was drawn into sharp relief for me on two occasions recently, one was my father discussing the Eucharist with myself and my wife and my father been unable to get his head around the idea of infant communion. It was just too far outside his idea of what Catholicism is, it was not until my aunt who is a sister in a religious order explained it’s history to him that he could reconcile himself to it. Irish Catholicism can be woefully parochial mind you at times with regards to this sort of thing, although in Ireland itself the arrival of a relatively large Orthodox community over the past few decades has helped people be aware of other apostolic Church traditions.

Secondly and more worrying the subject of which Churches confect valid Eucharists came up between myself and a very devout African Catholic from Togo which is a ex-French colony. He was only aware of the Orthodox and like my father was bothered by the fact they allow infants to receive. I asked why as it is a part of the Catholic tradition as well, he was most upset and said this could not be so. However since he knows me a long time and knows I don’t make up things he checked with his priest who informed him that it was indeed the case. I fear I may have damaged his faith as he looked very troubled and said he would need to think about this practise which seemed very wrong to him.

I have also wondered why we wait until “the age of reason” before allowing children receive the Eucharist. Not that I’d dissenting from Church teachings – I simply don’t understand it. Why does it matter if they understand what they are receiving? Or, is there something in Catholic theology that states that a person must understand what they are receiving in order for transubstantiation to “work”?

God bless,

Children do receive the Eucharist. Second grade is the age of First Communion where I live, and they are children -eight years old. This is so those making their First Communion are able to understand what they are doing & why they are doing it. Younger than that and they do not grasp the meaning. The children need to be given instruction before they can understand the sacrament.

Does transubstantiation only occur when a person understands? Also, does a person only receive grace when they understand?

Those are the two important questions.


The reason that the Latin Catholic Church and some of the eastern Catholic churches have a different sacramental discipline is one of emphasis and also administration. The emphasis in the Latin Church is on perfecting commitment in advance, and in those churches where the full initiation is given to infants, is the nurturing of the Holy Spirit, and that baptism is only completed when partaking of the most Most Pure Body and Blood with the reset of the believing community. (John 6:53.) In both east and west the ideal order (not always followed) of Christian initiation is Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation), and Eucharist. In the west when the profanation of the Eucharist was feared, the Blood of Christ was withheld from all, therefore infants no longer received because they received liquid only.

Originally whole families were baptized together. Also, originally the bishop initiated, east and west. This practice diversified in east and west when the bishops were not able to get to everyone soon enough, so priests were delegated to initiate in the east, but rather a delay of Confirmation was adopted in the west, with the priest delegated to baptize.

The baptismal tradition is for the bishop to confirm (originally the imposition of hands) rather than for the priest to chrismate with the Holy Myron from the eparch.

Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition (earliest Verona edition 215 A.D.) describes this original initiation practice in this order:


  1. bishop makes oil of thanksgiving and oil of exorcism
  2. anointing with oil of exorcism
  3. nude baptism (by triple immersion)
  4. anointing with oil of thanksgiving (then dry and get dressed)


  1. then in the church, bishop says dismissal rite over the neophytes: “Lord God, you have made them worthy to receive remission of sins through the laver of regeneration of the Holy Spirit, etc.”
  2. laying on of hands together with oil
  3. sealing with oil on the forehead
  4. the kiss of peace prayer

9. deacons bring oblation (bread and wine, water,milk, and honey *)
10. the oblation is blessed
11. the milk and honey are mixed together
12. the bread is distributed
13. each tastes of the water, milk, and wine, three times.

  • The Coptic church still preserves the use of milk and honey at the Christian Initiation.


This is a practice that developed due to historical reasons, in the West. As others have mentioned, communion was given to all (including infants) during the baptism-chrismation-eucharist event, going way back to the early first centuries of the Church. However, as the Church started developing her doctrine of the Eucharist, and understanding what the “Real Presence” actually meant, one side effect appeared: folks restricted the distribution of the Eucharist out of a heightened sense of piety. As a result, the age for reception of the Eucharist – in the West – was raised to the age at which a child received Confirmation (which, for different reasons, had become something that they might receive ten years or more after their baptism).

To your question of what makes transubstantiation ‘work’, the answer is that this isn’t the issue – after all, the Eucharist is the Eucharist by virtue of the action of the priest; it’s presence (or lack thereof) isn’t affected by the recipient (or even the holiness of the priest). However, the ability to receive the grace that the Eucharist provides, the recipient has to be well-disposed (i.e., in a state of grace). So, a person in the state of mortal sin receives the Real Presence in the Eucharist, but receives no grace from it. A child, prior to the ‘age of reason’, could be said to be without imputation of sin. But, would they understand their action?



I don’t think the Church teaches this, do you have a source for this?

Wouldn’t the “age of reason” argument also effectively bar mentally handicapped people from receiving because they can not discern the presence in some scholastic way? Also, i know the current order in the latin church for initiation rites if different then it was not to long ago. If a child is baptized but doesn’t get confirmed until 8th grade, thus becoming a “full” cathic member, what was she in the meantime? And why can she receive without being fully initiated through confirmation? On a side note, seeing infants receive is a beautiful thing to witness.

I have heard it explained differently: that the grace is not efficacious

Sorry but I do not have a source.

And infants also receive communion regularly in the Catholic Church in some of the particular Churches. We in the Roman Catholic Church are under particular disciplines regarding this matter but we should not forget that other sui iuris Churches have differing traditions. We we should be careful when talking about this issue to remember their traditions are of equal dignity and if the argument that ‘younger than that and they do not grasp the meaning’ is awkward to advance even in light of the fact (as was pointed out by another poster) that infant communion was the norm in the west for a thousand years or so.

I have seen my own parish priest administer communion to an infant from an eastern Church AND explain why he did so the parishioners. Members of the Eastern Churches who practise paedo-communion have a right to expect this to be administered by Roman Catholic priests, although some horror stories regarding that have appeared on the forum from time to time over the period I have been a member. I vividly remember one poster who said she was refused this on the reasoning ‘it would confuse the other parishioners.’ She was unable to attend a parish of her particular Church and thus she felt trapped and as though the customs of her Church were been disregarded.

As has been suggested by some of the posts here the reason for the delay in receiving First Communion by the Roman Church was originally a by-product of the delay in receiving Confirmation.

Pius X no doubt rightly concluded that younger children ought to be allowed to receive the Eucharist but apparently did not conclude that children needed to be confirmed at a younger age first.

Regardless of whether or not they think the Western Church should confirm/chrismate infants at the same time they are baptized, many of the master catechists with whom I have spoken believe that the Roman Church should move to the “restored order” of the sacraments. In other words, Confirmation, at whatever age, should come before First Eucharist.

Although far from a master catechist or even a great Catholic I’d agree with restoring the order of the sacraments also.

I disagree completely!!! No one has a right to expect a Roman Catholic priest to do things any differently. I would question the priest who did this because he should follow the rules of the diocese in which he practices. We should not change things because others want or expect us to. The “customs of her church” are irrelevant since she was not in her church. I would never go to another church and expect the rules to be changed for me. That is totally disrespectful and rude.
While it is proper to accept the beliefs of others, it is improper to follow their practices when they interfere with the RCC’s Mass.
As for the first part of your post, we are in 2012 and should follow the teachings that are presently in place, not those of times past. The Church has decided things needed to be changed and others should respect this. I did not say the traditions of others were not worthy of dignity, I simply explained what the RCC teaches! People of other traditions should respect those of others rather than expect theirs to be implemented to suit them.

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