Remember, if it is Easter, it is time for news stories that make the Church look bad.
I was alerted to this by a reader and it brings up a good question:
Please note this short hit piece dished out at Easter by a Texas TV
station. This little piece contains so much innuendo on proper
disposition to receive, a priest’s authority, canon law, and even
anointing of the sick that it seemed worth passing on for your
Child Denied First Communion
Family Of Floresville 8-Year-Old Fighting For Holy Sacrament
(Excerpt) FLORESVILLE, Texas — It was a religious milestone Irma
Castro spent months preparing her grandson Kevin for, but when it came time for his first communion, he was denied. [The way this is written makes it sound as if this happened in church, during Mass.]
“It hurts and I think it’s a form of discrimination,” Castro said.
Castro was told by Pastor, Father Phil Henning, with the Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Floresville, that because Kevin had cerebral palsy and has the mental capacity of a 6-month-old, he didn’t qualify to receive his first communion. [And the priest is right. And this is why we need continuing catechism for adults, especially when it comes to the sacramental preparation of their children.]
“He said because he was not able to understand the meaning of receiving the body of Christ,” Castro said. [And the priest is right.]
Canon law requires that a child receiving holy communion have
“sufficient knowledge” of Christ, but it doesn’t define what level of knowledge is considered sufficient. [Canon Law doesn't say exactly, true. But it doesn't say nothing.]
The Code of Canon Law does not specify everything. But, in basic, terms the person has to be able to know the difference between bread which has not been consecrated, and “bread” which has been. Put another way, if a child can’t distinguish between ordinary food and, once told it is consecrated, a Host, then the child can’t be admitted to Communion.
Can. 97.2 there is a presumption of age of the use the reason at about 7, unless circumstances demonstrate otherwise.
Can. 913.1, says that people must be able to grasp something of what the mystery of Christ means. They must be able to receive the Body of the Lord with faith and devotion.
Can. 913.2 the Eucharist may be administered to children in danger of death if they can distinguish it from ordinary food.
Can. 914 says that the parish priest must see to it that those who are not prepared and not sufficiently capable, should not come to Holy Communion.
In this case it sounds as it the parish priest did the right thing in the final analysis. Of course there is nothing in the news piece about the manner in which the priest passed on this information to the parents.
It must be a terrible thing for parents to know that their child may never be able to receive the Eucharist. But admission to the sacraments is not governed by sentimentality. We don’t admit children who are incapable of receiving the Eucharist with faith and devotion simply for the sake of avoiding making parents feel bad.
I am frankly not sure that many of the adults going forward for Communion on Sunday could tell you what the Eucharist is, even at the level a 7 year old’s knowledge before First Communion.
Imagine my horror one day when I was asked to explain children about a week out from their First Communion what some of the things in church are. First, they had never been taught to genuflect. That got me to the tabernacle. I explained why we genuflect before the tabernacle: this is where the Hosts are kept, where Jesus can be found when you come into Church, etc. Blank stares. Hosts… [crickets] …. Eucharist… [crickets] wafers… [crickets]…. the small round white Host people receive at Communion… [crickets] ….
Then one little soon-to-be-First-Communicant said, and I quote, “You mean that piece of bread thing?”
Parents: Don’t assume that your children are learning anything in their sacramental preparation.
YOU are the first teachers of your children. If you don’t instruct them properly to the best of your ability, then you will be help accountable by God for their lack of sufficient preparation. Do your best. The parish’s sacramental prep programs are not your surrogates. That means that you have to know your stuff.