ASK FATHER: Giving Latin Church children sacraments before the usual ages.

Baptism_Sainte-Chapelle_MNMA_Cl23717 sacramentsFrom a reader…

QUAERITUR:

My husband and I could potentially have our three children (ages 5, 2, and infant) receive their remaining Sacraments of Initiation while on an extended visit with family in a different state. Though Latin Rite, we attended an Ukrainian Catholic Church when we ourselves lived in that state. Before we approach our priest and theirs, we were wondering if there’s any reason why would shouldn’t pursue this option.

Prompting this are a few things:

1) we do not live in a diocese with the restored Rite, and 2) our eldest has special needs and is on his own timetable for the reception of the Sacraments.

By “remaining Sacraments of Initiation” I presume you mean Confirmation and First Holy Communion. Presumably all three children are already baptized. I’m not exactly certain what you mean by the “restored Rite”. Has the diocese in which you live not yet implemented the liturgical books promulgated after the Council? Or do you consider the allowance for the use of the liturgical books in force in 1962 under the provisions of Summorum Pontificum to be the “restored Rite?”  Or (and if I had to bet money, I would guess this is what is meant) do you mean the restored order of the sacraments, where Confirmation is put before First Holy Communion and is administered at about the age of reason?

While all Catholic Churches are in full communion with each other, and sacramental sharing is ordinarily acceptable, there is a lot to be said for living the traditions and practices of one’s own Church.

We Latins respect the traditions of the Eastern Churches, but we also respect our own traditions and practices.  (This is one reason why I think that our Latin churches should look like our Latin churches and not be made over as quasi Eastern churches.)

To introduce a Latin child to reception of the Holy Eucharist before the age of reason is not in keeping with our venerable tradition and practice. Canon 913 speaks of administering the Blessed Sacrament to children once they have sufficient knowledge. This ties into can. 97, wherein the age of reason is presumed to be 7.

While our Eastern brothers administer this sacrament to infants, that is not our Latin tradition. Again, we respect their tradition, but we also respect our own.

It is also to be asked: Under normal circumstances, what benefit is there in having one’s children receive the sacraments apart from the other children of their own parish?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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42 Responses to ASK FATHER: Giving Latin Church children sacraments before the usual ages.

  1. Former Altar Boy says:

    Father, didn’t Pope Benedict recommend or at least encourage Confirmation at the same time as Baptism for the Western Church?

  2. Hans says:

    I suspect what she means is restoring the order of the sacraments to Baptism-Confirmation-Eucharist instead of Baptism-Eucharist-Confirmation. There has been a move in some dioceses to make such a change to BCE from BEC, but it seems to take different forms in different dioceses from what little I’ve seen.

    Chicago has not been one of those dioceses, but I have heard rumor that some parishes here have made similar changes.

  3. gracie says:

    From a practical point of view, it would seem, at least to me, that the Sacraments of the Latin Rite are physically “set up” to be given to children who have reached the age of reason – traditionally 7 years old. I’m wondering how it would work to bring a 5, 2, and infant up to Holy Communion when they return to their home parish? The infant is too young to take into his mouth and swallow the Host and nor could he drink from the chalices that are used. The 2 year old would quite likely have pieces of the Host on the outside of his mouth – doubt he’s old enough to simply put it into his mouth and swallow it and he may even spit parts of it out if he doesn’t want it at that moment – also, he couldn’t hold the cup by himself – he could try, of course, but the chances of his dropping it are great; even if someone held it for him he might drink too much and then you have the Precious Blood dribbling down his face. The 5 year old? – maybe – but I still think someone would have to hold the chalice for him and still am not sure how he’d handle the Host. Along with this are the conversations you’d be having with the priest or EM’s each time you go to Communion in trying to convince them that your children can receive the Eucharist. They would need proof first and then they’d have to figure out how the children could receive it properly and reverently.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    Why would an eastern rite church agree to give sacraments of initiation to small children of a visiting Latin Rite family? They would be able to see that the children were Latin Rite when presented the baptismal certificates and then they would need to inform the (Latin Rite) church where the children were baptized that they received Confirmation and Eucharist so that it could be recorded on the baptismal register, and wouldn’t that be awkward? If that’s the home parish then the pastor back home (whose permission they presumably didn’t seek) would realize that the family had their tiny tots confirmed at an eastern rite parish rather than have the children participate in the home parish’s sacramental preparation and receive the sacraments in their own parish community as is always preferred and expected.

    Also does that mean the children are changing rites, so that the children belong to a different ritual Church than the parents?

    Like someone else said, this also creates problems in relation to the children being able to receive Holy Communion in the home parish, which does not do infant Communion.

    I’m sure these parents are well meaning but I really think they should not do this even if somehow it is allowed by the eastern rite priest.

  5. ConstantlyConverting says:

    I wonder about the courage of the Holy Spirit for young people who are baptized and confirmed rather than chrismated. I wonder about the protections Paul speaks of, especially in this age of pornogeaphic inundation, tied to reception of the Eucharist.

    In any event, I trust that God has the situation under control.

  6. byzantinesteve says:

    The questioner and her husband will need to decide what church their family will be members of. Presumably, the children were baptized in the Latin rite which would mean that until or unless the family petitions their own bishop and the Ukrainian bishop to formally change rites, the children would receive their sacraments of initiation in the Latin rite. If the family would like to affiliate with the Ukrainian church but attend a Latin parish, that would be acceptable. However, the process to change rites requires the permission of the two bishops.

    At my parish (Ruthenian), we have had Ukrainian Catholics who are members of the parish have their children receive the sacraments of initiation. Each time, my pastor follows the proper protocol of obtaining permission from the other bishop before going through with the sacraments. Similarly, the Ukrainian pastor at the family’s church out of state *should be* getting the permission of the other Latin bishop.

  7. Gerard Plourde says:

    It seems to me that the practice of admitting children to the Eucharist at the age of reason (traditionally 7) rather than earlier is quite sensible. As to the question of BCE vs. BEC, it seems to me that St. Pius X’s act in changing the order was reasonable. Since Confirmation can only ordinarily be conferred by a bishop based on his schedule while admission to the Eucharist is done at a parish level the possibility of depriving children of access to the Sacred Species constitues a greater potential harm. One can conceivably miss receiving Confirmation on the date the bishop is available. It is unthinkable that someone having attained the of of reason and being in the state of grace should be denied reception of the life-giving Body and Blood of Our Lord for having not been confirmed.

  8. DavidJ says:

    Under normal circumstances, what benefit is there in having one’s children receive the sacraments apart from the other children of their own parish?

    I’d say at least for Confirmation, it provides the benefit of badly needed graces that my children need to desk with the constant exposure to a culture of death. If Confirmation is as efficacious as a Catholics claim, then why delay?

  9. Deo Credo says:

    Perhaps the lady means her diocese doesn’t grant faculties to Latin priests. The neighboring diocese to mine doesn’t allow their people to be confirmed by the local Institute of Christ the King priests.

  10. Ace says:

    Fr. Z, I have had this same question. My children eagerly desire to receive Confirmation, but they are 7 or 8 years too young in our Latin Rite diocese. Our diocese has not responded to our requests for the Sacrament, but the Maronite Rite down the street has already said they would do it. Would it be wrong to take the kids there to “get” Confirmation?

  11. Pearl says:

    If I may ask in a serious way: Under normal circumstances, what benefit is there TO having one’s children receive the sacraments WITH the other children of their own parish?

    I don’t know if there are many. I received my First Communion with my family, as did all my children. Just wondering why the supposition is that with the other children is better.

    Thank you!

  12. Nan says:

    Elizabeth D, Eastern Rite churches have a whole different thought process than Latin Rite which is far more legalistic (using the phrase of my Ruthenian priest, who is a secular lawyer although not licensed in the US). If extended family belongs to the parish I would assume that no questions would be asked. I don’t know that the Eastern Rite adds other sacraments to that on the baptism certificate as the norm would be Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion at the same time, although, having been raised in my wrong rite, I don’t know the order.

    The rite in which you receive the Sacraments has no bearing on the rite to which you belong; my father was raised in the Latin Rite out of necessity as there was no Eastern Catholic church in the area. The fact that he lived and died without knowing that is immaterial; his rite was dependent on his father’s and his father was Ruthenian. That means I’m Ruthenian yet my parish is the Latin diocesan Cathedral.

    Receiving sacraments with the others from one’s parish would be a good thing as these are the people with whom one has gone through religious ed classes and it’s more or less a cohesive group. Not having received my sacraments with other children from my parish, I have no idea; I received my first communion outside of Mass, alone in the Church but for Father and my mom and was confirmed on the 4th anniversary of St. John Paul IIs death.

  13. Imrahil says:

    What Gerhard Plourde says, and for an additional reason.

    Having Confirmation before Communion is a quite fine example of merely-a-tradition, originating from the fact that this order makes sense if the three Sacraments are conferred at once in the first place.

    Otherwise, you simply don’t withhold Communion from a baptized Christian in the state of grace (as far as that can be known) who has reached the age of reason and knows, a bit, what it is. Confirmation, on the other hand, is amongst other things the Sacrament of maturity-in-Faith (that isn’t modern catechetics, but plain old St. Thomas) and of fighting-for-the-Faith. There is no systematical reason to restrict Communion to the mature-in-Faith and the fighters-for-the-Faith.

    (Plus, in plain practics, that means that Confirmation reasonably is not conferred at seven years of age, but a couple of years later – much as I dislike the tendency to ever extend that period, to 18 or what not, but in principle it makes sense. And also it makes sense that they receive formal catechetical training before. During the period, they should not be without Holy Communion, least of all when, as may happen, they are already within puberty.)

  14. cwillia1 says:

    Reading between the lines, it seems the inquirers don’t want to deal with sacramental preparation in their home parish. If the Ukrainian priest agreed to do it – a big if – the children would be chrismated and communed and whenever they attend the Divine Liturgy in an Eastern Rite they would receive. At the age of reason, someone would teach them how to confess their sins and they would walk into a confessional. Would the parents present them for communion in the Latin Rite home parish? It’s not clear that they plan to do this. I would encourage them to wait until they have made their first confession. I just don’t see an issue here.

    Regarding the Western practice of routinely communing children who have not been confirmed this is a recent practice not a venerable tradition and it is a barrier to reunion with the Eastern churches because many see it as an abuse. There is a simple solution. Whenever the bishop visits the parish he confirms all the baptized children who haven’t received the sacrament. Then children at the age of reason are taught to confess their sins, confess, and are communed. Any child who has fallen between the cracks could be confirmed by the priest after confession and before communion.

    We don’t know the inquirer’s motivation. It seems like what they propose to do is a possible solution to a problem in the home parish.

  15. Matthew Gaul says:

    By all means be obedient … however, in my opinion, withholding graces from children for secondary reasons should be re-thought.

    If my parents had consulted with me as a newborn, I would have preferred to receive all of those graces immediately, instead of waiting around for the merely intellectual appreciation of the reasons behind bishops retaining Confirmation to themselves, etc.

    I have read in Eastern Christian books reports of infants being more peaceable for the rest of the day after receiving the Eucharist. As I am also such myself, this seems highly credible.

  16. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    How old is this so-called tradition of the Latin church to look to an “age of reason”? 100 years old? 200? or over 1000?

    If near 1000 or certainly over 1000 years old, no problem. But anything since the French Revolution at a minimum would have to be suspect and hardly called a “tradition”.

  17. Suburbanbanshee says:

    IIRC, in St. Thomas Aquinas’ time, most Catholics received Confirmation at the age of reason, and Communion shortly afterward (although sometimes this involved catechism for a while first). Hence the maturity in faith thing – you were now responsible for your own actions.

    This was not the same age as legal maturity for contracts or marriage!

  18. Elizabeth D says:

    So if an eastern parish Confirms (Chrismates) a Latin Rite child they do not attempt to get it recorded on the child’s Baptismal certificate? This could throw a wrench in things down the line for the child when they are trying to marry, enter religious life, be a godparent, etc.

    Cheesesteak Expert, waiting till the age of reason for Holy Communion is obviously based on the words of St Paul about discerning the body. If the child doesn’t know Who Jesus is and cannot discern that the Eucharist is Jesus then they are not old enough.

  19. MrsMacD says:

    When in Rome do as the Romans do?

    If a child before the use of reason recieves graces, if a child that is bapised is truly a saint, if that child is full of the Holy Ghost and free of sin, why is that child refused what God freely gives? Who is to say that the child is less deserving than the adult? Of course we must be obedient to Holy Mother church, and in so doing, do the Will of God but if Holy Mother Church allows your baby to recieve Jesus through the Eastern Rite, then why refuse? If asking for graces can procure them why keep silent? Ask the priest, accept his answer as the Will of God.

    Holy God I beg Thee to have mercy on the little children! Draw them close to the stream of Precious Blood dripping from your wounded Heart and heal them, protect them, keep them pure, draw them ever and ever deeper into union with You!

    I would not try to convince a Latin Rite priest to give my two year old Holy Communion but if I attended an Eastern Rite parish where this is the norm I would ask that my child be admitted.

    [So… shall we toss the Church’s laws out?]

  20. William Tighe says:

    Imrahil wrote:

    “Having Confirmation before Communion is a quite fine example of merely-a-tradition, originating from the fact that this order makes sense if the three Sacraments are conferred at once in the first place.”

    while cwillia1 wrote:

    “Regarding the Western practice of routinely communing children who have not been confirmed this is a recent practice not a venerable tradition and it is a barrier to reunion with the Eastern churches because many see it as an abuse.”

    The latter is certainly accurate historically. In England during the late Middle Ages a bishop, whether the diocesan bishop or an assistant bishop in partibus, would visit all the parishes in his diocese, in many cases not at all frequently, and on these visits would confirm anybody who had not rec’d the sacrament previously, from babes in arms, even newly-baptized ones, to children, teenagers and even young adults – and until receiving confirmation, age of reason attained or not, one was not supposed to be allowed to communicate. Whether this requirement was always observed is not clear; it was not observed in some parts of continental Europe, where dioceses were very large and bishops often lacksadaisical in the discharge of their spiritual duties, while in Italy, where dioceses tended to be numerous and small, it was usually observed sedulously.

    In the Byzantine Rite — and please, people, do not use the ignorant phrase “the Eastern Rite” (as “in the Eastern rite”); there are at least nine very different ritual traditions in the Catholic Oriental churches, and numerous slightly variant versions of the Byzantine Rite in the various ecclesiae sui juris that follow the Byzantine tradition, and there are major differences between some of these rites — nobody who had not been baptized and christmated (confirmed) should be admitted to communion. I suspect that some Eastern Catholic clergy in more than one jurisdiction “in the diaspora” have “looked the other way” at times concerning this requirement, but it is really quite improper in terms of Eastern sacramentology to do so.

    “How old is this so-called tradition of the Latin church to look to an ‘age of reason’? 100 years old? 200? or over 1000?”

    At least 700 years, although probably no older them 900 or 1000 at most.

  21. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    Thank you. I’d like to build on your analysis regarding Confirmation.

    If one accepts the traditional view that Confirmation’s roots can be found in the Feast of Pentecost, then the order of Echarist before Confirmation has biblical roots. This is further supported by Our Lord’s words to the Apostles as recorded in John 16: 7-15 and in Acts 1:8. The descent of the Holy Spirit and the granting of the Spirit’s Gifts occur after the Institution of the Eucharist.

    As to the comment that a delay in being admitted to the Table of the Lord would not be undue because the unconfirmed could receive the Sacrament of Conformation during the Bishop’s visit to the parish – the plain fact is that not every parish receives an annual visit by the Bishop. This is the case even in my Archdiocese (Philadelphia) which has the blessing of Auxilary Bishops. The logistics are just not possible.

    As St. Pius X reasoned, the graces and benefits of frequent reception of the Sacred Species are so great that they should be made available to children at the earliest opportunity once they can comprehend the mystery of the Real Presence (however rudimentary this understanding may be). The age of reason (traditionally 7) is a logical point. The understanding of the Gifts and Fruits conferred by Confirmation seems to require more sophisticated reasoning and argue for an older age (11 to 14 is customary range in this Archdiocese).

  22. Ace says:

    I think that the answer to the original questioner is that we all need to inform our Bishops about the needs of our children in today’s age. According to the “signs of the times,” they need all the help they can get! The more parents the Bishops hear from, the more they will realize this pressing need.

  23. MrsMacD says:

    So shall we toss the Church’s laws out?

    Hmmm.

    I’m sure the Church has some reason for her laws in the latin rite or whatever you call what the eastern churches do. So God allows both? Right? So it’s not contrary to law or reason. Even a newborn in danger of death can be confirmed in the Latin Rite. So, there is a safeguard here for some reason but God still allows it in the Eastern churches.

    I will be obedient to Holy Mother Church, God help me, whatever her laws are. And as I have never stepped foot into an Eastern Catholic church I will continue to follow what we do where we are in the Latin Rite, but I’m not against doing what they do and should Francis allow communion for babes I could not present one reason to deny them short of ‘the baby might spit Jesus out,’ to which I would reply. “Do they have that problem at the Eastern churches? How do they deal with/prevent it.” If they do have that problem and no real solution, then I would not be for it, period.

    At one time people had to be adults before they could recieve Jesus in the Latin church, Pope St. Pius X changed that. I wonder what the oposition had to say.

  24. Matt R says:

    Dropping the age of reason to around 7 is what made sense in the Pian reforms. The B-E-C order of the sacraments, however, is not what makes sense. It is not the tradition anywhere in the church. The delay in Confirmation is due to the Latin practice of it being administered by the bishop. That’s not something that should be eliminated, given its antiquity and persistence. But why does it matter if the confirmandi are 6 or 16 in that case? The bishop will visit anyways!

  25. Volanges says:

    Communion at the age of reason dates back only to 1910. Before that it was much later but Pius X asked that children be admitted to Communion earlier and that’s when the traditional order of Baptism, Confirmation, Communion became toppled.

    Again, Confirmation IS NOT a sacrament of maturity and requires no understanding since in the Latin Rite one who hasn’t been confirmed is confirmed in danger of death whether at a day old or 80 years old. OTOH, unlike our Eastern and Orthodox brethren, one doesn’t receive Communion, even when in danger of dying, unless one has a basic understanding of it and an ability to receive with reverence. Some 4 year olds have that, some don’t.

  26. StWinefride says:

    In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the order of reception of the Sacraments of Initiation in Sacramentum Caritatis, specifically in paragraphs 17 and 18 (my emphasis)

    http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20070222_sacramentum-caritatis.html

    The Eucharist, the fullness of Christian initiation

    17. If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the Church’s life and mission, it follows that the process of Christian initiation must constantly be directed to the reception of this sacrament. As the Synod Fathers said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities the close link between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is sufficiently recognized. (46) It must never be forgotten that our reception of Baptism and Confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist. Accordingly, our pastoral practice should reflect a more unitary understanding of the process of Christian initiation. The sacrament of Baptism, by which we were conformed to Christ,(47) incorporated in the Church and made children of God, is the portal to all the sacraments. It makes us part of the one Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:13), a priestly people. Still, it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of Christ’s Body (1 Cor 12) and for ever greater witness to the Gospel in the world. (48) The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the centre and goal of all sacramental life. (49)

    The order of the sacraments of initiation

    18. In this regard, attention needs to be paid to the order of the sacraments of initiation. Different traditions exist within the Church. There is a clear variation between, on the one hand, the ecclesial customs of the East (50) and the practice of the West regarding the initiation of adults, (51) and, on the other hand, the procedure adopted for children. (52) Yet these variations are not properly of the dogmatic order, but are pastoral in character. Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation. In close collaboration with the competent offices of the Roman Curia, Bishops’ Conferences should examine the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically eucharistic direction, so that they can offer a reason for the hope within them in a way suited to our times (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/bishop-aquila-receives-popes-praise-for-reordering-sacraments/

  27. pjsandstrom says:

    Pope Saint Pius X, it should be noted, indicated that the ‘age of reason’ was in the 7th year of life. For people who think in Italian, and Latin, that means ‘after the 6th Birthday’ (that is, in the 7th year of life). The Papal Saint was taking this 7th year as the ‘in principle upper limit’ for the reception of Confirmation and Eucharist. Read closely the Roman Rite in the ‘official praenotanda’ for the Rituals is far more flexible for ages of Confirmation and Eucharistic Reception than most people realize. The general point of view in these ‘praenotanda’ is to confirm as early as possible, followed by the Eucharist. [This thus approaching, at least ‘in principle’, the general custom of the Eastern Church. ] The ‘old-fashioned’ Hispanic custom was/is that when the Bishop visits the parish for a ‘parish visitation’ he would expect to confirm all born since his last visit (expected to be within 5 years past) — even if the baby was a week old, or even younger.

  28. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Volanges,

    The sticking point surrounding the conferral(?) of Confirmation is the fact that its ordinary mininster is the bishop, not the parish priest. This, of necessity, limits the time and circumstances of its administration. By making reception of Confirmation a prerequisite for reception of the Eucharist one puts an unnecessary barrier between the children and the One Who said “Let the children to come to me and do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Lk 18:16. I am hesitant to thwart the Lord’s clear desire and so assent to the wisdom of St. Pius X.

    Further, the practice of the Patriarchal(?) Churches in union with Holy See is not helpful as the parish priest is the ordinary minister of Chrismation (Confirmation) in those Rites. (I’m trying to find an appropriate title for these as Byzantine is not an appropriate umbrella term because the Chaldean Rite, the Syro-Malabar Rite or the Syro-Malankara Rite had no connection to Byzantium).

  29. Volanges says:

    The 1983 Code of Canon Law requires that, outside the danger of death, people be properly instructed before they are confirmed.

    Can. 889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.
    §2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

    Can. 890 The faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament at the proper time. Parents and pastors of souls, especially pastors of parishes, are to take care that the faithful are properly instructed to receive the sacrament and come to it at the appropriate time.

    Can. 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.

  30. eulogos says:

    I am a Latin rite Catholic who usually attends a Ruthenian rite parish. I have observed children there receiving communion from infancy and I have to say that this is one part of Eastern practice that I wish could be adopted universally. It was the practice east and west in the first 1000 years. Since communion in the east is received on a spoon, the priest just puts a tiny drop of the Precious Blood on the infant’s tongue. I have heard some priests do it with a finger. As soon as they can swallow solid food they receive a tiny fragment of the wine soaked bread (which is the Body and Blood of Christ but the language gets difficult when describing how this is done.) In the west the person giving out communion could have a tiny spoon to use, or use a finger. A tiny tiny fragment of the host also would melt down on the tongue and not harm a baby. It isn’t an impossibility. The benefit of it seems to me to be that the children regard themselves as part of what is going on from the beginning. If children are fussy and troublesome, which seems to be rare, their parents don’t bring them up for communion, and that seems to have the effect of making them want to be better. The twins I saw receive from infancy were walking up by themselves and receiving with solemnity by the time they were three. I love to see it and I think it is wonderful for the children.

    There are western customs, ceremonies, and practices that I am loathe to give up to become thoroughly Eastern. I realize I am quite Western in my mental theological framework and am not sure I can become thoroughly eastern enough to switch rites. But when I see Western children in their parents arms holding bottles while their parents kneel at the altar rail to receive, and I know Eastern children would be receiving Christ instead of sucking on that bottle, I feel that here is a place where the East has it all over the West. They have just got it right.

    As for these parents, I think they really want to join the East. Perhaps they should get the permission of their bishops and do so. Then if they live where there is no eastern parish, they will have a struggle getting the Latin rite priest to commune their children, but once they are eastern the children will have an absolute right to do so. Eastern Catholic parents sometimes have to go to the bishop to get Latin rite priests to commune their infants and small children, but they do have that right.

    However, while they are Latin rite they have to use the practices of the Latin rite.

    Susan Peterson

  31. AJS says:

    Latin Rite priests must commune properly disposed Eastern Catholic children who have been communed at their Baptism and Chrismation. There have been many problem occurrences where Latin priests have been woefully ignorant of their obligation to commune Eastern Catholic and Orthodox infants and young children. To do so would most likely put that Latin rite priest into a defacto state of schism as he has excommunicated himself from the Eastern communicants.

    Also, there should be legitimate discussion whether we in the Eastern and Oriental Catholic Churches should commune Latin children who have not been Chrismated. They should normally be absolutely forbidden from receiving the Eucharist if they have not been fully initiated.

    Why can’t the Latin Church embrace a proper theology of Baptism and Chrismation and Communion instead of this bizarre sacramental carrot-stick paradigm that turns Communion into a party and Chrismation into a “Catholic Bar mitzvah?” It is shameful that the Latin Church would create yet another barrier to full communion with the Orthodox Churches by embracing this so obviously flawed sacramental practice – which leads to a backwards and artificial theological explanation of why the sacraments are disordered.

  32. robtbrown says:

    AJS says,

    Why can’t the Latin Church embrace a proper theology of Baptism and Chrismation and Communion instead of this bizarre sacramental carrot-stick paradigm that turns Communion into a party and Chrismation into a “Catholic Bar mitzvah?”

    Catholic theology of Baptism and Confirmation is fine, at least that of St Thomas. I do agree, however, that the praxis of Confirmation in certain dioceses in the US, where it is delayed until the teenager years, is too much like a Bar Mitzvah or its Protestant equivalent. It ignores, or worse contradicts, the principle of ex opere operato, which is the foundation for all the Sacraments.

    Also: Cardinal Ratzinger more than once noted that the liturgical changes since Vat II have been an impediment to Ecumenism with the Orthodox.

  33. Fr. John says:

    “Otherwise, you simply don’t withhold Communion from a baptized Christian in the state of grace (as far as that can be known) who has reached the age of reason and knows, a bit, what it is.”

    I ask this as a confused Orthodox observer. My intention is not to argue or start a debate, but this confuses me. Whence this requirement of having reached the age of reason? It’s clear that communion, even in the West, used to be administered to children. So the prohibition has to be on the level of pastoral practice rather than dogmatic prohibition (and indeed, it can’t be dogmatic since Rome encourages the Eastern sui juris Churches to commune infants). So why does it sound like this is being stated as if it as an absolute requirement?

    “Confirmation, on the other hand, is amongst other things the Sacrament of maturity-in-Faith (that isn’t modern catechetics, but plain old St. Thomas) and of fighting-for-the-Faith.”

    How can that be so, when confirmation used to be administered with baptism, even to children? We know from Western synods that even through the 12th century, there were debates if it was permissible to wait more than two years post baptism to confirm confirmation. And when it’s still done so in the Eastern Churches? Must it not be the case that the tying of confirmation to catechesis and maturity in faith is, perhaps, an additional use given to the sacrament for pastoral reasons, but not part of the essence of the sacrament itself?

    This issue confuses me.

  34. Fr. John says:

    “Cheesesteak Expert, waiting till the age of reason for Holy Communion is obviously based on the words of St Paul about discerning the body. If the child doesn’t know Who Jesus is and cannot discern that the Eucharist is Jesus then they are not old enough.”

    If that were what St. Paul meant, wouldn’t that mean that administering the Eucharist to children in the Eastern Churches would be, not just a different pastoral practice, but an actual abuse that would need to be stopped? When statements like this are made, it makes me wonder, as an Orthodox, how the Roman Church actually views such things and if this is a difference that would need to be overcome for reunion or not.

  35. The Cobbler says:

    If I’m not mistaken, saying that Pius X lowered the age for Communion to 7ish (whether by reducing it to the age of reason or reducing the legal approximation of the age of reason) is sort of like saying Benedict XVI gave us the Latin Mass.

  36. William Tighe says:

    The questions and comments of “Fr. John, a confused Orthodox observer,” seem cogent and unaswerable (as well as unanswered). He is correct, as far as I can see, that the historical practice of the Western Church as a whole, and of the Church of Rome in particular, in the first millennium was to chrismate/confirm infants infants at baptism, or as shortly thereafter as practicable, and to communicate them at the time, or shortly thereafter. I also have the impression that “infant communion” disappeared in the West distinctly before “infant confirmation.” To give examples from an area of which I have some scholarly knowledge, new-born children of English monarchs in the Sixteenth-Century, such as Mary Tudor in 1516 and her half-sister Elizabeth in 1536 (this last in the time of schism, of course, but Catholic sacramental practice remained unchanged at that point) were confirmed at their baptisms (at which bishops officiated), but not communicated. (Indeed, as late as 1566 when the visiting [Lutheran] Margravine of Baden gave birth to a son when visiting England, and Queen Elizabeth I agreed to be his godmother, the newly-born “Edwardus Fortunatus” was both baptized and confirmed, according to Anglican rites, in the Chapel Royal.)

    It is also my impression that in the Catholic Church, during and after the Counter-reformation, the rationale of Confirmation took on a didactic aspect, or element, that was lacking earlier – as it certainly did among those Protestant bodies that retained and sort of “confirmation ritual” (which means only the Anglicans; among Lutherans, the practice of having a form of “confirmation rite,” administered by the parish pastor, is an 18th-century development; of course, among Lutherans and Reformed alike it was the responsibility of the parish pastor to ascertain the adequacy of the religious knowledge of any young persons of the parish before admitting them to communion – as indeed they were supposed to do in the case of visiting strangers presenting themselves for communion). I have wondered whether it was the adoption of unleavened bread in the Eucharist (which I think was not the early practice of, at least, the Church of Rome), or the later practice of communion in one species only, which was the main impetus for the disappearance of infant communion, rather than the retrospective rationales, biblical and/or theological, advanced to defend it.

    One may disagree about practicalities, but to argue that “waiting till the age of reason for Holy Communion is obviously based on the words of St Paul about discerning the body. If the child doesn’t know Who Jesus is and cannot discern that the Eucharist is Jesus then they are not old enough” is to show an ignorance of, and disregard for (particularly by the flourishing the word “obviously”) the practice of the Church as a whole during its first millennium that is truly breath-taking, as well as an unintentionally rude slap-in-the-face to Eastern churches (both Catholic and Orthodox) who have retained to this day their longaeval and primitive practices in these matters. It also, if taken seriously, rather than as a form of rhetorical overkill, carries the implication that Eastern sacramental practice in these matters is mistaken, if not illegitimate.

  37. Alice says:

    transformers

  38. ByzCath08 says:

    Infants were communed into the 12th century in the western church. At one point a decision was made to withhold the cup from the laity and infant communion went away because they could no longer receive the precious blood and there was a concern that infants could not consume a host.

    In the early church, the sacraments of initiation were given at the time of baptism. As the church grew and it became harder for the bishop to be present at every baptism, the new christian was baptized and communed, with confirmation following in a reasonable time.

    Like you Fr. John, the whole thing confuses me.

  39. Alice says:

    Uhh, oh. It looks like my 4 1/2 year old thinks there’s “more than meets the eye” in this discussion. :P

    While I think the solution this mother suggests is solving a problem by creating ten more, I do sympathize with her. If it were up to me, children would receive all the Sacraments of Initiation as soon as possible after birth. Waiting until the child is capable of sin seems backwards to me. That said, if the Sacraments of Initiation can’t all be given shortly after birth, could we at least have our children receive them at the age of reason and not 1-2 years later? Cut-off dates have moved to the beginning of the school year and many parents are red-shirting their kids with spring and summer birthdays so most second graders are 8 or sometimes even 9 by the time First Communion happens in the spring. While it may have made sense to tie First Communion to 2nd grade in the 1950s, it doesn’t anymore and even young children need the sacraments “especially in these evil days when faith and morals are exposed to so many and such violent temptations.”

  40. Daniel W says:

    Great answer.
    I take exception to the last comment though: “It is also to be asked: Under normal circumstances, what benefit is there in having one’s children receive the sacraments apart from the other children of their own parish?”
    The benefit is the timely spiritual nourishment of the child!

    Many parishes (in our US of A) forget the urgency required of parents, who have the “primary” responsibility to prepare their children to be “refreshed with this divine food AS SOON AS POSSIBLE” after gaining the use of reason (c.914). Because of this urgency, it is inappropriate to postpone a child’s beginning to receive our Lord simply to be with other children of the parish.

    Certainly the parish should arrange for occasions for parents who do not/ can not fulfill their canonical obligation with the required urgency, however, let’s be clear: regions where families arrange for the First Holy Communion of their children and do not wait for a parish “batch” have got it right (i.e the practice in Latin America and parts of Europe, Asia and Africa).

    On the other hand, canon law does not mention of the same urgency for confirmation, nor does it mention a primary role to parents for the preparation for this sacrament. Although reception of the Eucharist “completes” Christian initiation (CCC 1322), at present canon law gives a priority to nourishing the child over waiting till it is possible for the child to receive confirmation. It only requires parents to wait until the child can make sacramental confession, but NOT confirmation. A child whose first holy communion is delayed by the parish purely for the sake of waiting till after confirmation is being denied nourishment in contravention of canon law (c. 912).

  41. robtbrown says:

    Fr John says,

    “Confirmation, on the other hand, is amongst other things the Sacrament of maturity-in-Faith (that isn’t modern catechetics, but plain old St. Thomas) and of fighting-for-the-Faith.”

    How can that be so, when confirmation used to be administered with baptism, even to children? We know from Western synods that even through the 12th century, there were debates if it was permissible to wait more than two years post baptism to confirm confirmation. And when it’s still done so in the Eastern Churches? Must it not be the case that the tying of confirmation to catechesis and maturity in faith is, perhaps, an additional use given to the sacrament for pastoral reasons, but not part of the essence of the sacrament itself?

    Does maturity-in-faith refer to a prerequisite for Confirmation? Or does it refer to a time in life when such maturity is needed–and which Confirmation is the Sacramental cause (cf ex opere operato)?

  42. Daniel W says:

    Fr John,
    Aquinas was arguing FOR confirmation regardless of age, ie he was arguing for the ancient practice of infant confirmation. Confirmation brings about SPIRITUAL maturity. Aquinas inimitably argues that if an unbaptized adult can be spiritually reborn (birth being something relating to infancy) then an infant can be brought to spiritual maturity. QED!!

    Robtbrown
    In Aquinas maturity in faith refers to both the sacramental character and the particular graces of the sacrament, ie what is caused by baptism is brought to maturity by confirmation (ex opere operato)