ASK FATHER: Religious Ed teacher controls First Communion

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

At our parish the head of the RE [Religious Education] is adamant that no child is allowed sacramental prep without having come to RE for a minimum of one year with good attendance. We home school and our RE and Sacramental prep are way way better than what they use (which is so bad that I refuse to volunteer to teach because they require the teachers to USE that horrid “curriculum”) but I have no idea how to handle this when everything sacramental prep is referred to the RE. She is in control.

She may be in control de facto but the pastor is really in control de iure.   The Code of Canon Law says that parents are the primary educators determining the timing of Communion for their children, together with the pastor.  There is no mention of a “religious ed teacher”.   I wrote recently about similar matters HERE.

You should approach the pastor of your parish to discuss this with him.  If he is intractable, then approach the pastor of another parish and work it out with him.

You are not obliged to receive Communion only at one parish.

 

Please share!

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18 Responses to ASK FATHER: Religious Ed teacher controls First Communion

  1. JabbaPapa says:

    The Code of Canon Law says that parents are the primary educators determining the timing of Communion for their children, together with the pastor

    Indeed, and furthermore there are some Canons of some late Mediaeval and Renaissance Ecumenical Councils that established that a necessary & sufficient State of Grace confers a right to the Eucharist that is not to be denied. Which is reflected BTW in the present Code of Canon Law.

    The First Communion for those Baptised as infants is deferred in the Western Church for multiple reasons, indeed there are some who argue that it should be deferred until after Confirmation.

    But at the same time some unusual cases exist of children requesting First Communion from a degree of precocious spiritual & religious understanding of the Eucharist, from love of Christ, and at ages younger than typical diocesan practice allows.

    Including a few Saints of the Church, including I think at least one of the three major seers of Fatima.

    I have of course no idea if your quaestor’s child is at all in such a situation, whereas it may be that this is instead an expression of unhappiness with the RE that someone seeks to impose. My point instead is that Holy Eucharist is not conditioned by mortal bureaucracy nor box-ticking. It is conditioned by Spiritual Faith.

  2. JabbaPapa says:

    The Code of Canon Law says that parents are the primary educators determining the timing of Communion for their children, together with the pastor

    Indeed, and furthermore there are some Canons of some late Mediaeval and Renaissance Ecumenical Councils that established that a necessary & sufficient State of Grace confers a right to the Eucharist that is not to be denied. Which is reflected BTW in the present Code of Canon Law.

    The First Communion for those Baptised as infants is deferred in the Western Church for multiple reasons, indeed there are some who argue that it should be deferred until after Confirmation.

    But at the same time some unusual cases exist of children requesting First Communion from a degree of precocious spiritual & religious understanding of the Eucharist, from love of Christ, and at ages younger than typical diocesan practice allows.

    Including a few Saints of the Church, including I think at least one of the three major seers of Fatima.

    I have of course no idea if your quaestor’s child is at all in such a situation, whereas it may be that this is instead an expression of unhappiness with the RE that someone seeks to impose. My point instead is that Holy Eucharist is not conditioned by mortal bureaucracy nor box-ticking. It is conditioned by Spiritual Faith.

  3. dbf223 says:

    I’m a convert and don’t fully understand these posts in regard to first communion. For that matter, I also don’t really understand the practice of “first communion” as a cultural rite of passage within the Church in America, what with its formal-dressing, hand-ringing, post-mass partying, arguing and wailing, picture-taking, teeth-gnashing, etc.. [You should see Italian customs.] The practice appears to me to reduce Holy Communion to another exercise in worldliness. [Or… not. It depends on the focus and means.]

    Besides my personal qualms, though, does the issue in the recent posts specifically deal with the children’s participation in a special first communion mass? That has to be the case, correct? If a child has reached the appropriate age, made a confession, and is properly educated/disposed (as determined by their parents and pastor), on what terms could someone (particularly an RE director) possibly deny a child access to communion?

  4. maternalView says:

    Our diocese has imposed a two year religious ed requirement for Confirmation. Does anyone know if there’s a way around this? We homeschool and my child is more than ready and doesn’t need “service hours” and other shanigans to prove it.

  5. dbf223 says:

    As a follow-up to my last post – fair enough. There are certainly better and worse ways to go about any practice, and I understand the benefits of emphasizing the gravity of holy communion by marking it in a special way. And a lot depends on what Fr. Z calls “focus and means.”

    This has been some years ago, but my first year in the Church, I somehow ended up at three or more separate first communion masses (in this Diocese, these masses for some reason were normal weekend masses and not done at special times, like Saturday morning). I found these particular masses to be very exhibitionist. If I had a hard enough time focusing on mass and preparing myself for holy communion at this mass, how hard must it have been for these kids to do so?

    And when so much that is “traditional” has been jettisoned in the Church over the past 50 years, why does this particular tradition still have so much clout?

  6. tamranthor says:

    I can see two sides of this. As a previous RE coordinator, I have seen parents bring their kids at the last minute, ask if they can join in our First Communion Mass, and then find out the kid has never been taught of the True Presence, how to genuflect, how to make the sign of the cross, etc. While none of these things, taken separately, mean one should be refused Holy Communion, taken as a whole it is clear that the parents have not catechized their children and look at First Communion as some kind of graduation ceremony for 2nd graders.

    While it is normally the Pastor’s responsibility to determine if the kids are ready, [It is primarily the PARENTS who do that while the pastor has a role to verify.] when you have a huge parish, it is not likely that he can meet with every family to determine if the kids are prepared properly. He often relies upon the RE coordinator to do that for him and make recommendations. That doesn’t mean he is relinquishing his responsibilities–just delegating, which saves a bit of sanity for all.

    The same issues appear when it is time for Confirmation. I used to see kids show up who hadn’t darkened the door of a confessional since 2nd grade, when they squeaked in for a quick absolution before First Holy Communion. Parents looked at Confirmation as a form of graduation ceremony, and nothing more.

    This is NOT entirely the parents’ fault–most of them were so poorly catechized by Father Hippy Feelgood and his band of merry Pantsuit Ladies that they have no idea they are shortchanging their kids. This is also NOT something we, as practicing Catholics, can allow to continue.

    So, while you probably have done a fine job of teaching your children the tenets of faith, the RE coordinator has to hold a line for those who have not, and allowing your kid to cut in line, so to speak, lets in the specter of everyone else whining that their kid should not have to be formed at all, and then the RE coordinator gets the blame for being a nasty person who is preventing little Johnny from receiving while letting little Jenny walk right up.

    The best recourse is, as Father says, making an appointment to meet with the Pastor who can smooth those troubled waters.

  7. john_6_fan says:

    The Parochial Vicar at a local parish refers to this as the “Tyranny of Programs”. We do religious education at home for our children. We have been able to avoid the tyranny of programs by simply refusing to cave to the church ladies’ demands to have our kids go to the mandatory RE classes. We typically talk with the Pastor after Sunday Mass to get his approval to bypass “The Program”. Of course, it helps immensely to have a relationship with your priests, invite them to dinner with your family, befriend them and support them when they ask. He knows we are legit. Then we show up the day of the sacrament and all is well. If we ever hit a brick wall with our parish, we will go somewhere else.

    One of our daughters skipped “The Program” for Confirmation. Prior to Mass, the confirmandi and their sponsors were scrutinized by the monsignor who was going to administer the sacrament. He asked the group of 60 or so kids to name some gifts of the Holy Spirit. He specifically called on several kids, who had no idea. Our daughter finally raised her hand and said “Wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord”. The monsignor was really pleased (with her). The mandatory “Program” failed to provide even the fundamentals of the faith.

  8. seeker says:

    Our parish also required a year of RE for those not in Catholic school. My argument that as homeschoolers we were a Catholic school was unsuccessful, as was the fact that we did catechism 4 to 5 times a week. We were new to the parish so argued no further and dropped our oldest son off every Saturday morning. They thought he was a savant because “he knew all the prayers”, those being the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. We found that discouraging as well as the poor curriculum.
    We were excused from the requirement for our other children and even given a private Mass for the youngest. We used the Baltimore Catechism and focused on memorization, and they were well catechized. Also, we were late picking our son up about 90% of the time, I never really knew if that was the real reason they let us off.
    We still had to attend a few group events for Confirmation. At a meeting in the church of all the students, parents and teachers we were told to do the community service requirement at the Presbyterian church because they gave you a free meal; there would be a required test on church history, but the teacher thought it was too hard and would give them the answers. At some point my son turned to me and said, “let’s say the rosary so this isn’t a complete waste of time.”
    I paid a heavy price to homeschool my children and don’t regret it in the least. Best thing I’ve ever done.

  9. maternalView says:

    I should have added that we’ve previously were able to avoid having to do religious ed at our parish and still have all our other children receive their Sacraments without a problem. We were and are active in the parish and well-known there. But now that the diocese requires 2 years the director of religious education ( new to the parish since this child received her first Communion) is insisting we do the two years at the parish. She also made it clear the pastor delegated this duty to her.

    Quite frankly a two year program on too of my child’s already strenuous homeschool program is a burden. One of her favorite books is Augustine’s Confessions. She’s reading The Imitation of Christ right now. I’m humble enough to submit my child to review by the pastor (if that was an option-it’s not) but I resent having to do a program that will waste her time and mine because other people don’t care about their faith.

  10. Ben Kenobi says:

    As another religious educator in charge of communion prep… yeah. I feel your frustration at the ‘curriculum’. I remember tossing it out entirely to actually have classes based on… the catechism. I got requests from homeschooling parents to supply them with my lesson plans so that they could use them for their own preparations.

    I’d be happy to do the same for you if you wish. As Father Z says, the parents have the right to make this decision, and I wish the best for you and your family.

  11. Ms. M-S says:

    If your parish uses one of those Pious Pap CCD series in which the only discernible lesson is It’s All About Luv, you might reconsider simply teaching your child’s class yourself every year after all and working in some real catechesis. A former student (now a priest) who was in my class from third grade through Confirmation prep, recalls that I’d tell them to open their CCD books, read the scanty, over-illustrated text aloud, have them close their books, and then proceed with materials from the Baltimore Catechism, the Lives of the Saints, and many other sources. Guerrilla tactics are justified when you’re fighting a Holy War.

  12. APX says:

    We homeschool and my child is more than ready and doesn’t need “service hours” and other shanigans to prove It.
    Your child needs to do service hours. Part of Confirmation is becoming an adult in onn’s faith and as such, it isn’t good enough to simply know your Catechism, pray, and go to Mass. You must also live your faith and do the Corporal Works of Mercy, which should be one of the fruits of your spiritual lives.

  13. Fr. Reader says:

    One of my brothers made his first communion without any coordinator, group or any parafernalia. Before an ordinary Sunday Mass my parents informed the Parish Priest that he would do his first communion on that same very day. And that’s it. He was the first one on the queue. That was all.
    After Mass, there was a small celebration at home.

  14. Carrie says:

    Poor RE directors. One parent is yelling: My kid is ready and doesn’t need your shenanigans! Another: My kid has football practice and isn’t gonna miss it to go to your stupid retreat; just confirm them already, yeah, yeah, whatever—they’re ready!

    I’ve been in the DRE shoes. Kids are disinterested, some parents care and many don’t. Program components are seen as hoops to jump through and not valued.

    Over time, I guess I came to a strong belief that parents need to step up as faith educators of their children. Parish religious education and sacramental prep programs aren’t supported or taken seriously. If parents are living their faith and continuing to learn, then they’re capable. I had 12 years of Catholic education, but my parents taught me and formed me in my faith.

    This is why I’ve also come to believe that we need to restore the order of Sacraments of Initiation and return them to adulthood. Let parents teach their children, liturgy form them, and the parish community love them. Then let them choose to be committed and fully initiated Catholics when they are adults.

    But, you’ll say: Oh no— wait! Parents are too busy! This is unrealistic to think we could give the religious education of their children back to them… But here in this posting, there is evidence of parents who’ve made this a priority in their family, so it’s possible. The Church babies parents and that’s why we have the mess we have. RE has been reduced to a drop off / babysitter program. Yes, we might have fewer catechized kids if we trusted parents to do it, and perhaps a smaller Church, as a result. But it would be a more faithful one.

  15. defenderofTruth says:

    I am in the same situation. My daughter could teach the class (as my pastor said), but despite trying several different ways around it, we ended up opting for being obedient to the shepherd.

  16. Suburbanbanshee says:

    APX, have you ever seen any references to service hours as part of Catholic life before, say, 1972? Have you ever seen any mandatory alms for Sacraments programs?

    No, of course not. Even in places where the Church was the landlord or prince, and the peasants had to give some percentage of their crops to the bishop or some time working God’s Acre for the priest, the Sacraments were not connected to this work.

    Exchanging Sacraments for corvee forced labor is not voluntary. It teaches nothing about the Acts of Mercy. It is simony, and that is a mortal sin. It also constitutes a minor form of enslavement, and it is directed against minors. (Because RCIA does not do this junk.)

    Forcing children to have some arbitrary amount of butt in seat time, before “permitting” them to receive, is also a violation of the sacramental rights of all Catholics. Historically, you did not have to prove much knowledge, ever. Catholicism was not about tests.

    Making younger kids memorize and recite a short catechism was about as far as it went, and that was a modern innovation in itself. (Apparently some late 19th century pastors wanted to prevent young kids from receiving, despite the new permissions; but of course a memory test is jam for most little kids. Look at how many kids memorized all the Pokemon.)

    Religious formation is not served by holding the Sacraments hostage, or by stopping classes five seconds after Confirmation.

    If we get the parents interested, the kids will learn. If we teach kids how to look up Catholic stuff, they can keep learning even if the parents don’t schedule time to learn. If we teach people to pray in various ways, they can have a spiritual life if they want one. If we really care about the Bible, Mass, etc., we will start acting like it.

  17. hwriggles4 says:

    About attendance – I am a CCD teacher and we are allowed to drop a student if they miss more than a certain number of classes. That said, there are some kids who may be attending, but if they are daydreaming (yes, guilty, I haven’t forgotten that I waa a kid with a short attention span) are they learning anything?

    The RE at my parish does not mind us teaching outside the box. I pull things from The Baltimore Catechism, the catechism, and one of my favorites, Catholicism for Dummies. Videos can be a help (our men’s group used Symbolon, and I have heard good things about Formed), but I do feel sometimes video is overused.

    I was fortunate not long after I was confirmed in 9th grade to participate in the Boy Scout Ad Altare Dei program. I tried to find this program as a 13 year old altar boy, but wasn’t able to until a few years later. Honestly, I learned much more about the Sacraments in the Ad Altare Dei program than I learned in three years of CCD.

  18. bobbird says:

    The Original Post might have BIG trouble if they were writing from semi-rural Alaska … that is, on the road system, parishes scattered 60-100 miles apart, and really, really nasty priests who do away with orthodox instructors and programs … and are backed up by the bishop(s). Who knows, maybe this happens in remote parts of the west, too.

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