- Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, Metropolitan Archbishop of Santo Domingo Primate of America (March 2007).
We present the booklet on “The Ecclesiastical Documents on the age of the First Communion of children” and we authorize it to be reprinted in our Archdiocese.
In every era, and especially in this one, in which the social media and the environment have such an influence on children and allow them to attain the use of reason at a younger age, the Church must prepare them earlier and let them learn and live the main mysteries of our faith and moral values, as well as the presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.
In their first years of life children are particularly sensitive and are marked by the first images and ideas that are impressed on their minds and on their hearts. With a pure heart they are able to quickly grasp the ideal of virtue and of the Gospel; throughout history we can find many examples of holy children at the age of six or seven. On the other hand, a negative influence, an unhealthy environment at home or outside the home can leave children with indelible and negative marks. The Lord Jesus gives us the example of welcoming and caring for children, even the littlest ones. We can say that even though Jesus was so busy evangelizing, He always found time to be with children, to talk to them and bless them. Everyone is familiar with the Gospel passages relating to children. The importance and excellence of educating children to virtue, and of helping them in any other way are pointed out by the Lord when he says: “Whoever receives one of these children in my name receives me; and whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Mk 9:36-37; 10, 13 and following).
With regard to the age children should receive their First Communion, the Church has traditionally taught that they must be prepared and given Communion at the first use of reason, around six years old. In ancient times Communion was given under the species of wine even to babies, as soon as they were baptized.
St. Thomas Aquinas says: “As soon as they have some discernment”. Today, as we all know, the use of reason in children can often begin before the age of seven. There are many cases of children younger than seven who are already contaminated by evil. By waiting until they are ten or twelve to prepare them for First Communion, it can be too late and sin and bad habits can enter into their minds and into their hearts before Christ does. The presence of Christ in the Eucharist at an early age strengthens the child’s willpower and gives him the grace necessary to fight against sin. All educationalists teach that the earlier virtue and goodness are built up in children, the better. We must begin earlier.
Some believe that it is better to wait until children are nine or ten to receive their First Communion so that they will be fully aware of what they are doing and thus they will prepare themselves better. In many Christian families children suffer because of this delay.
We must remember the Lord’s warning: “do not hinder them, let the children come to Me” (Mt 19:13)
For the reasons explained up until now, the Pontifical Documents are clear, especially from St. Pius X to our times, and they ordain that children be prepared and receive their First Communion as soon as they attain the first use of reason. Clearly this implies that these children continue to be followed, especially when they are children of non practicing families.
There are many groups that gather these children together under the guidance of a catechist with pious intentions, arousing in them devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament.
However, even in this way children can do wrong and stop receiving Communion or going to Church, but the important thing is that they have already received the “good seed”. Even those who make their First Communion between the ages of eight and ten can do wrong and stray from the Church.
Lastly, we must keep in mind that the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist is a “Mystery of Faith”. Instead of expecting to understand it and examine it, it is important to have a humble and obedient faith in the mystery which John Paul II called: “Great Mystery, Mystery of Mercy!”. Faith is stronger in the simple and humble of heart, as the Lord says (cf. Mt 11:25), and children can be a living example of this for us.
We urge you to study these pontifical documents carefully and try to put them into practice.
- Cardinal Bernardino Echeverria Ruiz - Ecuador (1.12.1995)
I have thoroughly read the “Collection of ecclesiastical texts and documents on the age of the First Communion of children” and I unite myself completely to the desires and rules of Popes St. Pius X, Benedict XV, Paul VI and John Paul II. I agree with what they have declared, firmly convinced that it is necessary «to allow Jesus to enter into the hearts of children before Satan can enter» so that «the renewal of the Christian spirit in the new generation» can be fulfilled.
I hope everyone realizes the urgent need to be faithful to the Popes’ directives, which the New Code of Canon Law follows.
- H.E. Rev. Msgr. Julio Terán Dutari, Auxiliary Bishop of Quito Episcopal Vicar for the Apostolate of Lay People (10.05.96) To Rev. Father Orfeo Mason, Head of the Armata Bianca in the Archdiocese of Quito:
Dearest Father Orfeo, in response to the request you made regarding the First Communion of children at an early age, according to the laws of the Church and the praiseworthy intentions of the Armata Bianca, I have the great spiritual joy of communicating the following: the Canon Law (canons 913 and 914) states that children who have attained the use of reason have the right to be prepared, according to their capacity, to receive their First Communion as soon as possible after having made their sacramental Confession. It is primarily the duty of parents and of those taking their place to ensure they are properly prepared. It is necessary to keep in mind that it is also the duty of the parish priest to see that children who have not reached the use of reason, or whom he has judged to be insufficiently prepared, do not approach Holy Communion. (…) For this reason it is very recommendable that the Armata Bianca promote the very prompt First Communion of children who find themselves in the situation indicated by the Code, therefore it is not suitable for them to be united with the groups which are normally prepared, however it is to be kept in mind that there mustn’t be a legitimate objection from the Parish priests regarding this early First Communion and that there must be a proper preparation, which is to be carried out in private and without external celebration and above all that these children are not to be exempt from taking part in due time in the ordinary and group preparation for First Communion which takes place in the Parishes or in educational institutes.
With my special blessing for this sacramental work which is so dear to the Heart of God the Father and our Pope John Paul II, I unite myself to his prayers and those of the entire Armata Bianca.
- H.E. Rev. Msgr. Manoel Pestana Filho Bishop of Anapolis - Brasile (1996)
Father Andrea D’Ascanio, we can never justly appreciate the efforts of the Armata Bianca in defending the innocence of children. Their heart and soul are the most beautiful and transparent image of the goodness and beauty of God. To destroy their purity is a crime against humanity, because it deprives it of its most precious treasures. In fact the Lord said: “Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him that he were drowned in the depth of the sea”.
Giving the Eucharist to children means nourishing them with what belongs to them, the Bread of the Angels. It is more than this: it is giving them the strength to allow divine life, along with all its gifts, to grow in them always. The Saints and the Apostles will flow like water from the spring. All of us, bishops, priests, religious and parents, must say “yes” to the Pope and incessantly consecrate our time and talents to children, in order to keep alive the concrete hope of restoring all things in Christ, right from the beginning. Let us go to the children, just like Our Lady did!
- H.E. Rev. Msgr. Mario Peressin Archbishop of Aquila (28.09.96)
Dear Father, I respond to your letter of September 2 in which you kindly gave me the pamphlet “Collection of ecclesiastical texts and documents on the age of the First Communion of children”.
I fully agree that it is the duty of parents, clergy, catechists and the whole Church community to promote the First Communion of children who have attained the use of reason. This marvellous pastoral action of the Church, besides being promoted and recommended by the Supreme Pontiffs, especially from St. Pius X on, is also made compulsory in can. 914 of the Code of Canon Law. Therefore it is deplorable that, in many places, there are priests who advise against this rightful practice, by postponing it to the age of 10, when the boy or girl is no longer a child, or when he has already lost his innocence and has learnt a thing or two.
Don’t be afraid, dear Father, the life of a Christian has never been easy, and it isn’t less easy for those who have chosen to live totally for the Lord. At times it seems as though the forces of evil prevail, allowing us even to personally experience the opposition and even the persecution of our dear ones. But God, our greatest Love, knows all, sees all and considers all. The important thing is not to doubt Him, to serve Him with love and evangelical simplicity, without ever boasting, internally or externally, that we belong to God or are on God’s side. We are nothing but poor sinners, who have the grace of wanting to live with Jesus and for Jesus, and to work humbly in the vineyard of the Lord, which is His Church. God bless you, dear Father.