Thursday, March 19, 2009

Communion and Children with Disabilities

As we are entering First Communion Season (I've got a niece receiving for the first time in a few weeks), one of the questions that inevitable come up is the possibility of children with special needs receiving the Eucharist.

US Catholic features a longer piece on the same topic, for which Darcee was also interviewed.

It is a question near and dear to my heart, as one of my most memorable days as a priest was giving First Communion to a girl of about ten who had severe Cerebral Palsy. There was not a dry eye in the place, including mine. (Even Germans have emotions, some of the time!)

But even closer to home, another neice (sister to the First Communicant above) has ACC, which presents much like Autism. You better believe I will fight for her to receive, if I have to.

To those parents of children with special needs, your grace and sacrifice is a unique and special way of living Christ on the Cross, a daily dying to self to live for others. I know it is not easy or fun, and certainly not something that is to be wished upon thy worst enemy; but your children often teach the rest of us what it is to truely trust in God's wonderous providence.

The pertinent paragraph on the question above:

According to the U.S. Bishops’ Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, a person must “be able to distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food, even if this recognition is evidenced through manner, gesture, or reverential silence rather than verbally.” Just as parishes don’t expect all 7- or 8-year-old communicants to expound upon the meaning of transubstantiation, children like Rachel, who may not be able to go through formal religious education, are simply asked to recognize that the Eucharist is sacred and not just a snack.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting about Communion and Special Needs--I will be passing your post on to others I know who would find this very interesting!

BTW; you might want to change the color font about the US Bishops' Guidelines.

Adoro said...

Father, I second changing the font color. Can't read it at all.

Thanks for this post. Part of my job is actually to deal with this very issue. This year two families came forward asking for sacraments for their profoundly disabled children. I have a classmate with a daughter with such profound disablities, and she was even able to receive her 1st Confession! (And it will probably be her only one - she simply is incapable of sin.)

But...who would deny someone sacramental Grace?

Our Canon Law prof, though, addressed this issue in class and said that he's NEVER seen a case where the sacraments were denied to someone with disabilities of any level. They may show reverence in a totally different way, but it's there and observable.

You shouldn't HAVE to fight for your niece, but if it comes up, contact a canon lawyer to help you out.

Adoro said...

Oh, and by the way, Father, on the unfeeling German thing...I know you and you're full of it. I seem to remember a certain incident of "irritant emitting" substance that caused a certain reaction...


Thus, I find it hard to believe you're have a heart!


And I say this with the UTMOST respect!

Anonymous said...

Fifty years ago my Down Syndrome brother, Mike, at about age 10, received his First Communion. He always knew the respect needed at Mass, offered to pray for you as needed, and this week died "well fortified with the Sacraments." I certainly KNOW where he is now, and my family is celebrating his life and that of our very special parents.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...


I just want to add. While I have also never heard of anyone being flat out denied because of disabilities, I have heard of a couple families that were tacitly discouraged by being told, "your child can't sin so they don't need to receive."

Which I suppose is true on one hand, but on the other Grace serves us in more than just struggling against sin.

Adoro said...

simplycatholic ~ Amen to that! I've told the parents that we'd like for their children to go to the Sacrament of Confession in any way they can...for the Grace available to them.