Our 9-year-old made his First Communion on Saturday. It was a year beyond the “second grade” which seems to be the norm, but it was at exactly the right time for him.
When he was a second-grader working his way towards Confession, he clearly wasn’t ready. No matter how we or his CCD teachers explained it, he just didn’t grasp the concept of sin. As we got closer to the date, he still was confused , and so we opted out. He just wasn’t ready.
The DRE (Director of Religious Education) argued against waiting. How would he feel about being left behind? She asked. He was going to be a year behind his friends, wouldn’t that make him feel badly? He would eventually understand sin; we just needed to be patient, she advised us, he’d get there sooner or later. We prayed about it a great deal, and came to the conclusion that Confession without understanding was pointless, and so we insisted that he wait.
What a difference a year made. Last year he’d sat through his classes and understood very little of what was being discussed; this year his teacher praised him for knowing his Catechism and all of his prayers. This year, he’d needed no prompting when asked about sin and the Sacraments. With age came wisdom, and he was prepared.
Then this weekend, the boy we have called “happiness just walking around” met his Lord in the Eucharist, and he was ready.
There were many times this past year when I wondered whether or not we had done the right thing in holding him back. I questioned if perhaps the DRE had been right that he would have “gotten it eventually.” But then this weekend I saw our son glow with the knowledge of Who and What he was receiving, and I knew that we had been right. Saturday morning was so much more than just a rite of passage or something his parents wanted him to do. He was meeting his Lord, and he knew it.
I’m not saying that all children should wait until they are nine, or that the DRE was completely wrong in her advice. She was speaking from her experience with children in general, but we were speaking from our experience with him, as his parents.
It has become a given among many Catholics that second grade is when children receive their First Holy Communion, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s okay to step forward as a parent and slow things down. As Pope St John Paul II noted, parents have the primary responsibility to educate our children for life and in the Faith. We shouldn’t hesitate to speak up when we know they need a little extra time.
His little brother may need a little more time…..
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