Sunday, November 23, 2008

When Will Christina be able to receive First Holy Communion?

I was contacted by a journalist writing an article for a Catholic magazine about special needs children and the sacraments. She is looking for input from Catholics with special needs children, or those who work with our children in religious instruction. If you have something to say on this subject contact me at or leave a comment below.

It's certainly not the first time I had considered the subject, in fact, at six, Christina is nearing the age when her older sisters received the sacrament. However, this subject is a cause for anxiety for me, and so, whenever this subject would surface I buried the thought for later.

I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to deal with this subject at last. Tonight I broached it with Fr Tito, my wonderful new pastor. In his gentle manner, he said that even non-verbal children can be tested for their ability to distinguish the Holy Eucharist from ordinary bread, and was searching for an example of how Mother Teresa performed this test. If you know what he is referring to, please let me know.

Meanwhile, here is an article on the subject.

The catechist manual used in the Kennedy program quotes from Catechesi Tradendae by Pope John Paul II: "...the Church has always looked on catechesis as a sacred duty and an inalienable right...from the theological point of view every baptized person, precisely by reason of being baptized, has the right to receive from the Church instruction and education enabling him or her to enter on a truly Christian life...In the case of many people with disabilities...we must...make those liturgical adaptations which promote their active participation and provide help and services that reflect our loving concern."

What a relief speaking to my pastor and reading this article has been! I know Christina has on two occasions (see this and this post)recognized Jesus in the Sacrament, but is she ready to distinguish between the Host and ordinary bread? Not yet, perhaps but someday. I look forward to that day with all my heart. Just yesterday while receiving Holy Communion at the altar rail, with Christina beside me, I sensed that she was hurt for being excluded. The Holy Eucharist is the center of my life, and I long to share it with my precious daughter. She has already taught me so much about the Christian life, to be able to approach the altar together will be a joy like no other. Of course, we will post about the preparation process, little by little as we did about potty training. My objective is to encourage other mothers as we raise our special children.
Read the entire piece here from St Anthony Messenger.


Eileen said...

My daughter received her First Holy Communion earlier this year at the age of 9. She is in a Catholic program called "The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd," which is a Montessori-based program which is excellent!

The program is very reverent, with lots of hands-on presentations and material for the children to work with. Children even work with a child-sized alter with child-sized paten, chalice, crucifix, etc. to learn the items used at Mass.

The program in my area is run by a friend of mine, mostly for homeschooled children (and mostly with no special needs), mainly because it is held during the week, but when my daughter was in public school, I would take her out to go to the program. It is perfect for children with Down syndrome because of the hands on nature of it. My daughter gets so much from this program that she would never have received in a typical parish program. (Some parishes do use the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as their parish program).

I was told by several priests that all the child needs to know is that Jesus is in the Eucharist. Have no fear, your special child will receive Jesus in the Eucharist, not matter what kind of program she is enrolled in.

Leticia said...

Eileen, I have a friend who is cerified in this program and raves about it. Unfortunately it's far from home. Thanks for your input.

Monica said...

Some moms in our diocese recommend a program called REACH ... I don't really know anything about it though.

There is a booklet that would be helpful for some parents through a Canadian ministry: Morning Light Ministry -- but she doesn't have it on their website yet. It's called Perfect Praise -- I can put anyone interested in touch with Bernadette, who wrote the booklet. She had it approved through her diocese in Canada . . .

Elizabeth M said...

Since I've been in my current parish, we've had a nonverbal autistic girl receive her First Communion. I know she had individual instruction and that our pastor did a special rite in place of Reconciliation for her first.

Anonymous said...

I do not experience with this important parent decision, but I send my encouragement that the blessed day will come when she receives Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Despite the distance you noted, there is time for God to bring it closer to you.

I send only my encouragement today. Barbara