November 22, 2021
Filed In: Faith
A common assumption is that children, because their minds are still developing, can’t process complex ideas. In trying to convey a point about something, we try to reduce it to the lowest common denominator. It’s true that children need help grasping complex subjects, but in my experience, they’re capable of much more than we give them credit for.
A child can’t explain to you how pistons fire within an engine, generating energy and torque, which is then sent to the wheels and moving a car. But they can understand and articulate how a driver pressing the gas peddle causes a response within an engine, which then moves the car. They operate at the 30,000-foot level, while adults can get much more granular.
There’s a debate in my parish about the proper sequence of sacraments for children. I’m used to the Baptism — Reconciliation — First Communion sequence, followed several years later by Confirmation. There’s another school that thinks that Confirmation and First Communion should be received together in the fourth grade. I think this misses the mark.
A second-grader can grasp the concept of the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ. It’s a simple concept: Jesus said it was so, and so it is. Children are more disposed to accepting the basic tenants of faith because they aren’t jaded. They don’t let their personal experiences and theories get in the way. They can, as we all should, accept the reality of the Eucharist as an act of love and trust in Jesus.
A child doesn’t need to be able to explain transubstantiation to understand the majesty of the Eucharist. The simple truth is sufficient for them.
Confirmation, on the other hand, is a much bigger step. A child who receives this Sacrament accepts responsibility for their continued formation and learning. A recipient should have a solid command of basic theology, including explaining consubstantial and transubstantiation. They should be able to give a basic apologetic and know where to find answers when they need to find them.
The Church, like any human organization, tends towards bureaucracy, institutionalism, and organizational malaise. A child can accept and embrace the simple truths of our deepest mysteries. They should have the full benefit of the Eucharist at the earliest reasonable age, and not be denied years of sacramental participation simply to satisfy the theoretical musings of a few.