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The History of First Holy Communion

The Eucharist is the "source and summit of the Christian life" (CCC 1324). How lucky we are to not only partake in Jesus's sacrifice at every Mass, but to actually receive His Body and Blood! If we are properly disposed, it is our surest way of reaching eternal joy with God in heaven.

The directions for first receiving Holy Communion have changed over the years. For centuries, infants received the Eucharist at baptism. By the thirteenth century, it became widely accepted that recipients should reach an "age of discretion," or reason. This varied by region, oftentimes reserving the Eucharist for teenagers and adults. In 1910, Pope Pius X, desiring greater access to the efficacious nature of the Body and Blood, decreed that the age of reason should be considered around seven. He argued that even though these young children might not understand the mystery as much as adults, the Eucharist could preserve their innocence and protect them from corruption. He also pointed to Jesus's love of children in scripture - “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Because of this, every spring we celebrate another batch of young boys and girls receiving their first Holy Communion.

Sadly, the modern era has seen a crisis in belief in the Real Presence, with most recent polls showing that one-third of American Catholics do not believe the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus. While this is better news than previous polls, it still shows a cratering of belief that must be rectified. Because of this, the U.S. Church has undertaken a Eucharistic Revival to assert the truth of the Real Presence. One way to honor the Blessed Sacrament is to spend an hour at adoration; check your parish bulletin for adoration times, as well as other events and reflections related to the Eucharistic Revival. This week, let us pray for an increase in belief and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the souls who will be receiving their first Holy Communion this spring. 


By Anna Neal

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