Thursday, June 28, 2001

First Communion counsel

A while ago in this space, I worried about my son's fitness for First Holy Communion and the rite of reconciliation. I thought he might spit out the Host. I thought he might talk about car keys in the confessional. I thought he might scream during the ceremony. I thought he might not be able to grasp the complexities of the whole process (which would, to be sure, put him on par with a large percentage of adults in the congregation).

I wondered if anyone else had been through this with a special needs child. And I got a nice reply from Madeleine, a frequent MWA correspondent. I'll share her note here, because I think she said some things very well, because there may be others who are dealing with the religious education of the neurologically impaired, and because I’m running too late this morning to write much of anything myself. Thanks, Madeleine!

She wrote:

"Relatively little is required of a second-grader in terms of deep religious understanding. If your child can understand that you love him, then he can understand that a host is (the embodiment of) God's love -- a physical thing to remind him of a simple truth. As for the spitting out part, get some unconsecrated hosts and practice. A priest should be able to help.

"As far as reconciliation, you might be surprised what your son understands about doing something wrong. You are not required to drill him in the specifics. Any priest worth his salt should be able to handle it. If he wants to talk about cars, so what?

"My son was diagnosed autistic as a preschooler, and treated as though he were not a moral being. My parish religious educator in Baltimore didn't even want to give him a chance in CCD. But they took care of all of it here in Massachusetts.

"Eucharist is a sacrament of inclusion. That's the point. And my son does turn out to have a moral sense. Most do. In their way."

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