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Communion for 10-year-old niece
Question from Cheryl on 04-30-2012:
My niece no longer goes to weekly Mass since her mommy (my sister) died from cancer in December 2010. Her dad is Lutheran and does not take her to any religious services. When she is with me on a weekend, I take her to Mass with my family but am concerned about the fact that she receives Communion. She cannot go to Mass herself; however, she doesn't express to her dad that she wants to go each week. I'm planning to tell her the next time she goes to Mass with me that she can attend but cannot receive Communion unless she goes to confession and starts attending weekly Mass. Am I too strict?
Answer by Catholic Answers on 05-01-2012:

Yes. You are also risking creating tension with your brother-in-law that could limit your ability to influence your niece's religious upbringing.

Your niece is 10 years old. As you noted, she cannot go to Mass herself. At age 10, it is unreasonable to expect your niece to have the religious maturity to spontaneously ask her father to take her to Mass. She is also no doubt grieving the loss of her mother; is being raised by her non-Catholic father; and, if you proceed as you are considering, could be estranged even further from the Catholic roots her mother gave her by being denied the opportunity to receive Christ in the Eucharist.

While I am certain that you are trying to do your best to form your niece in her Catholic faith, I urge you to strive for pastoral gentleness. When she is visiting you, make it possible for her to go to confession and Mass. Offer age-appropriate religious education, which might include explaining the Catholic duty to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. If she expresses a desire to attend Mass every week, offer to help her approach her dad to make the request and offer to your brother-in-law whatever assistance you can provide to make it possible.

Jesus once said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). In an analogous way, the rules for Communion were made for man, not man for the rules. This isn't to suggest that the rules are not important or should be ignored when they interfere with human desire; the rules serve the great good of defending the Eucharist from profanation. But we should be careful to avoid making the rules an end in itself, to such an extent that the rules could be used to serve as a justification for barring the innocent from receiving Christ in Communion.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers

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