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Maurice Timothy ReidyAugust 21, 2023
Photo from iStock.

A Reflection for the Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope

“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” - Mt 18:3, cited in “Quam Singulari”

Find today’s readings here.

In 1910, Pope Pius X, whose feast we celebrate today, released “Quam Singulari,” an encyclical that opened the way for children to receive Communion at the age of seven. “The pages of the Gospel show clearly how special was that love for children which Christ showed while He was on earth,” the encyclical began. “It was His delight to be in their midst; He was wont to lay His hands on them; He embraced them; and He blessed them.”

For centuries reception of the Eucharist had been reserved for teenagers and adults, as it was believed that only a more mature individual could begin to comprehend the mystery of the Eucharist. Pope Pius X sought to restore an earlier practice of the church, so that “children even from their tender years may be united to Jesus Christ, may live His life, and obtain protection from all danger of corruption.”

And so began a renewed tradition that so many of us are familiar with today: scores of children lined up every May, dressed in their finest dresses and suits, to receive their First Holy Communion.

May we all seek out children to energize us in our faith and help us to recover a sense of the awesomemystery of the Eucharist.

Next spring my son will be receiving his First Communion. Two months later the U.S. church will be celebrating the three-year Eucharistic Revival with a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. So on the Feast of Pius X, I thought it was worth asking: What can we learn from children about the Eucharist?

For an answer, I reached out to my son’s catechist, Mrs. Patricia Sadlon, who has been teaching religious education for 50 years in the Archdiocese of New York. I am grateful for her response.

“Pius X realized the ability of children to grasp Mystery,” Mrs. Sadlon wrote in an email, sharing a story: “Once I brought a first grade class into church and showed them the sanctuary lamp and tabernacle, and a little boy exclaimed ‘awesome.’ After that it was so easy to teach them to genuflect. It was a teaching moment, 14 children in a big empty church.”

She added that “children understand the desire and need to be with those who love you, so they get it that the Eucharist is Jesus being with us all the time.”

Children also understand “the need for and the pleasure in food and once they get through the tasting of an unconsecrated host they can explore the Mystery of Consecration.”

Finally, Mrs. Sadlon noted that “Jesus sought out the children to energize him”—and that is exactly why she has been teaching young people all these years. God bless her for doing so.

May we all seek out children to energize us in our faith and help us to recover a sense of the awesomemystery of the Eucharist.

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