The Eucharist is the sacrament that preserves the soul's union with God and
fosters that union by making a person more holy especially in the practice of
the supernatural virtue of charity. As a sacrament of the living, to obtain the
graces intended, a person must be in the state of God's friendship when
receiving, otherwise the reception becomes a sacrilege (I Corinthians 11:27-29).
The union of the communicant with Christ in the Eucharist is effective in the
moral order. Though physically present in the communicant, Christ is not
physically united with him. Only the consecrated species, since they alone can
come in contact with material things, are physically united with the
Communion aims specifically at producing a likeness to Christ in the
communicants. Their acts of mind and will, as a result of Communion, are to
become more comformable to the acts of Christ's mind and will. Their body, too,
is to become more like Christ's sacred body.
This is the primary purpose of the sacrament, a special union of the soul with
Christ. What is special about this union is that the Eucharist is
extraordinarily powerful in conferring actual graces that prompt a person to
make acts of love for God and one's neighbor. Moreover, these graces inspire one
to live for Christ habitually, even under great difficulties, as shown by the
readiness to love the unlovable, and to promote loving community in spite of
great natural diversity.
The secondary purpose of Communion is to assimilate the body of the communicant
to the body of Christ in two ways: it curbs or mitigates all disordered
passions, especially those against chastity, and it confers a new title to the
final resurrection of the body in heavenly glory.
A final effect of Communion is to remove the personal guilt of venial sins, and
the temporal punishment due to forgiven sins, whether venial or mortal.
The precept of the Church that requires children to receive Holy Communion,
along with the sacrament of penance, on reaching the age of reason. First issued
by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the practice was all but discontinued for
centuries, due to the inroads of Jansenism. Pope St. Pius X restored the
practice and restated the precept, while he also explained how necessarily
related are the two sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. "The age of
discretion," he said, "both for confession and for Holy Communion is the time
when a child begins to reason." This means that "a full and perfect knowledge of
Christian doctrine is not necessary either for first confession or first
Communion." Moreover, "the obligation of the percept of confession and Communion
which binds the child particularly affects those who have charge of him, namely,
parents, confessor, teachers, and the pastor" (Quam Singulari, August 8, 1910).
The precept of the Church to receive the sacrament of penance on reaching the
age of reason. First decreed by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, the law was
confirmed by the Council of Trent, which condemned anyone who "denies that each
and every one of Christ's faithful of both sexes is bound to confess once a
year" (Denzinger 1708). The prescription was repeated and clarified by Pope St.
Pius X in 1910 and again restated by the Holy See in 1973, ordering an end to
experiments that postponed the sacrament of penance until after First Communion:
"This precept, accepted into practice throughout the universal Church, brought
and continues to bring much fruit for the Christian life and perfection of the
Prayer after Communion
Stay with me Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do
not forget You.
You know how easily I abandon You.
Stay with me Lord, because I am so weak
and I need Your strength, so that I may not fall so often.
Stay with me Lord, for You are my life,
and without You, I am without fervour.
Stay with me Lord, for You are my light,
and without You, I am in darkness.
Stay with me Lord, to show me Your Will.
Stay with me Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You.
Stay with me Lord, for I desire to love You very much,
and always be in Your company.
Stay with me Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You.
Stay with me Lord, for as poor as my soul is,
I want it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of love.
(Adapted, Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)
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