My 4-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with mild autism. I am concerned about her future and receiving the sacraments. I fully understand and respect that she will probably never be able to receive the Eucharist since she has difficulty with food textures, but I am concerned as to what the future holds for her. When the time comes, will she be able to be buried by the Catholic Church even though she is not a fully initiated adult?
Lori Sciancalepore, via e-mail
Generally speaking, autism is not a barrier to receiving the sacraments, and when the time comes (hopefully very far in the future), your daughter can be buried by the Catholic Church, even if she is not a fully initiated adult. Even unbaptized infants can receive a Church burial.
As for receiving Holy Communion, your daughter would need to understand what she is doing and be able to distinguish the consecrated Eucharistic bread from ordinary bread. If she is incapable of ingesting the Host, out of reverence for the Sacred Species, it would be most prudent for her to not receive. But in such a case you should not worry, because Our Lord will bless her with special graces since He loves each one of us, and He is infinitely just and merciful.
“Monday Morning Short Answers to Big Questions” by Rev. Francis J. Hoffman