Kids Don’t Earn Sacraments

"Kids Don't Earn Sacraments" by Jane Korvemaker for

eucharist (2) by Saint Joseph (2012) via Flickr, CC.

It seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? We don’t earn salvation; we don’t earn gifts. And yet how many times have I watched the way my six-year-old son acts in Mass and thought, “You’re so not ready to receive Jesus in the Eucharist yet.” In an everyday critique of my child’s behaviour, I give light to a belief that I know in my head is not a right belief – that my child has to earn the sacraments.

I know it’s a struggle for me, ’cause I catch myself thinking this nearly every time we are at Mass together. However, we don’t earn sacraments. Not baptism, not marriage, not ordination, not anointing and certainly not reconciliation. So why do I continue to struggle with this idea? Eucharist and confirmation are no exceptions here.

Sacraments as Gift

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Gifts by michael_swan (2010) via Flickr, CC.

Just as there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love or the salvation offered, God also freely gives the sacraments to us as a tangible expression of his love. We can prepare ourselves for them, which helps these gifts find their fullest expression, but knowledge only helps, it does not earn, and preparation extends beyond knowledge. This belief that we earn sacraments (or at least specific ones, like Eucharist and Confirmation) developed at an early age for me and the churches I worshiped at often affirmed this belief. Holding my child up to some crazy “sit still and listen and be quiet but participate in all the parts” standard that is challenging enough for an adult, let alone a six-year-old, is not only harmful to him, but also not a part of any church teaching in order for us to receive this gift. This greatest gift.

As a society we struggle with this – outside of our church almost everything is earned through knowledge, so I see how this attitude can unknowingly influence the way a parish and her leaders treat preparation. But we are not called to be scholars before we receive grace. That in itself is the great foolhardiness of Christianity, the stumbling block: God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). Peter truly is my hero – the blundering mistake-filled man, given a great gift of leadership, not by earning it through knowledge or excellence, but by weakness and sturdy reliance on God.

Weakness is Strength

As a mother, I know how much I fail. I know how much sin creeps into my life, and yet, Jesus is always there waiting for me, even in my weakness. It is alarming to me to think about how much more sinful I am than my son – what right do I have to say he cannot receive because of his actions? I have none, and I recognise that Jesus wants us when we are weak.

Jesus wants us when we are vulnerable. How much more love can we accept when we see how far away we are from God! In my weakness I grasp hold onto Jesus more tightly than when I am confident and knowledgeable. And so, my son misbehaves in Mass? Yes. But thank God for his generosity, for now there is hope in the grace of the Eucharist (or other sacraments). Hope for my son, and hope for me.

Kids don’t earn the sacraments. Neither do I. And that is something in which to be truly thankful.

Do you judge your child’s “ability” to receive the sacraments? Take a moment to reflect on the great mercy of God in these gifts, freely given to us.

Copyright 2016 Jane Korvemaker


About Author

Jane Korvemaker loves food, family, wine, and God (perhaps not in that order). She holds a Certificate in Culinary Arts, which pairs perfectly with her Bachelor in Theology. A former Coordinator of Youth Ministry, she writes from the beautiful and cold province of Saskatchewan, Canada. She works from home and takes care of her three very hard-working children. Jane regularly blogs at


  1. My son received his first Eucharist last spring, and I sometimes catch myself judging his Mass behavior critically, like he should be doing s better job since he is past that point in his development…as if I don’t have similar struggles with my own pet sins. 🙂 Thanks for this reminder. We can help our kids to know what right behavior is without judging their worthiness over it.

    • I definitely struggle with this! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one – the grace of recognising my own shortfalls definitely helps to humble me.

  2. Thank you. As I struggle to get my son confirmed – the last of 8 children I wonder why confirmation has been pushed off to high school. Why are we judging whether or not they are ready to receive a sacrament of initiation? It seems that the grace of the sacrament just might help them make better choices and avoid sinfulness that they might fall into as a teenager. And if it is a matter of them “choosing” Catholicism for themselves and that is the push behind it then what business do we have in baptizing them Catholic at all??

    • I can’t speak for the US conference of bishops; I don’t know their full reasoning. My limited experience in leading confirmation in a California parish gave me doubts as to how, at least, this is interpreted by those creating the requirements in parishes/individual diocese.

      My diocese here in Canada has the restored order for the sacraments of initiation, and the diocese I grew up in also had it, so my personal experience has not been to wait so long to receive confirmation.

      I think there’s a tendency to make academic the sacraments, which is wrong on many levels. Grace is freely given, and we all sin. And to be honest, adults more than children. I think they’re reasonable questions to bring up to parish leaders and diocese 🙂

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