In 1910, Pope Pius X issued the papal decree Quam singulari, lowering the age of admittance to Holy Communion to 7.
“The age of discretion, both for Confession and for Holy Communion, is the time when a child begins to reason, that is about the seventh year, more or less. A full and perfect knowledge of Christian doctrine is not necessary either for First Confession or for First Communion.”
Prior, many argued that just attaining the age of reason (7) was not enough to receive Communion, they also needed “a full knowledge of matters of faith.”
Already pondering lowering the age of admittance to communion, what finally inspired the late saint to issue said decree? The life of Ellen Organ.
Ellen Organ was an Irish child born the 24th of August in 1903 who spent the last eight months of her life at an orphanage – Saint Finbarr’s Industrial School in Sunday’s Well in Cork City, administered by the Good Shepherd Sisters.
When not in the infirmary, she would visit the chapel which she called the “House of Holy God.” The sisters taking care of her noticed her flourishing Faith and how she quickly she developed a “mysterious awareness of the Blessed Sacrament.”
Ellen began to claim having visions of Christ as a child, the Virgin Mary, and the Infant of Prague. Impressed, the sisters recommended her to the bishop for the sacrament of confirmation.
She was confirmed on October 8th, 1907 just a couple months after her fourth birthday. Soon after, she began asking to receive the Eucharist as well. At first the sisters hesitated – she was seen as at least six years too young for the time to do so.
After speaking with Ellen, a Jesuit priest determined she had reached the age of reason albeit at a very young age. The sisters brought the matter to the bishop once again an he consented. She made her First Communion on December 6th, 1907.
Soon after, Ellen’s health declined and she grew to be in constant pain with little that could be done given for her given the development of medicine at the time.
As her condition worsened, those caring for her noticed her fortitude and intense prayer life. When being treated, she never complained of the pain and instead was said to contemplate Christ’s pain while suffering on the Cross.
On February 2nd, 1908, Ellen Organ died after living just under five years of life.
“Witnesses said she appeared to see something at the foot of her bed which caused her to smile and her eyes to well with tears. She followed that something with her eyes, looking overhead, when she died.”
After her death, her life story spread throughout Ireland to Rome, reaching Pope Pius X. He took her life as a sign to lower the age of admittance to communion to seven.
Despite devotion to her, no cause for canonization has even been opened for Ellen Organ. Pius X was considering it, however, before his death in 1914. No one else has considered it since, typically citing her young age.