In our parish and in many in our diocese the process used for preparation for First Communion involves both the parents and the children at all sessions with an expectation of work at home in between sessions. For the well catechized parent it’s a refresher course, for the uncatechized or poorly catechized parents it’s an eye opening experience. We have seen a certain percentage return to the Church as a result. Not all, by a long shot, but enough to give us hope that we are headed in the right direction.
I know that when I received my 1st communion on that Saturday, later that day my family and I went to 5:30 Saturday evening Mass later in the day for Sunday Mass liturgy.
Sunday before Mass I’ll tell niece #2 (who just received on the 19th) that she may not be able to receive on the tongue this Sunday (because for some reason the tongue receiving is not generally done @ this parish in the other diocese.)
responding to OP there are norms in the diocese for preparation, which is 2 years, following at least one year of basic formation. First penance in the 2nd year, usually in Lent, First Communion in the Third year. 3 parent meetings, 6 hours total, for each sacrament celebrated, with topics covered as prescribed by the Diocese. How each parish implements this and actually celebrates sacraments has every variation you can think of, including the local cultural practice of padrinos for 1st communion. Controlling variables seem to be size of class and size of church. Our pastor has specific reasons, well thought out, for first communion, with the child’s family, in the context of regular Sunday Masses, since the whole point is brining the child into the faith community through full participation in Eucharist, in the parish celebration. There is also the point that not every child in a class of 30 or so is ready at the same time, and that the parents are the best judgest of the child’s readiness.
if the pastor changes his mind, we build a bigger church, more parents complain or we get a new pastor, that could change overnight.
every DRE I know well enough, and I know about half of them well enough, makes sure children are instructed how to properly receive either way, and that they have the right to choose. that is not to say all pastors are as open minded.
the more parents are part of the process, through basic formation, sacramental preparation, celebration of the sacraments, and ongoing catechesis, the greater the likelihood they and other family members will respond to the graces poured out not only on the candidates, but their families, at this time. This extends to healing marriages, return to sacraments, completion of Christian initiation and other powerful effects. ooooh I love my job.
I recieved my first communion in the living room of my childhood home. The year was 1976 a bunch of feminists from my parish had just gotten back from a convention in detriot named call to action. They took over our parish and intituted the FADs of change. Their got into the head of the priest and DRE and before we knew it children were told that they wer going to have a special little home Masses where we could celebrate togetherness with our own families. This “fad” lasted a few years but those same 5 women are still alive and kicking. The parish has been utterly destroyed and just a shell of its glory days. Those 5 women are all grey haired old ladies now…But they are still bitter they cannot be the pope. Moral of the story? count your blessings your kids could have ended up getting their first communion the way I did…I still harbor some empty feelings about the whole experience myself. Such a shame.
In the group with which our daughter prepared (in 1986), she was the only one that I’m aware of who received First Communion that way and It was strictly at the pastor’s instigation. Today I’d say ‘no’ to the offer but back then, as a simple PIP, I didn’t know any better and was honoured that he’d make the offer.
I still think the kids should be sitting with their families and receiving as individuals rather than as a class. I also think that they should receive when they are ready as determined in an interview with the pastor.
How many First Communion Masses have you attended?/ I have attended enough to know that the focus most of the time is on the kids. Oh how cute the little girl is who did the first reading (never mind what that reading was or if the kids even understand what they just read). Some parishes have kids come in the sanctuary for the EP (oh it is so cute and the children really feel they are participating…like they are not participating from the pews?) Professional photographers snap pictures of the kids at the moment they receive (oh how cute!). Moms fussing with the girls veils. Guests chatting away until the moment their darling goes up to receive. The noise level in the church the second the priest walks off the altar (hey it’s over now, why not begin the party). No one genuflecting as they pass the tabernacle. Kids running all around the sanctuary or standing in it for pictures (isn’t it cute, lets let little Tommy sit in the presiders chair for a photo op) Then there is always the fact that few return the very next day, Sunday, to fulfill their obligation to attend Mass.
At least at a Sunday Mass, without the focus on the kids, there is a sense that something sacred is happening.
Wow, where does this happen? The Mass I attended last Sunday afternoon was very Reverent. In fact, I thought it was quite appropriate that Communion time started at the Hour of Mercy (around 3:00 PM or so). The special class photo didn’t take place until Mass was over. There was a beautiful meditation prayer/song sung by the 61 children following Communion.
Unfortunately, there are still a few parishes out there that do not have the Tabernacle right behind the altar where it belongs, so some children are not used to genuflecting (like my eldest niece who I had to tell to Genuflect.) Tomorrow I have another 1st communion, and unfortunately, at this parish, the Tabernacle is in a separate room. I always genuflect towards the Altar out of habit, even though the Tabernacle is not in the Front as it should be.
The parallel with weddings is easy to see, whether or not First Holy Communion happens on at a regular Sunday Mass or not. It is too easy for the “event” to get out of hand as to externals or, conversely, for the importance of this event on the rest of one’s life to be treated with an inappropriate nonchalance. As with weddings, it is the preparation and the later lifelong commitment outside the “event” that makes all the difference. (Witnessing FHCs, I see another weird parallel with weddings: the number of families that dress the child to the nines, while nearly everyone not rating a corsage shows up in clothes more suitable for sports, manual labor, or shopping for a date who isn’t interested in a chaste evening. What gives with that?)
I think it is edifying for both parishioners and first communicants for FHC to take place at a regular Sunday Mass, except when plain logistics (the number of children and the physical size of the church) make it clear that edification is going to be lost due to overcrowding. Why? Because Holy Communion is all about the Body of Christ. After all, every Mass is not only sacrifice, but also the wedding feast of the Lamb, with His Bride, the Church. There are informal weddings and formal ones, but every wedding calls for a solemnity in both interior attitude and externals used that shows reverence to what is taking place.
As for having the celebration outside of regular Sunday Masses, it must be kept in mind, too, that except when there is true necessity, a priest may only celebrate Mass so many times in a single day. There are some very big parishes with only one priest, and sometimes a priest advanced in years. There are some very big parishes that have also essentially outgrown their church. Accomodations have to be made, one way or the other. Adding another Sunday Mass isn’t always a suitable alternative.
The homilies over the years at our parish have been very good, though: the children, parents, and all present have been reminded every year about a) the awesome reality of the True Presence and b) the lifelong and total commitment that faith requires, a thing that both parents and children are encouraged to hold each other to as a family. Again…a good thing for the whole parish to get to share in, when it is possible.
dressing the child to the nines…I saw a girl with what I thought was an overly elaborate Floral wreath on her head before I went into the Church for my nephew’s 1st Communion Mass yesterday morning.
They only had two priests to give communion (usually they don’t have a second Priest – I know this from being there before for Mass that wasn’t for 1st Communion) and the Celebrant only wanted the children & their parents receiving from the Priests. Everyone else was asked to receive from the EMHCs…
Please dont insult me. My wife has 17 nieces/nephews + 2 children of my own so I have attended quite a few. And by the way my pastor does not allow professional photographers except for ONE that is provided by the Church.
As for not returning on Sunday, please, what do you want us to do, drag people out of their homes??? It is like communion, more than half the people there shouldnt receive it, but what’s an EMHC supposed to do, ask every person if they are in a state of grace before giving the host??? If they miss the next day chances are they will miss the NEXT SUNDAY, so in the end it’s the same thing for someone who doesn’t regularly attend Mass.
Our pastor goes so far as to tell the first communicants that they have his personal permission and encouragement to roust their parents out of bed on Sunday mornings, if necessary, so they can receive the Eucharist every Sunday for the rest of their lives.
We teach our kids preparing for Eucharist that they may receive on the tongue any time they want to. We do warn them that some EMsHC are not used to it, and might take a second to collect themselves, but that if it is necessary to stand there with their mouths open, they shouldn’t be embarrassed or worry about it, just give the person a minute and make sure their mouths are far enough open for the Blessed Sacrament to be given safely. We tell them how to receive in the hand, too. We also tell them that there are times and places when the Eucharist is not given in the hand, so they should know how to receive on the tongue even if that isn’t their preferred method.
Still, it is not a bad idea to teach a child to be charitable when the matter in question does not violate morals, and to give them a heads-up about how to handle a problem, when that problem is likely to arise.
You just made my point. Big deal is made of First Communion and they don’t come back. So why go through all that hoop-la? It becomes a rite of passage instead of a celebration of a sacrament.
It is a rite of passage, whether or not hoopla is involved. Ingratitude does not make First Holy Communion into a non-event.
Again, like weddings: whether it is just two people with a priest and witnesses or everybody from here to Hollywood in attendance, it is the start of a marriage, and that is a big deal. It isn’t the white dresses and the limos that have put appreciation and commitment to either marriage or the Eucharist in the state they are in today, though. These are grave problems that the white dresses and fancy cakes neither address nor aggravate, one way or another. Excepting where overindulgence in externals venture into pride, self-indulgence, and extravagance of scandalous proportion, the externals chosen or not chosen to mark such a momentous occasion are entirely besides the point. At least I don’t think so.
Actually, joanm has a point. Let me explain. Over the weekend, my pastor put a notice in the bulletin indicating his disappointment with those parents who have not yet fully engaged in preparing their children to receive First Holy Communion. The unfortunate extent of this is the fact that the children do not know their prayers. As a result, not all of the children will be able to receive First Holy Communion next week. They will have to be delayed a full three months so as to give the parents enough time to prepare their children, teach them their prayers and take a more active role in their children’s Faith life.
Parents are supposed to be the first teachers of the Faith to their children. That is part and parcel of the responsibilities that they assumed when they brought their children to the Church to request Baptism. It is not about a rite of passage. It is more than that. It is the child’s first encounter, first personal encounter, with Jesus. It’s funny. Parents will invest lots of time and money to send their kids to Sylvan to get ahead in school, but, when it comes to the Faith, quite a few of them are not willing to make any sort of personal investment in the souls of their children.
In my parish it’s a rare child now who presents for First Communion preparation knowing his/her prayers. Parents expect that prayers will be taught in the classes but the teacher is quick to disabuse them of that notion and put the responsibility back on their shoulders.
I have to admit that it was Mom’s horror that 2 year old DD didn’t know the Our Father that made me start teaching her, until then I had thought she was too young. As a result all 3 kids knew their basic prayers before they went to school. So seriously did DH take his promise to raise the kids Catholic that he learned the “Hail Mary” in French to be able to help the children with their prayers on nights when I had to be away at bedtime.
In my former parish, First Communion took place at any given Sunday/Saturday vigil Mass, year round. The parents were responsible to coordinate the First Communion for their child, even though the parish has a school. It was horrible, with the children sitting up front looking like a deer in the headlights being the only child in most cases receiving First Communion. Often, the parents didn’t get around to having their child’s First Communion until they were considerably older than second grade. And the parish required a 3-day retreat (unrelated to the Eucharist) for the parents prior to allowing their child to receive First Communion (a major hurdle to many and a large reason for the delays in receiving the sacrament).
In my current parish, which also has a school, the second graders all participate in their First Communion as a class, during a Sunday morning Mass. It’s much more like the traditional approach I grew up with, which is the primary reason I switched parishes and schools, even though I drive 45 minutes to get there. Children not in the school also receive their First Communion with their Religious Ed class.
My son and his friend did their 1st communion last year.
However this year, we attended at two 1st communions basically, one right after the other.
His cousin Jade did hers on the Saturday at 5 o’clock evening mass. Quite possibly because the church is more Italian oriented, being in an Italian neighbourhood, and Italian mass is held on the Sunday morning. It was the mass you would hear on Sunday. The children sat with their parents, the parent went up with the child to take 1st communion. No big ceremony, children did not participate in mass, although Father did take time to speak to the children and give them questions regarding the importance of why we receive the Host.
At the other one we attended, which was held the Sunday morning at 11 a.m. mass, it was at our parish and quite different… The class sat together, the children participated by doing the 1st reading, saying the prayers of the faithful, they were announced by name when receiving the Holy Eucharist, after communion was given to the parishoners, the class returned to the front of the altar and sang their 1st communion hymn…“Bread of Friendship, Bread of Life”.
Although pictures could not be taken during Mass (this escapes me because at my son’s we could…Yes I do understand that we should not disturb mass as it is sacred and flashes of camera’s could be a major distraction.) we could take pictures before and after.
To me, the second we attended was more special to all (children, parents, parishoners).
I’m the sort that believes that all Catholic rites of passage are a major cause of celebration and a big to-do should be made–this of course does not particularly mean parties and cake and hooplah, but spirituality is something to celebrate, the coming closer to God and Jesus should always be made important.
As both Fathers remarked at each 1st communion, it is very sad to see the children come
up for 1st communion and then not seeing them at church the following Sunday or for a month afterwards or only at ‘Christmas’ and ‘Easter’.
I count myself very blessed as I had the most difficult time getting my son to Mass prior to his 1st Communion. However, since taking his 1st communion, it is very rare that we miss Mass. If we cannot attend on Sunday, we go on Saturday afternoon. I pray that as he gets older, we have instilled good Catholic values and that Mass and the receiving of the Host remains a priority for him.
I know the idea is thrown about as if there is some sort of entitlement involved, but the term is “rite of passage”, not “right of passage.” If a rite of passage involves no ordeal intended to bring about change in the individual, if there is no difference between how the person is regarded before or after, if their sense of responsibility or their place in the group undergoes no change, if it is only an isolated ceremony without interior preparation or an expectation of important lasting change, then there is almost no point to it. You are right: it will have no lasting impact.
It is like a wedding. If the whole rite is treated as if the object is to produce a bride and a groom, rather than a husband and a wife, there isn’t a point to it. The externals are there to mark how an event in the lives the individuals also marks a momentous turning point in the life of the entire Body of Christ. If there isn’t an actual turning point, then the externals only accentuate the degree to which the rite has become a sort of a farce, like one of those “weddings” between pets. It is worse than nothing.
Just wanted to say a prayer for all the children of our parish and others who had First Communion last Sunday. My lovely 7 year old grand daughter was one of them
Teach me loving Jesus
In thine own sweet loving way,
All the lessons of perfection
I must practice everyday.
Teach me meekness dearest Jesus,
of Thine own the counterpart,
Not in words and actions only,
but the meekness of the heart.
Teach humility, sweet Jesus,
to this poor proud heart of mine,
That yet wishes O my Jesus
to be modeled after Thine.
Teach me fervor dearest Jesus,
to comply with every grace,
So as never to look backward,
Never slacken in the race.
Teach me poverty dear Jesus
that my heart may never cling
to whatever it’s love might sever,
From my Savior Lord and King.
Teach me chastity, sweet Jesus
that my every day may see,
Something added to the likeness,
that my soul should bear to Thee.
Teach obedience, dearest Jesus,
Such as was Thy daily chore
In Thy toilsome earthly journey,
Manger to the cross you bore.
Teach Thy heart to me dear Jesus,
Is my fervent final prayer,
For all beauties and perfections,
Are in full perfection there.
At our parish, it is done on a Sunday morning. The children are encouraged to wear modest white dresses (girls) and suits (boys). They will sit together, and they will receive Holy Communion first, before the rest of the congregation. Photography is forbidden during the Mass itself, but they will be allowed to take photos in the Church after the Mass has ended.
We are also going to have cake and punch after the Mass, with a short social time. They will also receive their certificates at this time.
We are going to do our absolute best to make sure they know how to participate in the Mass, and how to say their prayers. We rely a great deal on the parents, as well, since we really don’t have a lot of classroom time.