First Communion: Save It for Sunday

Disclaimer: The following is my own opinion based on my own observations over many years of being a parent, a musician, and a parishioner. I am not a member of the clergy, a catechist, or the holder of a degree in theology.

This past weekend, it was my privilege to be one of the musicians at our parish’s First Holy Communion celebration. This is the first time in several years that First Holy Communion was held on a Saturday.

I’m not a fan.

I can think of only four reasons to schedule First Holy Communion as a separate event for only the children in the Communion class and their families:

  1. Hairdressers are open on Saturdays.
  2. It’s easier to schedule the afterparty.
  3. Sunday Mass won’t take 5 extra minutes because there are a few children receiving First Holy Communion, and it takes a little longer to have them (and their parents) receive before the entire assembly.
  4. There’s a good deal of extra running around involved for the DRE.

None of these are good reasons. All of these (except reason 4) pander to people who are either more concerned about the externals of the celebration than the sacrament itself or likely to complain because Mass is a little longer than usual. We need to challenge the assembly, including the families of children receiving sacraments, to be better than this.

I can think of one compelling reason to (as my parish has done for the past few years) designate a Sunday (or two) as First Communion Sunday and invite families to sign up for the Mass they usually attend and receive First Communion:

Reception of the Eucharist is not a private event.

The celebration of First Holy Communion should not be divorced from the rest of the parish.

I used to love when First Communion Sundays rolled around. There would be several families arriving in the vestibule as I got there. The other musicians and I would make sure to congratulate the children. The First Communicants and their families would sit in the first few rows of pews, and there would be special mention of First Communion during the homily and the Prayer of the Faithful. The rest of the people at Mass were the people who are also usually at that Mass, and seeing children receive First Communion at Sunday Mass strengthens that community bond within the parish.

Three years ago, when my friends’ sons received First Holy Communion, I wrote:

I love that at this parish, First Communion is celebrated during Sunday Masses, so that the whole community gets to be there to celebrate along with the children who have been waiting in the pews for seven or eight years to join the rest of the assembly in the sacrament.

Those boys are altar servers now. There’s a commitment to the Church that is affirmed when a family faithfully attends Mass together.

And then there are the other reasons that Sunday is the proper day for First Communion:

  • The pastor will not be tempted to tell parents of First Communicants, “If you’re not going to bring them on Sunday, don’t bother bringing them on Saturday.” (Yes, this happened when my oldest received his First Communion in 2000.)
  • The pastor and/or deacon will not need to provide verbal directions such as “Please kneel” (after the Holy, Holy, Holy) because even if there are visitors among the families of the First Communicants, the vast majority of the assembly will know what to do and will lead by example.
  • There won’t be a low hum of conversation throughout the entire Mass. (Yes, this happened at the class Mass on Saturday.)
  • Catechists won’t need to scold First Communicants for talking and fidgeting while they wait for the rest of the assembly to receive Communion, because the First Communicants will be sitting with their parents, who should be monitoring and modeling church behavior. (Yes, this happened at the class Mass on Saturday.)
  • Family members and friends of the First Communicants will be less tempted to treat the occasion as a photo opportunity (even after instructions to the contrary are given) and won’t jump out into the aisle to wave at their First Communicant during the entrance procession. (Yes, this happened (several times) at the class Mass on Saturday.)

There should be nothing in the religious education program at a parish that sends the message (intentionally or not) that sacraments of initiation are private events, to be enjoyed only by those receiving those sacraments and their families and friends.

By Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP via Flickr (2009), CC BY-NC 2.0

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

This Bread That We Share

For the past eight years I have been part of the folk group that sings at the noon Mass at St. Casimir Church. One member of our group is a mom of twins, who will turn eight at the end of this month, and who will receive their First Holy Communion at Mass today.

st casimir churchI remember encouraging this overwhelmed mom to bring the boys to church when they were babies and then toddlers. I remember helping other singers create “baby barricades” with chairs, the organ bench, and guitar cases to help corral the boys in the choir area.

I remember when they learned to pray the Lord’s Prayer. It was adorable.

As the boys grew, we’d hear more and more singing coming from the back row. They knew all the acclamations long before they could read. And we’d hear catechesis happening–the kind I hope goes on in any pew where children are present. We’d hear a mom gently reminding her sons to pay attention, to look at Father, to notice the important moments in Mass. We’d watch her patiently shepherd her boys through the Communion line with her, where they would stand quietly while she reverently received the Eucharist.

Today it’s their turn. Today they won’t be sitting in the back row of the choir, but up front, looking handsome with fresh haircuts and stylish ties. Today we will sing “This Bread That We Share” as these boys will approach the altar for the very first time to receive the Eucharist.

I love that at this parish, First Communion is celebrated during Sunday Masses, so that the whole community gets to be there to celebrate along with the children who have been waiting in the pews for seven or eight years to join the rest of the assembly in the sacrament.

Congratulations to our friends (the twins) and to their parents who have been very dedicated to raising them well. Congratulations to all the First Communicants!

Book Review: First-Communion Gift Idea

As you choose a gift for the First Communicant in your life, think beyond the standard greeting card with a check enclosed. Instead, consider a gift that will help a young Catholic child learn more about faith, prayer and the Blessed Mother.

mother-mary20223lgMother Mary…God’s Gift to You is a combination storybook, activity book, and journal. Children can use it along with their parents (or grandparents or godparents) to grow in their understanding of, and devotion to, Mother Mary. It is a companion volume to The Parable of Willy Wheat and is designed for children who have already read and enjoyed that story.

Author Kathy Bleichrodt blends cute illustrations with easy-to-understand (but not insulting) language to explain tough concepts to children between the ages of 5 and 8. The book is not meant to be read all at once, but over a period of time; it would be an excellent way to extend your child’s religious education over the summer, when school, homeschool and parish faith-formation classes take a break.

Topics covered in this book include:

  • prayer
  • mysteries of the Rosary
  • consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
  • the scapular

This book is packed with information and hands-on activities.

mother mary bookMother Mary…God’s Gift to You comes with a Rosary, Miraculous Medal, scapular, and wheat berries. You need only a few simple household items to complete all the activities in this book.

Both books in the series have a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, signifying that they are free of errors regarding the Faith and that nothing within the books are contrary to Catholic faith and morals.

This review was originally published at CatholicMom.com. You can find this book and many other First Communion gifts at Aquinas and More.

I wrote this review of Mother Mary for the free Tiber River Catholic book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Aquinas and More is the largest on-line Catholic bookstore.

I received a review copy of this book for the purposes of this post. Opinions expressed are mine alone.