Yesterday our parish celebrated the First Communion of nine young children in our parish. The boys processed into the church dressed in white shirts and ties. The girls were in white dresses, some in veils. Memories of First Communion Sundays past flooded my mind.
I remember my own First Communion, and the thrill of wearing my white dress and veil; both lovingly hand-made by my Mama. Our class had spent weeks preparing and rehearsing for the big day. This was in the days of the communion rail, kneeling, holding the paten below our tilted head, and sticking our tongues out to receive the Eucharist. Everything had to be done just right.
When the moment came, I went up to the communion rail with my Mama and knelt to say my prayers. Sr. John came swooping up in a panic. I forgot to take off my white gloves! She quickly pulled them off my hands while the priest was at the other end of the railing. The moment was ruined. I still have the memories of shame. I had screwed up. Or, the obsessive rules screwed me up. Sigh.
When my own children attended our parish Sunday school, I taught the First Communion class for several years. I still have much admiration for those who take on this special year. I had to prepare parents as well as children. How I hated being the go-between the priest and parents when requirements weren’t met. Too often, the children were innocent by-standers in the power plays. Sacramental moments became battle grounds.
But, I loved teaching the children the gift that the Eucharist is to us; a concrete gift of God’s love and presence. The moment of their First Communion was always an emotional one. But, so was their second, third and fourth. It was wonderful to see the young ones join the rest of the community in receiving the sacrament each Sunday after.
When our youngest was old enough for her First Communion, we were estranged from our parish. What to do? Thankfully, we were part of a wonderful faith community of friends and family. They helped us celebrate the big day with our dear friends at the Benedictine Monastery. Our daughter was surrounded by joy, love, and great music. One of our musician friends even wrote a special song for the occasion, ‘Simple Meal’.
The Eucharist is truly a sacrament of initiation, welcoming us to partake of sacred mysteries wrapped in the ordinariness of bread and wine. It is food for our journey, and a sign of our unity. It is a gift that we too often take for granted. First Communion celebrations remind us to stop and ponder how special is the gift.
What are your First Communion memories?