first communion memories

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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?

5 thoughts on “first communion memories

  1. Hi Isabella. My grandmother made my dress. I still have my veil. I wanted to be able to give the veil to my daughter. I didn’t as she has not made her first Communion due to her developmental limits (long story short!). It’s my hope that someday she will. Fortunately we have a pastor who strongly believes that all are welcome. As for me, I have memories of everything being “just so.” I was in a class taught by nuns who made sure we were all in a row, all in place, all knelt and stood at the same time. I remember being nervous and also excited. How appropriate to celebrate First Communion on the Feast of Corpus Cristi. A lovely reminder of how we are all connected to the Body of Christ. Thank-you!

  2. Ah, sounds like our First Communion classes were similar, Cathy! We used to line up in front of the teacher’s desk, kneel, and pass a book from chin to chin to practice receiving the host. Those were the days…haha!

    But what a gift the Body of Christ is….connecting us all across time and space….real communion. My honey says it’s what keeps him Catholic. While we still have the sacraments, he’s not going anywhere else! 😉

  3. Hello. I think it was 1963 when I made my first communion. At that time there was a 3 hour fast so I got up at 5 am or something to eat. I don’t remember a lot. I had a white coat and black pants. And I got a new missal that I held between praying hands in pictures. We were a large group. In our group picture I am between two priests. I remember practicing with unconsecrated hosts. It was a big day, an important day.

    Isabella, I marvel at your ability to rebound and remain faithful in spite of the obstacles you have experienced along the way. The nun removing your gloves, being estranged from your parish community because of a priest. The changes, challenges and the muck of dealing with the institutional church. Somehow you can see through it all, believe through it all. Amazing.

    • Hello Anthony!
      Thanks so much for sharing your first communion memories. They really do take me back. My year was 1966 – English was being introduced into the Mass, but the communion rails were still there.

      And thank you so much for the kind words. Affirmations are so important, and it means a lot to me. You have given me an inspiration for both a dialogue on this blog, and a topic for a Prairie Messenger article. 🙂

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