May 14, 2011

Tis the season for First Communions

My last post disappeared after Blogger was down for two days.  Maybe it will return some day.  Lots going on in the parish. This is the season of First Communions.  While they are exciting they also expose some of the problems that we are experiencing in the Church.  When I did my doctoral project four years ago on the topic of First Communion, I was surprised by the number of respondents to my survey who admitted that their motives for having their child receive Communion was not because of faith or belief but simply because it was the thing to do if one is Catholic. It didn't matter if the family did not attend Mass on Sundays or practiced their faith at all. It saddens me when I see children so innocent and excited to be receiving the Eucharist on Saturday, and then we don't see them again in church for weeks, months, or even years.  We can't blame the kids, but I wish I knew the way to get the parents to realize the great Gift that the Eucharist is, not just an excuse to get dressed up and have a party. And, that coming to Mass each week is not a burden or unnecessary, but indeed is necessary to foster a deeper relationship with Christ.

I remember my First Communion.  I remember it was raining and my bouquet fell apart. I know we didn't have a party, but I do remember being at my Grandparent's house, probably for dinner. The only gifts I remember receiving were a rosary and a children's missal.  I remember being second to last in the processional line since I was so tall, even in first grade I was taller then those in second grade who were receiving that day.  I remember we sang "O Sacrament Most Holy," "O, Lord I Am Not Worthy," "Jesus, Jesus Come to Me," and a silly little ditty (by 1961 standards) called "Little White Guest."  Mass was in Latin, we received on our knees, on the tongue, and at the altar rail.  But most of all, I clearly remember going back to my pew burying my face in my hands, and feeling that this was a day that would change my life, and so happy that I was receiving Jesus.  I could not wait for the next day to  wear my First Communion dress and receive Jesus again.  I came to Mass the next day all dressed up and happy to receive Jesus. We again wore our dresses the next week at school as we crowned Our Lady, and a few weeks later walking in the Corpus Christi procession following Mass. This Sunday, maybe two or three kids will wear their communion clothes to Mass.  A good number of those who received today will not be there tomorrow.  Only about a third will participate in the May Crowing. The big question is why?

I pray for all our First Communicants, but most of all for their parents that they can come to understand the need for Jesus in their lives and the lives of their children. This past week the daily readings were from the Gospel of John, Chapter 6, the Bread of Life discourse. I know that listening and meditating on these readings always help me to renew my devotion to Christ present in the Eucharist. They are among the most beautiful passages in the Gospels. I pray that the hearts and minds of the parents of these young children will be moved to come to know Jesus in the Eucharist and to instill the Love of Christ on their children so that their memories of First Communion will be more than the clothes, the party and the gifts.

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