Sunday, May 9, 2010

First Holy Communion Season - a.k.a. Silly Season

All over Ireland during the month of May in parish after parish it is First Holy Communion time. And what a time it is. I have to be honest and say that I dread it each year. Each year I spend hours upon hours with the children of the school I am chaplain to in an effort to instill in them a love for and an awareness of Jesus in the Eucharist and the great thing that is the Mass.

Unfortunately the Sunday Mass practice rate among these young children is less 10% and there are a number of them who have rarely (if ever) been at Sunday Mass. So I often feel like I am speaking to them in a completely foreign language, sinc ehte subject matter is so very foriegn to them. But we as a Church in Ireland dare not say: "Okay your parents obviously don't consider the faith important enough to introduce you to the most basic elements of our faith - so we'll leave off First Holy Communion until later." No - it's very much a free for all.

I know some might quote me the Lord saying: "Let the little children come to me." And that is something I dwell quite alot on - but I'm more and more convinced that the Church in Ireland is more than willing to demean her Sacraments to make it convenient as possible for people to partake without even the bare minimum of commitment. That seems to be a pattern right across the board - how can we facilitate you Sir/Madam - Rule: Let's not get caught up in Rules - your wish is my command. I often get the impression from some of my brother priests - a minority I think/hope - that it's more about backsides on seats than about drawing people to sainthood.
Every year quite a number non-Catholic Christian parents ask our parish if their child can be baptised (again!!) as Catholic (only for the day you understand) so that they can make their First Communion with their classmates. I fear in some parishes some priests might be saying yes!

In my few experiences of First Holy Communion day in the parish I have seen too much of the outward trappings of the day and very little of the real meaning of this great day in the lives of the children. It seems to be about the money, the hair, the clothes, the performance (readings, prayers, songs, poems, the photos (so much about the photos), the celebration afterwards; and so very little about that awesome encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. It is indeed wonderful to find a child (and family) that have their priorities right - who take their child to Mass every Sunday (before and after First Holy Communion)and who make the day centre around the celebration of Mass. Those families are rare enough it seems.

And it is sad to say that it is at First Holy Communion in the Parish that I encounter the most disrespect and downright obsenity at Mass. The Church is treated like it was a bingo hall, and some people - and I mean ladies - are dressed in ways that are less than lady like. I was severly tempted to say to one lady at our recent First Communion Mass that she was in the wrong building - that the local swimming pool was at the other side of town.

At the end of this rant (I seem to be doing alot of that lately) I have to say that the children are like sponges when it comes to the things of God since for many of them their parents have utterly failed to introduce them to Jesus Christ in any meaningful way. They are so open to the Gospel and to the things of God. And none of them have made a decision against going to Mass. It just doesn't appear on the horizon of priorities in many families. As one young child in the First Communion Class said to me: I asked my parents to bring me to Mass - but they said no! It might sound harsh, but one wonders how their judgment will go - since they take their vocation as parents so lightly and are doing precisely what the Lord warned should not happen - that the little ones be kept from him.
Lord - come soon! Maranatha!
But wait!!!!
The Archbishop of Dublin makes a good point - one that he will hopefully follow through on:

"We need a more demanding catechesis, within a parish framework, for those who wish to come forward for admission to the sacraments. Admission to the sacraments is not something which is automatically acquired when one reaches a certain class in school. "


  1. Dear Father,
    I understand what you are saying. Your feelings are what I struggle with daily. I teach in a Catholic school in Wisconsin. What you write about is the very reason I continue to rise each day and enter the classroom with a loving smile on my face.
    These students are from one or two 'child' affluent homes. They are shuttled around to sports, dance, gymnastics, etc... They want for nothing material. They have it all.
    Yet, when we speak of Jesus and the Church, they look at me with a starved hunger in their eyes. They want to learn about Jesus. They want to pray!
    Very few attend Mass on Sundays.
    I have cried for these beautiful children.
    I have prayed for these children.

    Thank you for bringing Jesus to our beautiful children! When they see you smile, they see Jesus smile. If their parents are not taking their vocation seriously, maybe the children will remember you and your love for the Lord and they will seek Him out as they grow into the vocation God has set for them.

    My thoughts are that catechesis was severely abandoned for my generation. We need to teach people about the Faith. I hope that when some of these parents see their beautiful children loving Christ with all of their hearts, they too will seek Him.
    A bit backwards... but somehow we need to turn it around once again.

    Jesus, I trust in You!

  2. Dear Father,
    I thought you may be interested in reading a column from our Parish Priest. This was in our Sunday bulletin from this morning.
    Have a beautiful Sunday! And... thank you for you posts. Catechesis opportunities are everywhere. :)

    Dear Parishioners,
    Happy Feast Day! This weekend we
    celebrate with great joy the Solemnity of the
    Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ or Corpus
    Christi. Our parish is named Most Blessed
    Sacrament, and it is fitting that we honor His
    Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. I
    invite all of us to contemplate what the
    Eucharist does for each of us when we receive the Body and Blood
    of Jesus in totality, His Real Presence, body, soul, humanity and
    Might be a good time for us to review basic ―Communion
    Etiquette 101‖. Unfortunately, all of us, myself included, can get
    ―sloppy‖ when it comes to properly receiving Jesus at Communion
    time. Parents (and grandparents), I am especially asking for your
    help since a lot of inappropriate behavior regarding Communion
    happens with the younger crowd, although adults can also be just
    as negligent. Somehow along the way they just were not taught
    how to receive Communion.
    As Catholics, we are encouraged to receive Communion
    devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive
    Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin
    and should have fasted for one hour.
    Fasting means NO GUM chewing! Chewing gum in
    church is bad enough, but to have gum in the mouth when we
    receive communion is a sacrilege.
    As we come forward in the communion line, we also need
    to keep our minds focused on what we are doing, that we are going
    to receive our God, Jesus Christ, personally as the guest of our
    soul. We need to stay undistracted with everything else going on
    around us. A good remedy to distraction is to carry the worship
    aide with us and SING the communion hymn as we come forward
    in line. It keeps our mind on what is about to happen, our
    encounter with the Lord.
    If we are receiving communion on the palm of our hand, is
    it clean? Too often I see ink handwriting (in one case an obscenity)
    on the palm. If this is the case, we should receive on the tongue
    instead. Also, shirt sleeves should not be pulled over the palm
    when receiving.
    Remember to bow as the person in front of us receives
    communion. We should NEVER grab the host. That is a selfish act.
    The Eucharist is a GIFT we receive. Grabbing is a selfish gesture
    of taking, not receiving. One receives the consecrated host either
    on the palm of their hand with the other hand placed beneath it, or
    on the tongue.
    We need to respond AMEN, after the priest or minister
    says ―The Body of Christ/The Blood of Christ‖. It should be heard,
    never mumbled. It is inappropriate to say ―thank you‖ or ―I believe.‖
    ―Amen‖ is the only appropriate response.
    If receiving in the palm of the hand, the consecrated host
    must be placed in the mouth immediately as we step aside one
    step. Never carry the host with you back to the pew or to the cup.
    Dipping the host in the cup is not permitted. The Precious Blood
    will drip on the floor. If you are fearful of germs, please refrain from
    receiving from the cup.
    If you have non-Catholic guests with you at Mass, please
    tell them before Mass that they should not receive communion.
    Father Jim