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10-communion

Catholic parents should lead by example

We do children a disservice if we allow First Communions to be the only bright light of Faith in their lives, writes Fr Michael Kane.

After the hectic period of Lent and Easter every priest will be familiar with the friendly salutations of our dear parishioners: “Father, you’ll be glad that’s your busy time over for another year.”

Perhaps it can seem that way, until you realise that First Communion season is around the corner!

Last weekend 27-seven of our young parishioners celebrated this Sacrament of God’s love.

It’s always an uplifting and joyous occasion for the parish and for our families as we see the children approach the altar for the very first time to receive the Body of Jesus.

For most it’s a day filled with many different emotions: joy and excitement, nervousness and impatience.

The celebration is the fruit of months of preparation and prayer which takes place at home, in the parish and within the primary school.

 

Miracle of Mass

This preparation focuses on the central doctrine that through the miracle of the Mass the bread and wine becomes the actual Body and Blood of Jesus. “This is my body,” is not the language of symbolism or ambiguity. We are convinced by its literal affirmation.

It is, of course, too easy to become cynical about the frills which have become synonymous with the Sacrament of First Holy Communion.

We have all heard the horror stories of children arriving at the church in horse drawn chariots or parents spending extortionate amounts of wedding-style communion dresses.

 

Missing the point

At times it can seem that some families have missed the essence of the Sacrament. In fact, some parents can seem more focused on the after-party celebration rather than the Mass.

I remember one particular pre-Sacrament meeting with parents some years ago.

I put a lot of time and energy into explaining the different elements of the Mass and the significance of the change that takes place at the consecration.

At the end when I invited questions, one parent asked me to explain the parish policy on kilts and cummerbunds. It was certainly a bump back down to ground!

Despite these experiences, I try my best each year to overlook the excesses.

I try to remind the children (and the parents!) of the true essence of this awesome Sacrament, in the hope that the frills will pale into insignificance.

The actual celebration of the First Communion Mass is a great tonic to the props and frills which surround the build-up.

 

Love, focus and sincerity

Last Sunday the children showed great love and focus and sincerity at the altar.

They showed the joy and enthusiasm of their Faith, and a longing to come close to Jesus.

They seemed to understand the significance of the word ‘Amen’ which they spoke as they received the Host. Their ‘Amen’ means ‘I believe’ and it certainly came from their hearts.

 

In Communion with Christ

In the homily I tried to underline the effects of Holy Communion. I reminded the children that they were now to carry Jesus with them into every part of their day.

They were to try to become more like the One they had received; to imitate Him in their thoughts, words and actions. This is how we begin to live ‘in communion’ with Jesus.

I also took the opportunity to address the parents, the first teachers, in the ways of Faith.

Last Sunday was a celebration of many gifts. Firstly, it was a celebration of the Sacrament itself, the living food which has come down from Heaven which is a gift of tremendous importance and sanctity.

 

Brightening our lives

It is also, however, a celebration of the gift of children who brighten our lives and enrich the living Body of Christ.

It’s a celebration of family life, a reminder that we belong to two families: one natural and one spiritual. It seems to me that this is an essential message for families today.

We must never forget that we are part of God’s family, the Church. We are precious and essential members of this Catholic family, and remain so no matter the struggles of life.

To be Catholic means to belong to a community, a family for our entire lives.

Last, the celebration of a Sacrament is a timely reminder of the precious gift of Faith which is passed down through the generations.

 

Responsibilities

This gift endows us with responsibilities to ensure that we hand-on to children what we ourselves have received from others.

It’s a gift that must not only be unwrapped on big occasions like First Communion, but needs to take root in our everyday lives.

It needs to be lived and nurtured and sustained each day if it’s to grow and put down lasting roots in the lives of the little ones. In this regard, parents must strive to lead by example.

By analogy, First Communion is not meant to be a mesmerising firework display which explodes with colour and excitement and brilliance for a few seconds before the dark and calm sky returns.

It’s not spectacle which quickly fizzles-out into nothing. God wants it to be something much more than that, a daily decision and a constant way of life.

It is to be the first of many, many pious communions for our children.

Perhaps some rest will come for the clergy after May! Until then, I have the same message to repeat to 21 other little children on another First Holy Communion day, cummerbunds and all!

 

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