When I Was a Child: Children's Interpretations of First Communion

By Susan Ridgely Bales | Go to book overview

one
children seen and heard
First Communion Celebrations

All during the Mass, we prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus,
who comes to us in Holy Communion. When Communion time
comes, the priest or Eucharistic minister holds the Host up to each
of us and says, “The body of Christ.”… After we receive Jesus in
Holy Communion, we return to our places to pray and sing. The
word Communion means that we are united with Jesus Christ
and one another.—Coming to Jesus (1999)

Blessed Sacrament’s textbook, Coming to Jesus, from Sadlier’s Coming to Faith Series, tells children what to expect during their First Communion. In just a few sentences, the children learn what they should do during Mass—prepare their hearts, pray, sing —and the result of receiving the Sacrament—it connects the children with Jesus and fellow Catholics. As the children would soon learn, however, First Communion encompasses much more than this generalization reveals. It is a rich, complicated, and dynamic ritual that has the potential to do more than unite the children with Jesus and the Church. In the children’s First Communion Mass, they would dance, present the offering, and speak before the congregation. And in so doing they would enact and help shape their parish’s ethnic heritage as well as its Catholic traditions. The usual descriptions erase these aspects of heritage and action. They focus instead on the uniform structure of the ritual and its intended universal result. This focus both flattens the ritual and assumes that it will succeed in bringing the child and the Church together. Though this union may occur on a theological level, it is not necessarily true that every child leaves the altar table feeling connected to the Church. I would have to wait until I talked with the children after

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