ASK FATHER: 1st Communion at a special Mass rather than at a regular Sunday Mass

From a reader…


I am wondering about the practice of holding First Holy Communions at the regular Sunday Masses instead of a special, separate Mass for the whole class.  My own was on a Saturday, with 60 other CCD children; the parish school had theirs the previous Saturday, with another 60-some children.  Even just logistically, it seems like it would have been very awkward to incorporate that into the weekend Masses.  I think this comes from something in Vatican II, although I think it might be “diocesan policy” (which often seems questionable … at least in my diocese), and I have seen the argument made that First Communion should take place within the “parish family” and not as a separate event; but I am really curious if this was only done after/because of Vatican II, because one sees all these lovely, old photographs of churches packed full of First Communicants, and I always presumed that was a Saturday!  It bothers me, because it seems “new-fangled,” and there’s just something so beautiful about the procession of children in white, and the focus being on it as a very special day.  But then I wonder if maybe that’s just my Italian love of a spectacle, and very superficial of me.  I’m very curious to know your thoughts if you would help to clear this up!  Thank you!

I really don’t have a strong opinion about this issue.  I think it has a lot to do with the individual parish or community.

Perhaps the readership can jump in here with some descriptions of their own 1st Communions and what they arranged for their own children.

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  1. jflare29 says:

    Wellllll, let’s see now: I believe my parish in the traditional form has done First Communion as part of regular high Mass. So, imagine, if you will, some 60-120 youngsters, all dressed in the special Sunday best, processing in before Father for Mass. They likely take up the first several pews. And processing out before Father after. Imagine further that these youngsters have parents, siblings, cousins, aunts/uncles, maybe grandparents, possibly even some Godparents present for the event.
    And, yeah, don’t forget the regular parishioners.
    By the time you have all that, you’re likely to have the nave stuffed to near-standing-room-only, unless you have an unusually large nave.
    And, of course, after those wonderful First Communicants go up, then …everyone comes up too.
    ..And that omits the possibility that some of the young ones might sing something special from the choir loft for the occasion.
    ..And, of course, Father, the teachers, and all those First Communicants line up right behind the communion rail for a picture immediately following. Maybe even have a special coffee-and-donuts or even regular reception too.
    That’s quite the to-do by the time all’s said and done.

    Mention of a special Saturday Mass DOES make me think of Frank McCourt’s autobiography though.

  2. Lurker 59 says:

    My N.O. parish does First Communion during a regular Sunday Mass. The parish’s new priest used last year’s as an occasion to introduce a portable altar rail (really just a 4ft kneeler).

  3. The Egyptian says:

    in our area parishes let it be known what Sundays they are having “first communion” and strongly suggest that non involved parishioners go to another mass or parish on that Sunday, it really does get that packed and you really do want to avoid it if possible. Plus the fact that the previous pastor had all the newbies come stand around the altar with him at consecration was enough to make me scarce. did it with my last 3 made me cringe every time but was told that I was not qualified to object, not educated enough don’t ya know

  4. exNOAAman says:

    Our local N.O. parish reached a point where they had to split the event into 2 successive Saturdays; divided (I think) alphabetically. About 10-15 years ago. Not as busy there these days.
    Not possible to do that on a Sunday.

  5. rhig090v says:

    In my experience having First Holy Communion as a class at a normal Sunday Mass is correlated with closer-knit parishes, vocational fruitfulness, and stronger faith. Not to say one causes the other but maybe it might.

  6. Tradster says:

    This is an instance where size does matter. At our SSPX chapel First Communion is part of the usual High Mass with a garden party afterwards. However, a typical year is only about 10 children, give or take, and most of the immediate and close relatives regularly attend there every week anyway. So there really isn’t much difference from a regular Sunday. And, thank the Lord, no applause!

  7. Rob in Maine says:

    My children had their First Communion and Confirmation as a class when they were 8 years old.

    I’m 55, so growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I didn’t receive my Confirmation until high school. I remember receiving my First Communion with my class but I also remember distinctly receiving it by myself with my family at a Sunday Mass. Gold shag carpeting all over the Sanctuary as the parish had just completed a bad 70’s make over. The family story goes that I was so excited, when Father Walsh called me up, I RAN up the aisle, into the Sanctuary (the railing has been removed) and right up to the Altar.

  8. Tbraun says:

    I have seen and participated in both as an organist. As others have said, if there is a large class of first communicants then there will generally be lots of relatives as well and in the context of a regular Sunday mass, it’s often standing room only. This last year, they were sending people into the choir loft! So it got crowded. So I guess you could argue both ways, but I think it could come down to what’s practical. A benefit of the first communion in context of mass, is it might tamp down some (possible) liturgical abuses like singing secular children’s songs or gathering children around the altar in the sanctuary. I think religious ed directors and other parish personnel play more loosely with the rules when it’s “the kids’ mass”. So if that’s a potential issue, there’s an argument for keeping it in the regular Sunday mass(s).

  9. JabbaPapa says:

    It’s worthwhile remembering that technically the normal form of Baptism is still the adult Baptism, so that one’s First Communion is ordinarily within the Easter Vigil Mass, and that the First Communions of those Baptised as infants or children should be centred properly in reflection of, from, and to the Passion and the Resurrection of the Lord.

    And from the perspective of an adult convert, I would say that those whom I have seen receiving First Communion either alone or in little groups at an otherwise ordinary Sunday Mass receive it closer to the manner after an adult Baptism than do those receiving in larger groups, where perhaps the terrible encounter with Christ can be diluted by this activity in a group.

    Not that the Sacrament can be diminished by any such considerations of course, but one’s understanding of it could be.

  10. amenamen says:

    Not every parish could handle the crowds for a large First Communion class at a regular Sunday Mass, but consider some of the benefits of doing it at a Sunday Mass.

    First, and most important, the children and their families actually go to Mass that Sunday.

    Ask any religious education catechist or Catholic school teacher, or any of the parents, if the children who made their First Communion on Saturday also went to Sunday Mass that weekend. The overwhelming response will be, “No!”

    It has become the standard practice and common misunderstanding that a Mass on the “weekend,” even Saturday morning, fulfills the obligation to go to Mass every Sunday. This also happens with Christmas, funerals, and graduations. One Mass per week is widely seen as the norm, and not just for the once-a-year Mass goers. Just try counting the number of 2nd graders at Mass on the Sunday after First Communion.
    Prepare for disappointment.

    Another benefit, provided that the Mass is celebrated reverently and in a relatively normal amount of time, is that the people of the parish have an annual reminder of the beauty of Holy Communion, and the recollection of their own First Holy Communion.

  11. ex seaxe says:

    My First Communion was with the class and a school event rather than a church event, as far as I recall 77 years later. But then I went to school in the neighbouring parish as our did not yet have an elementary school. I do not recall anything spiritual about it, unlike my Confirmation two years later.
    I have a very strong recollection of my second confession. I was very reluctant to go, perhaps knowing I had blotted my copybook. My father had to march me to church, and I was in fear and trembling. The consequent lifting of my burden of guilt was such that I can still distinctly recall feeling light enough to float down the steps from church afterwards.

  12. I cannot speak to how it was done decades ago. I will offer observations from my own experience in the last 20 years.

    In many parishes I’ve experienced as a seminarian, deacon and now priest, the time preceding First Communion and Confirmation Masses were cacophonous to the point of provocation.

    One time I stepped out of the sacristy and politely asked everyone to lower the volume to give the children a prayerful example and environment. That didn’t really work, so a few minutes later a layperson stepped up and haranged everyone rather impolitely, saying something like, “didn’t you hear what Father just said?!?”

    The second (unauthorized) announcement only worked a little better.

    In my most recent parish before my current assignment (and I only just got here, I don’t know what happens here yet), thankfully there was a far stronger culture of reverence, and things were only a bit noisier before these special occasion Masses.

    I might add that I’ve experienced First Communion both in a regular scheduled Mass, and in a special-time-of-day Mass. The latter was noisier, but that may be a coincidence. (Confirmation is almost always a special time, as it involves the bishop.)

    The question of having First Communion just for the children at the Catholic school raises several issues. So what about children who don’t attend the Catholic school? Too often, in a parish with its own school, children who don’t attend that school are treated a little shabbily, and they know it. Also, very, very often the school will see itself as a separate community, rather than a ministry of the parish; and people in the parish will likewise see the school as a “they” rather than a “we.” Not good.

    Then there is the neuralgic question of exactly where the children sit and how, precisely, they receive Holy Communion. Remember, they are around 8 years old, so they do tend to get a little flustered.

    When it involved a rail and kneeling in a line, that’s pretty easy for 2nd graders. When it involves approaching someone, then having to bow or make the sign of the cross, then having to remember how to extend one’s tongue or hands, then having to remember to walk over to another person with a cup…that’s really a lot for a nervous kid to keep straight.

    Add in parents snapping pictures, and it can be circuslike. Either the grown-ups grouse that they can’t see; or they ooh and ahh about how cute the kids are. Not much room for the first communicants, themselves, to have a calm, reverent encounter.

    The best approach I’ve ever seen was in my last assignment — and I inherited this. The children would process in together, but join their parents in their pews; the rest of their families were in the back. At communion time, the children came up with mom and dad (or sometimes, just one parent of course); we had kneelers with room for all three (or four, when two siblings came up).

    With a deacon assisting, I would give the Most Holy Eucharist by intinction to the child, then parents, and then mom and dad would lead their child back to the pew. Pictures were taken from the back of church; or after Mass. All very calm, not confusing at all for anyone. Absolutely beautiful, in my biased opinion.

  13. Oh, and another reason First Communion may happen at regularly scheduled Masses, rather than an added Mass, is that priests can be spread rather thin, and they aren’t lacking for things to do on Saturdays and Sundays.

  14. Mike_in_Kenner says:

    My First Communion in 1979 was with my parochial school class, but it was at one of the regular Masses on the Sunday schedule. It was a large church, so I suppose there was no real difficulty of extra visitors for a special event.

    My current parish has First Communions at the regularly scheduled Sunday Masses on the external solemnity of Corpus Christi/Corpus Christi Sunday at the TLM and one of the novus ordo Masses. The TLM attendance (the largest Mass of the weekend) is normally between 300 and 400, but the church can seat at least 600, so extra visitors for a special occasion is not really a problem. Most of the children making their First Communions are homeschooled, and there’s no parish school, so there’s not really a difficulty about having a “class” of children or having a separate event for them.

    For my children’s First Communions, things depended on their readiness to receive sacraments. Readiness to make a First Confession is really the determining thing. My first child, with a birthday in June, would have been not quite 7 years old one year, or nearly 8 if we waited until the standard event the next year. She wasn’t quite ready at almost 7. At that age, 5 or 6 months can be a big difference in developmental readiness. She was ready 6 months later, and she made her First Communion at a regular Mass on Gaudete Sunday. The priest simply announced that there was a First Communicant that day, and asked people to let her approach the rail first.

    My second child, also with a summer birthday, had a similar situation, and simply made his First Communion at a regularly scheduled Mass on Immaculate Conception.

    My third child, also with a summer birthday, was ready a bit earlier than her older siblings (as often happens with many development milestones for younger siblings). She made her First Communion with the parish group at the regular TLM on the Sunday of the external solemnity of Corpus Christi.

    The thought that crowds or logistical difficulties might make parishes encourage people to avoid the First Communion Masses is rather sad. It is good for people to be present at such an event. The Church promotes this idea. The Manual of Indulgences, Concession 8, Section 1.1 states: “A plenary indulgence [under the usual conditions] is granted to the faithful who receive Holy Communion for the first time or devoutly assist at the first Holy Communion of others.”

  15. Kate says:

    When I received my First Communion in 1978, there were about 150 of us, and the crowd spilled out into the street. Seems that someone thought that it would be a good idea if the parish school did not prepare the second grade class, but rather the parents would bring the children for their preparation outside of school hours. Well, that went over like a lead balloon, and very few children received their First Communion during those 2-3 years. So, back to the norm we went, except that all the classes which had not received instruction in school now did so, resulting in this explosive number.

    This was also the time when another “great” idea was conceived in our diocese, that of communion in the hand. We were drilled on how to receive Communion properly, told of our good fortune in being the first in the parish to receive this way, blah, blah, blah. We were to be the ones ushering in this practice on this First Communion Sunday. What no one knew (or at least no one that was talking) was that the pastor was going to make a statement of his own. In all that pomp and pageantry, the hundreds of people lining aisles, vestibules and street, the pastor and associates descended down that altar and promptly began distributing Holy Communion by intinction. No one received Holy Communion that day (or at least at that Mass)! I laugh heartily to myself each time I think of it and wonder how we can be so clever in working around the problems of today.

  16. Josephus Corvus says:

    Back in the mid-70’s when I received my First Communion, it was held at a special Mass because it was a special event. (I think it was something like 1:30 on Sunday). This way everybody’s families could attend without having it overfill a regular Mass (and no pew fights: “I HAVE to sit on the end because MY CHILD!”). It also allows the regular Mass to be a regular Mass, without having everything directed to the kids (i.e., homily, songs, etc.). My mom half-jokingly said that she wants her funeral at a regular Sunday Mass for all the baptisms and First Communions she’s had to sit through. (I was baptized after Mass).

    One ironic thing that I noticed with the move to putting it at a regular Sunday Mass: they inadvertently prove that extraordinary ministers are not desired. All the regular parishioners get to sit on their hands while the first communicants (and maybe their families) receive directly from the priest – only – and the extraordinary ministers stand around and wait – not even starting on the side aisles.

  17. cathgrl says:

    I am 56, so I received First Communion in what one priest called “the Silly Seventies.” I received First Communion on the fourth Sunday of Advent with one classmate. For my part, I loved receiving Our Lord for the first time just before Christmas … and the second time was on Christmas Day. Everyone in my class (a small rural parish — we had 15 in our class) received First Communion on various Sundays when the child “was ready.” Then in May, we had what was called a “Solemn Communion” with the whole class on a Sunday with white robes with Chi Rho on them.

    Concerning readiness, don’t ask when the powers that be (including the chancery) decided it was time for First Confession …

    The First Confession/First Communion order has been straightened out in most places here (there might be an odd parish that winks at the official policy). The very large parishes have First Communion on a separate day. Everyone else has it as part of a parish Sunday Mass.

  18. APX says:

    We had a very strange practice of having two “First Communions”. Both were within the regular Sunday Mass, and both involved getting dressed up in my First Communion dress and veil. The first one we sat with our families and received individually without any real fanfare other than pictures with the priest (One seems to have been on Pentecost because the priest was wearing red vestments, and the other on a Sunday that had white vestments). The second one we all sat together in our First Communion class, and got to stand around the altar during the canon. Both times I had to receive from an EMHC and not a priest. Not sure how that happened.

  19. JGavin says:

    First Communion for myself was in second grade in December, yes December. 1966.
    My confirmation was third grade . Spring? 1968.
    Our current Parish has this near Mother’s Day. Having it at Sunday Mass would not be practical. There was a Parish that we atenned on occasion that had it for the individual on a regular Sunday. This was, I think, the Weltanschaung of the Parish. We were new to the area and ended up joining the local Dominican Parish. there were other modern tendencies we found distasteful at the original Parish which led us to the Dominicans.

  20. Hidden One says:

    Back when most of the children receiving their First Communion were weekly Mass attendees, having a separate Mass for them and their families made good sense, I think.

    These days, in many places most of the children receiving First Communion haven’t been to a parochial Sunday Mass either since their older relative received theirs at one, or, well, ever. Nor do we expect them to be back any time soon, irrespective of their own personal preferences regarding frequent Mass attendance, which often differ meaningfully from those of their parents.

    At least for those children, if they’re going to receive their First Communion anyway, it might as well be during a regular Sunday Mass, just so that they have the experience of attending one once in their lives. Maybe their parents will become willing to come back sometime.

    Certainly, doing it this way in many parishes will require dividing up each year’s group over many Masses over a number of weekends, but that should be possible, right?

  21. Brian64 says:

    I suppose our situation at our TLM is unique. Mass is celebrated by a priest from the local Norbertine Abbey, not the parish priest. We just started a TLM catechism class, so we may have group First Communion in the future, but up until now parents just approach Father when they feel their child is ready. Father will talk privately with the child and decide if he is ready. The family then arrange with Father to have their child receive prior to the congregation on Sunday, or to have a special Mass on Saturday. For my youngest child, we had a Mass on Saturday. For my wife, she received on Sunday – side by side with me (my “second” First Communion after being away some 30 years!) – with our 8-year-old son assisting Father and holding the paten! Now that is a First Communion to remember!

  22. TonyO says:

    Mine, I think, was at a special Saturday mass. The Catholic school kids and the CCD kids both had the sacramental prep for confession and communion, and we were all put together for the First Communion mass. Probably about 70 kids. The church was full of families, so it would have been crazy to try that with on a Sunday mass.

    I have since seen an individual kid, or a small group of 5 or 6 kids, receive First Communion in an ordinary Sunday mass, all dressed in their special whites. Very nice.

    However, I don’t think that is the best way to do it normally. First, because it is the ordinary Sunday mass, there will be little room for the organist / choir to put in songs celebrating (specifically) the Eucharist, (or at most maybe one), and same with Fr.’s sermon. So there is less room to single out First Communion for those new communicants, to mark that mass in their minds and hearts. Secondly, for space reasons (as mentioned above). Third: think of what would happen if ALL parents of 7 year olds simply came to Fr. Pastor and announced “my child is ready for First Communion, we would like you to accommodate that for this mass (or “next Sunday”, or anything like that). Fr. Pastor will spend half his life doing catch-up on whether the kid really is ready, and HALF of Sunday masses will have a first communicant.

    I saw the likely bloody messes this would result in: apparently a parent of a homeschooled child did arrange to have his child receive first communion at a certain Sunday mass, but the pastor (who apparently approved this) was not the celebrant of that particular mass. And nobody told the priest celebrating why there was a kid near the front of the Church all dressed in her white dress, veil, white shoes, etc. And he (I think being more-than-usually obtuse) did absolutely nothing to celebrate the firstness of this child receiving her First Communion. After the mass, the girl’s father was utterly furious, and almost had to be restrained. While I sympathized with the father, I noted at the time that he apparently also did not make SURE (before mass) that the celebrant knew of and remembered the pastor’s approval of the First Communion day for the girl.

    So, no, I don’t think doing it as part of ordinary Sunday mass is ideal, and while I am happy to see it done for an individual kid here and there, I don’t think that ought to be the norm either. It’s all well and good to claim it as an ideal (of sorts), but it has too many practical problems for it to WORK OUT as the ideal.

  23. Shonkin says:

    When I received my first Holy Communion (May 1954), the parish had a children’s Mass at 9:00 every Sunday. (In those days there were two or three parish priests and five Sunday Masses — 7:00, 8:00, 9:00. 10:30, and 12:00. The Vetus Ordo Low Mass normally took about 45 minutes, so it was possible to crowd that many Masses into a Sunday morning. A layman would read the Epistle and Gospel in English while the celebrant read them in Latin.) When there were only two priests I seem to remember one Sunday Mass was said by a local Dominican.) Our first Communion took place at a 9:00 Mass. The church was filled to the gunwales with the first communicants and their families.

  24. TonyO says:

    With respect to comments above about getting people to be at mass properly on Sundays: succeeding on one weekend in getting more of the lukewarm relatives to go to mass as required on Sunday is hardly of great benefit: if they don’t go on Sundays and holy days, anyway, they are hardly going to benefit all that much by the parish making sure THIS mass is on Sunday. And the likelihood that the priest will manage to say something that penetrates their skulls to get past the years (or decades) of built-up indifference / ignorance is extremely low. There isn’t much value in angling for that benefit on this occasion, not enough to push it being a Sunday mass. It might even turn them off if the church is too full and they have to stand at the back (or outside).

  25. Discerning Altar Boy says:

    My First Communion was Saturday May 3rd, 2008, at the end of 3rd Grade. I believe we had two Masses, one for my classmates and I who attended the parochial school and one for the other CCD students. At the very least, that was the practice we observed the previous year when we all made our First Confession. The following day we all attended the main parish Sunday Mass, processing in with a crown and flowers for Our Lady. The custom of the May Crowning the Sunday following the Saturday of First Communion is still observed.

    Since the local FSSP parish custody of their Church, there has been a mix of First Communion done during the Sunday High Mass and dedicated Masses just for First Communion.

  26. Imrahil says:

    Interesting question.

    I had never heard of special First-Communion Masses, and had never thought that to have First Communion on any other day than a Sunday in Eastertide or the Feast of the Ascension (which was my own, and a holiday around here) was even possible. Then, in the dreaded year of 2020 the First Communions were mostly on July Sundays, or so, for well-known reasons; still Sunday, but a very big Covid-exception in them a) not being in Eastertide and b) being after the feast of Corpus Christi, where the First-Communicants of the year have a special liturgical rôle (which rather requires them to have already had their Communion).

    The very traditional day is, of course, White Sunday (not in the sense of Whitsun but in the sense of Dominica in albis). In fact, pretty much all Old-Rite apostolates do have their First Communion on White Sunday, and even the modern publications start acting around White Sunday as if this were the First Communion day. I find that in regular parishes it usually isn’t any-more, though, for the two combined reasons that 1. the Octave of Easter is, in school, part of the Easter vacation, and it would be problematic to have the last days of preparation conflict with the parents’ travel plans, 2. there are only so many restaurants out there to host big celebrations, and every family that can at least barely afford it will (and will, in itself, despite problems, rightly) want to throw a big celebration for their child’s First Communion, so it makes sense that neighboring parishes don’t have First Communion all on the same date. – But all in all, it remains on a Sunday in Eastertide; or possibly the Ascension. (In my year, we were many, so some went on the Sunday before the Ascension and others on the Ascension.)

    And so it should be, in my view. Why? Because I am a great fan of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I grant at once that there is a lot of bathwater that is to be thrown out.

    Vetus Ordo set aside, we orthodox Catholics by now take “Sunday 9 AM: Holy Mass with First Communion” in a Church bulletin as command “take to your heels and run”. Let’s not pretend it is otherwise. Or, sometimes, we might remember that there’s a plenary indulgence attached, and do go, in order to assist on this in-itself-great celebration, piously recall our own First Communion, and to gain the indulgence. It really feels like a sacrifice that well deserves an indulgence.

    Allow me to speak frankly. It’s quite bearable that the Church is packed full with parents and family who are never there, and the actual Sunday Mass crowd has to try to fit in, possibly standing; still, the most conventient thing it is not. It is quite bearable that before the beginning of Mass, there is a constant noise in the Church quite unlike similarly-packed other Masses; still, the most convenient thing it is not. (To their credit, they know to be silent when Mass starts.)

    The actual thing, though, is that First Communion services is, perhaps even more so than Christmas Midnight Mass (and that is saying a lot), the very pinnacle of all the paid pastoral workers and volutary assisting mothers devising their liturgy. So that’s illegal to begin with, but for us who merely assist at Mass and are not the celebrant, hence do not have the job to combat the illegality, it is not even the worst problem. For us it is worse that all those mothers (more so, I guess, here, than the paid pastoral workers) all positively wish the children to sound childishly and unspoilt-by-education, and they all get a lot of reading to do, which they do, lopping off word by word without apparently understanding the basic structure of the sentence they are trying to say. (Do not get me wrong: I don’t mind if a child is a child. I do not even mind if he gets to read a Reading despite being a child. But you can see, even if you can’t describe, the difference between lack of reading education being an accident accepted, and it being the desired outcome; I object to the latter.) The worst, though, is that you can’t so really have a First Communion Mass without explaining in the sermon, or in interjections (not necessarily by the celebrant), what the Eucharist is and what Holy Communion is, and the very best result practically imaginable is that nothing is said about Transsubstantiation and the thing is vague enough to allow us to mentally make it precise in a Catholic manner. The danger is great that they don’t want to be vague, and the outcome then is usually transfinalization and transsignification. And I’ve even once been at a first Communion where Transsubstantiation was outrightly denied (“in the language of hard facts, it is only bread, buuut in the language of looove…”); it was the only time ever that I, disturbing no doubt the nice festive mood, took to shouting “no, that is wrong”. (I am not so courageous, but then succeeded in pretending to myself to be.) In any case, I have never yet heard the phrase “smells like bread, feels like bread, tastes like bread, is not bread” at a First Communion Mass (Vetus Ordo set aside). To be silent of “substance” and “accidents”.

    All this we would not have if they came on a Saturday and left us in peace.

    However, First Communion should be on a Sunday within Eastertide, or the feast of the Ascension, nonetheless.

    The reason for that is: Taking Holy Communion can be done on any day of the year, but it is a pecularly Sunday thing to do. Also, it can be done at any time of the year, but it is a pecularly Easter thing to do; there is an Easter duty for a reason. And it can be done in any privacy you like, but it is a pecularly Church thing, parish thing, community thing to do; secondary to the Communion with Christ but quite real. Hence people have their Baptisms “in private” (though in a Church open to the public), but the result of Baptism is to come to Holy Communion and Holy Confirmation being Church celebrations in an not only implied, but actualized sense of the word.

    (In Confirmation, this is manifest in the person of the bishop, and even if a priest is delegated he is usually from the chancery and not the same person as the parish priest. As there are only so many bishops, it’s during the week; if that were different, Confirmation too would be on Sundays.)

    And it shouldn’t be Easter, because the First-Communicant is not actually baptized that day; nor Pentecost, because it’s not Confirmation; nor Maundy Thursday, because the First-Communicants aren’t the original Twelve Apostles; nor Corpus Christi, because that is a feast of reflection of Holy Eucharist already given.

    Let’s not give up and ban them to some Saturday. Such a ban would, as I said, be understandable; but the way to go is take Sunday First-Communions and do them better.

    Excuse the length.

  27. Imrahil says:

    Dear TonyO,

    First, because it is the ordinary Sunday mass, there will be little room for the organist / choir to put in songs celebrating (specifically) the Eucharist, (or at most maybe one), and same with Fr.’s sermon. So there is less room to single out First Communion for those new communicants, to mark that mass in their minds and hearts. Secondly, for space reasons (as mentioned above).

    I’m quite well aware of the problems of First Communion in the Sunday Mass, see my lengthy comment above, but they stem largely from the fact that, to put it half-blunty, applying for Holy Communion and volunteering for First-Communion-preparation is no guarantee of orthodoxy; but I don’t think yours apply.

    So, of course a parish would have Holy Communion for its children once per year. Or twice, in immediate proximity, if there are really many. And while many of the things in First Communion preparation are going wrong, what is not wrong is the idea to have a parish First-Communion preparation, in itself. They’ve been telling us that in the past, the pastor would make an actual test on Catechism and First Communion knowledge (which we of course didn’t); with pen and paper as they do in schools; I think this would be the way to go.

    Then, of course, the whole parish would celebrate the First Communion of its children chiefly on that Sunday, or chiefly concurrent with the Holy Resurrection which is celebrated on every Sunday (including those on which patronage feasts are held) in any case. There is no need to preach on every Sunday strictly about the contents of the specific Gospel and the specific Epistle, whatever Scripture enthusiats may say; and you can choose very Eucharistic-themed songs because the Mass is, after all, the Eucharist in any case.

    – The strange practice the dear APX mentions by the way is just the combination of this very worth-while parish First Communion with the occasional child who is ready on a personal basis before his allotted time, leading to a “private” First Communion arranged between parents and pastor. It was the quite official policy (as printed, e. g., in our older prayerbook) that such children should who longed for Christ in Holy Communion and were ready should be admitted, but not be punished for their piety by being deprived of the sollemn First Communion, so they would take part there too. And I think that makes good sense. – However, this is obviously only for a select happy pious few of the children and by no means to be expected to be the rule. Around here, despite being mentioned in the prayerbook, it doesn’t happen ever at all. And it’s not utterly unpious to wait, and make spiritual Communions. It’s not like you have to wait until 12 as they did in the old days, anyway.

    – For parents to bring their child to First Communion without fixing the date with the pastor beforehand, I seriously lack the imagination who they could possibly get such a disrespectful idea.

  28. Imrahil says:

    “who they could possibly get such a disrespectful idea”, sorry, I meant “where they could possibly get such a disrespectful idea from”.

  29. TonyO:

    Thanks for your comments!

    You mention occasions when a child receives his or her First Communion without all the usual ceremonial, and how that might miscarry. I will tell you such requests have come to me, and I’ve generally accommodated them, but I do go to some effort to explain to the adults involved exactly what they can expect, and should not expect — such as, which priest will offer Mass (if not me), and whether or not any special mention will be made, and so forth and so on.

    Maybe I’m too crotchety in my early senesence, but — I think keeping ones expectations low is a good idea, if you ask for some special arrangement like this. If you want your child or grandchild to make his or her First Communion out of the ordinary way, then that is almost certainly what you can expect: s/he will (a) receive Holy Communion (b) for the first time, and (c) it will be out of the ordinary way — meaning, not as ceremonious and so forth. I find just telling people what to expect (and putting the responsibility on the parents, since this is obviously important to them) and not promising too much is the way to go. I’ve never had anyone get huffy and expect more than this, at least that I recall. In such circumstances, there is always the option of saying, well, we can include your child with the other children when all that special stuff you want is planned. I don’t recall this ever being a problem

  30. Suburbanbanshee says:

    My First Communion was at the 12:30 PM Mass on Sunday, which was the least attended anyway. People were asked to attend another Mass, unless they really wanted to sit in the back-back or stand, and to give place to the relatives of First Communicants. Families sat in the pews, and we sat in the front pews separate from them.

    I thought that was good, because we were being treated like Catholics in our own right and not appendages. And after all, we were seven, past the age of reason, and not babies.

    OTOH, we didn’t have to sing special hymns or do any special work/performance. We just processed in, went to Mass, received, processed out, and got our pictures taken after we were out of church. Which gave us time and space for contemplation, instead of being forced to interact.

    We did have the stupid Seventies “stand around the altar” thing. Bleh. And I got a dotted rash from the dotted Swiss dots on my dress being made out of nylon or having chemicals on them. But it was plenty spiritual.

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