Catholic Activity: First Holy Communion Preparation
The day of our children's First Holy Communion is of primary importance in the family. It is not just up to the teachers to preare the children for this sacrament -- the parents still have an important role. Here are some suggestions on making this day important.
Of primary importance in the life of the family is the day of our children's first holy Communion. From the liturgical standpoint, this is the day when, for the first time, the child may take a complete part in the Mass, which is incomplete for the individual who does not receive holy Communion. The younger the child, the more it is the duty of the parents, especially of the mother, to prepare him for the great event. She is best able and fitted to find the right words to help him realize the magnitude of the gift he is to receive. Mothers should not easily relinquish such a holy and sublime privilege!
In this country priests and nuns in Catholic schools often assume parental rights in the matter of religious education. Parents are glad that they do not need to bother with instructions which these competent persons can provide. And sometimes even priests fail to see that in this way Christian parents become more and more confirmed in an attitude of indifference and never learn to do their duty.
The experience of Christian parents in some European countries speaks in eloquent language on this matter. For decades they, too, relinquished to the Catholic school as many as possible of their parental rights and duties. They discontinued family morning prayer: for did not the children pray in school? They no longer discussed or talked of religious problems at home: what was the need, since the priest or sisters were teaching in school whatever the children had to know? They did not attend Mass on Sunday as a family: there were school and sodality Masses with different members of the family in different pews and places.
Two or three generations later this irresponsible attitude suddenly found itself facing an abyss — there was no longer any Catholic school education. An awakening followed, and with it a remarkable rebirth of Catholic family life, a renewal of "the Church at home." Can we not learn from this example instead of waiting for a similar experience?
The less parents have to do in the important matter of religious education, as for instance in the spiritual preparation for the first Communion day, the more will they be concerned with such unimportant details as dress, meals, gifts and amusements. Often enough they help secularize the most important, the most solemn day of a child's life by making it a kind of show for the family and the neighborhood, a day of much excitement and external festivities. Study of the liturgy will show the way to the right kind of family feast for first Communion.
The climax of the day is, of course, the Communion Mass. But the entire family rejoices as it accompanies one of its members who, for the first time, brings home Christ Himself in his heart. That is the real reason for the family feast. We decorate the house that he may in later years and throughout life be reminded of this holy and happy day. Nor will that purpose be served by giving the children money or trinkets from the "five and ten," worthless or childish things that soon are lost or thrown away. One single worthy gift, perhaps a cross or statue for the home altar, paid for with the help of the whole family circle, means much more for the first Communion feast as well as for later life than all the things we are now accustomed to give or frequently find offered commercially for such occasions.
We shall have to spend hours to work out a new and suitable kind of celebration: solemn, reverential, and joyful, considering the child and not the grownups as the central point. It should, however, include a family thanksgiving with perhaps a "Glory Be to God on High" or a "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" immediately after coming from church and another reunion of the family at the home altar at night.
Activity Source: Family Life in Christ by Therese Mueller, The Liturgical Press, 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.