The Armchair Liturgist: First Communions First?

I guess I do have a First Communion issue for anyone brave and daring enough to sit in the purple chair and face down parents, DRE’s, and regular parishioners. Suppose, like my parish, you celebrate First Communion at a regular Sunday Mass with not only the extended families of first communicants, but also your regular parishioners. Would you handle the usual Communion procession differently?

In my parish, the second graders will approach the altar with their parents only. The twenty-six plus fifty-two will receive the Eucharist, and once all have received, then the rest of the assembly follows, starting with the families and guests in the reserved rows, followed by others beyond the seventh pew or so.

Here’s my question: given your own church and its unique geography, does this work? What about pastorally and theologically: does it matter having the little ones and their parents on parade first, or should they be integrated with the rest of the community?

For my First Communion, which took place on the day after I was baptized, I didn’t know if it was going to be arranged specially. I was glad my sister and I sat with our godparents and we went up “anonymously.” That suited me fine: I just wanted to be part of the community.

So … how do you want to do it?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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9 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: First Communions First?

  1. Liam says:

    The children going up with their parents (I would include godparents in this, btw – they should also be included in the sacraments of initiation even after baptism) are integrated as part of the community no less than going up pell-mell or anonymously. So I think you pose a false dichotomy in theological and perhaps pastoral terms.

  2. We do just about exactly what you describe, Todd. Additionally, the children, each with parents, are in the entrance procession.

    I am so happy that First Communion is celebrated at Sunday Eucharist and that the children are seated with family, in the larger assembly, that I (perhaps too) easily dismiss the liturgical-theological concern, that is: what does it mean to “watch” someone else receive the Eucharist?

    Pastorally, practically, this works well and our assemblies are accustomed to it.

    At the Easter Vigil our newly baptized came forward first to receive the Eucharist but they were adults, not in FC outfits, and just not as “cute” as children can be at this moment. Although I know the assembly watched their three newest sisters receive Communion, the baptismal context gave it a different flavor.

    We successfully ban photography of any kind during the liturgy – and that’s something that a lot of folks aren’t happy about!

  3. Todd says:

    Just poking for a response, Liam. I have no problem doing it this way, and my personal circumstances were way different, being a 7th grader.

    As for photography, we will be providing streaming video and dvd’s by next year. I hope.

  4. Fran says:

    At the parish where I worship (and blog for) First Eucharist is done outside of regular liturgy, which saddens me greatly. We do have a huge parish (3400 families) and tons of young families, so there are logistical issues, but…

    At the parish where I am employed, First Eucharist is at Sunday mass. Being new there, I don’t know if the kids and parents go first, but I am going to presume that they do.
    Based on what Fr. Austin says, I can see the point of having the families go first, although I might have said otherwise if I had not read that.

    My 12 year old step daughter recently made her First Eucharist. She was not part of the catechetical efforts of our parish due to her age and some other circumstances; I was her catechist as someone involved in catechetical activity and on the faith formation board.

    We were at mass and did not go first. She was simply taking another step further into the community that she is so much a part of and that she has chosen freely to join at age 12.

    That is why I think the integrated and less fanfare version works. It was – again, given her age and some other circumstances, a deepening of relationship and less an “event.”

    PS – good on you Fr. Austin for no photography!

  5. Joyce says:

    Our parish holds First Holy Communion as part of the regular Sunday Mass. As a matter of fact, it took place today. The children go forward first, one at a time, and kneel at a specially placed kneeler in front of the priest. After they have received, the rest of the congregation is invited to come forward. While the children are always impeccably dressed, the behavior of their parents and guests is now always so, to the point where the exasperated priest had to interrupt purifying the vessels to ask for quiet, and the din was so loud that no one heard him. His homily to the children was how important EVERY Communion is, along with his desire that they would never miss an opportunity to attend Sunday Mass. This was geared as much towards the parents as it was toward the kids. After the behavior that took place, his homily seemed prophetic. Photography is permitted from one’s seat in the pews – no one is permitted to get out of their seat to take pictures and the parents actually did cooperate with this.

  6. Deacon Eric says:

    Give them the Eucharist for the first time after they’re confirmed. I don’t know why we cling to this ridiculous mutilation of the ancient progression of the sacraments of initiation.

    “By their fruits you shall know them.” the fruits of First Communion before Confirmation are that First Communion has become a cutesy family photo op and Confirmation has become a carrot for recalcitrant teenagers who have been held captive to religious education before they can “graduate” at confirmation.

    How’s that been working’?

  7. Todd says:

    Eric, I can’t disagree with you. While there are exceptions among individuals in every parish and in the occasional intentional community, I think we set ourselves up for more headaches the way Rome does it.

  8. Liam says:

    Well, it’s not so much the way Rome *does* it as that it moved Communion back a century ago but allowed the bishops to keep Confirmation where it had been and has been hesitant to force the issue. The problem here is not unilateralism by Rome so much as Roman indecision.

    I just think that should be clarified, since this is one of those cases where people may want Rome to be more directional and controlling than it has been….

  9. Deacon Eric says:

    I agree with Liam. Leaving the twisted progression as it is now in the U.S. really is something Rome should step in on. Actually, it is one of the few things they could do that would find a level of consensus on the “right” and the “left.” I was surprised to see commentators at Fr. Z’s blog coming out in favor of restoring the ancient progression. It’s rare that you can find agreement on both ends of the spectrum, and it seems a ripe opportunity to fix things.

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