One issue that Karen Kane, director of the archdiocesan Worship Office, says her office often addresses with parents that seems to distract them from the sacrament itself is “the desire on their part to ‘involve’ the children more in the Mass, for example singing a song after Communion or serving as lectors. In our diocesan sacramental guidelines (spelled out in the document Sacraments for Young People), and from a Worship Office point of view, we strongly discourage these types of practices,“ she said. “The reception of Holy Communion should be the focus and should be where parents and catechists spent their time and energy in preparing the children. What is most important is helping the children understand what it means to receive the body and blood of Christ. That’s the focus.”
Also important for religious educators and parents to remember, said Ken Gleason, director of the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, is that first Communion should be held during a regularly scheduled Mass, and a special Mass should not be scheduled. The reasoning behind this, he explained, is that the children are joining the Eucharistic community, and “it is hard to celebrate becoming part of the community when the community isn’t present.”
There is not ritual for first Communion, added Gleason. “While there are special rituals for baptism, confirmation, etc. . . the fact that the only ritual for first Communion is the usual rubrics for Mass tells us that we should not add anything to the Mass. It also implies that the second, third and fourth and so on, reception of the Eucharist ought to be just as special as the first reception of the Eucharist.”
He believes that the efforts of many parishes and parents to “make first Communion special” can detract from the meaning of the occasion.
“It means they don’t really appreciate what we are doing at Mass,” he said. “It would be impossible to come up with anything more special than what we are already doing.”
“I wish we could help parents to see that we are bringing their children to the table, that they are now initiated into the Eucharistic community, which has the honor and privilege of celebrating the sacrifice of the Lord and our subsequent salvation, including the intimate experience of Christ through the reception of His body and blood,” Gleason said. “There is no cute song or white dress that could top that.”
I know that our second graders put a lot of effort into singing a song, complete with hand motions, after Communion. The Archdiocese says they strongly discourage it. Our parish has a special First Communion mass in the afternoon. The Archdiocese says it should be during a regularly scheduled mass. During the mass, those making their First Communion gather around the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer and consecration. The Archdiocese says that we should follow the usual rubrics for the Mass, which forbid this. I’ve brought this to the attention of our Pastor and our Coordinator of Religious Education. The ball is in their court to either run with or ignore.