The month of May is filled with milestones, among them Mother’s Day, college and university graduations, and perhaps most importantly for many Catholic families with young children, First Eucharist.
As I write, our parish directors and coordinators of religious education, our catechists, and our Catholic School teachers are preparing thousands of children for what is both a sacrament and a milestone in a life long journey of faith for the First Communicants and their family.
For a pastor, the Liturgy is one of joy. What a comfort it must be for him to look out on those eager little faces and to see their proud parents, grandparents, siblings and family friends just beaming. Of course, in many parishes, the number of children receiving First Eucharist is so large that the seats assigned to each family have to be limited. In other parishes, there are several Liturgies. This means a great deal of work for the pastors, directors, coordinators, catechists and teachers, not to mention the servers, church musicians, ushers and other parish staff members, but one rarely hears any complaints from them.
What Catholic, active or inactive, could fail to be reminded of her or her own First Eucharist? A young member of my family will receive First Eucharist on Saturday, May 8. When I learned of the date, I suddenly remembered that I received the Sacrament for the first time on a May 8 as well. Of course, that was more years ago than I care to admit but isn’t it interesting how the date stayed with me? I couldn’t tell you the date of my Confirmation.
Of course, many families will celebrate with a party afterward, but the wise ones will know that the key moment is the Liturgy. It’s not about the pretty white dress and the new suit; it’s not about the gifts, although they are lovely; and it’s not about the restaurant or caterer. It’s about Jesus coming to the child and that child’s family.
In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori-based catechetical method that is growing in popularity in our archdiocese, First Eucharist is preceded by a family retreat experience. After the First Eucharist liturgy, children don’t rush off to party. Instead, they actually return to the atrium, that reserved special place in the parish where the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd always takes place, to ponder what has happened. If the families want to have parties that’s fine, but they are asked to schedule them for a later date.
Interestingly clothes are not a big issue in the Catechesis because all the children wear simple white garments. Doesn’t that make every parent who had to watch a daughter try on 50 dresses before falling in love with the most expensive one, just a little envious of the parents in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd?
Whatever catechesis our First Eucharist children are in, all of us in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, both at our central office and every one of our regional offices, join in the joy of these children, their families and their friends. May the rest of their lifelong journeys of faith be filled with joy and grace.