Between Amens —
First Communion,
and second and third and …

Dr. Karen Shadle

Alleluia! He is risen! Easter is not a day, but a full season of feasting spanning 50 days from the Sunday of the resurrection until Pentecost. It is a time to appreciate warmer spring weather, the flowering of creation, graduations and the holy days of Derbytide.

In the rhythm of parish life, Easter season is often the time for celebrating First Holy Communion. What a joy it is to see boys and girls in their finest attire, eager to meet our Lord in the Eucharist. It is also inspiring to see the church filled with their parents and siblings, adoring grandparents and extended families. The church on First Communion Sunday is to me a scene of great abundance. The place is bursting with hope.

I want to speak to the parents and guardians of First Communicants. Please plan for second Holy Communion, and third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.

I repeat my pastor’s simple and poignant reminder to parents of young children: They cannot drive. No matter how full of the Holy Spirit and alive for Jesus a second-grader feels, he or she cannot get to church on Sunday without your help. They need someone to dress them, fasten their seatbelts, drive them to Mass, sit with them in the pew and return them safely home.

We know our children need support in their academic and social development. They need good nutrition and exercise. They need to feel safe and loved. They also need support in their spiritual development, and we are responsible for making Catholic traditions and God’s sacraments available to them, regularly.

By the time they return to school in August, this new cohort of communicants should have received Jesus in the Eucharist a few dozen times, if not more. First Communion is special, and the fancy clothes, professional photography and family celebrations are all appropriate for such a festive occasion.

But this is only the beginning. It is, literally, a sacrament of beginning, of initiation into fuller life in the Church. It does not make sense to immediately abandon the practice of faith, coming only once or twice a year, here and there, whenever so-and-so is in town or not at all.

It is completely backward to abdicate Sunday Mass with the family and expect weekday school Masses to fully nourish our children sacramentally and spiritually.

This is a special challenge for Millennial parents — my generation — as we struggle with our own disaffiliation from the Church. When I talk to my Catholic peers who are also parents, I find a common sentiment. We want to pass on our faith to our children, but often don’t know how or what to pass on.

The Eucharist is a fantastic place to start. It is the core of our Catholic faith. Let us return to the image of the overfull church on First Communion Sunday. It is a sign of great hope. May our second and third and subsequent communions be equally awe-inspiring.

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