First Communion Preparation – Undermined?

This is the time of year when thousands of children are preparing for receiving the Eucharist, their First Holy Communion, for the first time. What values are the ones we do our best to communicate to the children, and that we encourage parents to communicate? What is the primary meaning and significance of coming together to celebrate the Eucharist?

On RTÉ1 Television at 7.00pm on Tuesday 18 February, Eco Eye was broadcast- a programme on Climate Change, presented by a psychologist, with particular reference to how children relate to it.

At about 7.12pm, the commercial break. An advertisement for PhoneWatch home security. A picture of a child’s bedroom; the picture slowly zooms in on a white piggy bank on the floor beside the bed. (The voice in the same advertisement is also broadcast on radio.) A reassuring female voice speaks:

“Little Emily Murray from 197 River Gardens, Malahide, is happy with us saying she’s in school most days, and her parents are in work. But this little piggy isn’t going anywhere. It’s too full, stuffed with pocket money, birthday money, and her highly profitable communion. This little piggy is loaded. No one home? No worries!”

There is probably not a child in Ireland preparing for First Communion who is not aware that gifts of money almost always come with First Communion. Do they ask one another afterwards, “How much did you make?” Do children watch television? The piggy bank is loaded. Or rather, the child is loaded.

I had had Phone Watch installed. The same advertisement was broadcast before and after Christmas 2018. In October 2018 I sent them an email to say that I found the advertisement distasteful and offensive, that a central sacred Christian rite be referred to just as a source of money, and that Phonewatch use that as a commercial tool for their own purposes. I requested that this trivialisation of a central practice of Christians should cease.

They replied, expressing regret that I found anything offensive in the advertisement. But nothing changed. The advertisements continued. When my subscription expired, I did not renew it. I received two telephone calls from Phonewatch to enquire about this. I explained the reasons, and referred to my communications with them. I still did not renew. They have not changed.

Is my response to the advertisements unreasonable? The attitudes of children are probably already set. Preparation for First Communion is already undermined. It’s the world we are living in. Am I too touchy about it? Am I lacking a sense of humour about it? Is it better just to ignore it?


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  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    What a crass culture we have created!

    Maybe the Irish Church should postpone first communion to a later age, to ensure a modicum of reflection and reverence.

  2. Helen Dryden says:

    It sounds as if the equivalent for myself, growing up in a non-believing family but nevertheless in a Church of Scotland environment (as all schools in the 60s had this input), was to have ‘pennies’ when a tooth fell out.
    They came from the tooth fairy. A kind of gifting.
    The same happens and is expected at Christmas & birthdays. This is much nicer than nothing or punishments. As a child the Church of Scotland message was that we were all sinners & guilty. The only way to salvation was dedicating yourself to the service of others with no reward. I am grateful to have experienced an unconditional love and forgiving through the Catholic church.
    However, as a convert, it was difficult to sort out an appropriate class for my children to attend, precisely because of the nature of these classes. They are structured & exclusive really for Catholic parents born into the faith. There are historical reasons for this I know. All 3 children had individual lessons, aged 4, 7 and 14. We speak about faith in our house and all 3, (14,22 & 31) go to mass. Our reward habits as parents and society don’t always have to be material & if they are they simply reflect the world we live in. As long as the other message is there too, that is what is important. Even the stages of communion are reflections of the times in which they were established. Simplicity is best I think.

  3. Kevin Walters says:

    Undermined? Yes, creating something spiritual into something worldly

    My own first Communion day was marred by guilt, unable to read I could not say the communion prays, while the theme of Fr Omara’s fearful homily was that of souls, that would be lost through sin, which left me with a great sense of guilt and fear, compounded afterwards by the delight of receiving more money than that I had ever had before. From that point onward my guilt was internalized.

    Quote “Through the eyes of faith, we come to see, as God wants us to see, that each of these (Children) is, like the consecrated host”..

    Not a normal Sunday First Communicants on display
    Boys all dress the same but this is no game
    No scuffed shoe all black and new
    White shirt and sock, no black polish did mock
    Grey trousers clean leg and knee, for all to see
    White shirt no speck of dirt
    Spotless hand stay together Sisters command
    Red tie, symbol of valour, white face pallor
    No noise all good boys, nor runny nose angelic pose
    Swirls a clutch of girls
    From head to toe only white must show
    Frill and lace dresses of taste
    Silk and satin a perfect happening
    White rose display a perfect array
    Show stopping a white veil topping
    Mothers pride none did hide
    A venial sin but no smile or grin
    The essence of this tale can now begin

    Arriving remnants of a party game
    Mothers heads bow in shame
    A mothers love but misunderstood
    Perhaps Old Joe, but we will never know
    White stiletto shoe, lose fit, misfit
    Nylon stocking, mocking, not white nor tight
    Back comb of hair I cannot swear
    Powder and rouge but I think not a stooge
    Veil no tale, full curtain of this I am certain
    Down the aisle traveling in style, front row all must go
    Stiletto heel we all could feel
    Curtain call occupant small
    Our Fathers gift is given
    Reflection of thought, not shop bought
    Innocence protects, head held high as the rest
    Radiant smile as her spirit did shine
    Deep sigh, I want to cry

    As a very young child I remember an instant, when a neighbours child had no Communion dress and was not going to make her first Holy Communion, she was cajoled into going, while been given the remnants of a ‘party game’ to wear, creating, a similar ‘connived’ situation to the one above.

    As I reflect upon these ‘children’ I take great comfort that God’s Mercy cannot be codified De internis non iudicat Ecclesia—“the Church does not pass judgment on the internal forum of men”

    As no matter how broken any child of God may be or how worldly a man’s heart may become, it could be said, that when true humility is found, in childlike wonder, we walk anew upon holy ground.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  4. Sean O'Conaill says:

    I am stunned at Pádraig’s complaint! Will someone be asking why its raining in Ireland next?

    Back in 2014 this site published Archbishop Michael Neary’s address on the ending of Christendom in Ireland:

    As we owe the present timing of all sacraments of initiation to the coming of Christendom, not to the practice of the early church, why is it in the least surprising that Catholic adolescence – the state of having been sacramentalised without yet having being evangelised – is still pervasive here?

    And why, six years after the Archbishop’s observation, has no forceful statement of the implications of all of this – for all of us – yet arrived from any of the 4 x 6 + quarterly meetings of the ICBC?

    Even though a different pope has told us that THIS IS A DIFFERENT ERA?
    e.g.: (2015)

    What will it take to wake everyone up at last? The arrival of first communicants’ remotely activated tiaras by Amazon drone? Pre-communion fashion shows in parish halls? Sunday advertising of offshore investment opportunities for Communion money? The flying in from Las Vegas of Rihanna or Madonna to sing at someone’s post-communion bash?

    Why, Pádraig, can’t you see the root cause of this eternal dozing here: the tyranny of the NO DIALOGUE regime that began here in 1968, accompanied inevitably by the tyranny of the OBLIGATORY ANODYNE HOMILY, and then the centuries-old push for the exits?

    Outside how many chapels on the island could we place the following sign?


  5. Kevin Walters says:

    Thank you, Sean @ 4, for your link; ref Archbishop Michael Neary’s address on the ending of Christendom in Ireland:

    In which Des Gilroy commented, Bishop Neary …. “very strong on analysis … one of the most forthright and honest evaluations of where the Irish church is today. However, and a big however, his piece is rather weak on solution. No radical proposals on where the priests will come from. His call is for “knights in armour”, which is specifically a call for more men. And not one mention in his whole piece of the word “woman” or the important role they can play. It seems Bishop Neary is too engrossed with mice and men”

    Quote from previous article on this site
    “First Communion has become a charade, a fashion show, a circus.
    A glass coach was brought down from the North to carry the young person to church for Confirmation”

    It could be argued that imitation is the best form of flattery. This is one of the dangers of pomp and ceremony, as it has more in keeping with the values of the World than with the Spirit. In Archbishop Michael Neary’s address women appear to have no part to play within the revival of the Church, within Western culture. It appears that Women are to continue to play a secondary role.

    To bring about change can be difficult, as direct confrontation will not change any bias found within human hearts. I believe that change can be brought about through the help of visual action and time. I have a previous post on this site that deals with the Wedding (Bonding) Garment; please consider reading it via the link, before continuing….

    The Wedding Garment I have read was a simple white over garment/robe provided free of charge by the father of the groom and would have had the effect of creating mutual respect amongst all of the guests, as all would be seen to be of equal worth.

    To-day the ‘Holy Communion’ garment has become a form of social competition, and this competition often appears to be more intense in poor countries, where large families are often struggling to make ends meet; in not forgetting the wonder of the occasion, simplicity of dress would send out the message to all, that we are all loved equally by God.

    This white overgarment would be a start, as the divide of gender, would be seen to have been eliminated, as it is on the spiritual plane

    “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven”

    The sacrificial image of Christ is genderless as it is reflected in both male and female, this truth gives Christianity the authority over all other religions to heal the divide between the sexes. As those who dwell on the Tree of Life (true vine), are sustained by the sap of Love/Truth (Holy Spirit) and bear fruit, in Unity of Purpose, the Will of God is singular and gender conveys no privilege. The branches, flowers (those who worship in Spirit and Truth) send forth their scent (Holy Spirit) from their essence, the sacrificial image of Christ and bear fruit.

    This new custom (If accepted) could be carried forward to Confirmation, while priests could wear a white vestment/Robe to say Mass, this could eventually extend to all the faithful wearing one on special occasions and feast days, as in, Easter Sunday, Baptisms etc; creating a culture of equal worth and inclusivity.

    Jesus puts mode of dress into context with these words….
    “Not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one these” (Lilies of the field)….

    The seat of our faith is simple trust in God, and is comparable to the beauty of the single lily Jesus speaks of, that relies on God to grow, blossom and send forth its perfume and multiply, we are asked to do the same. I am sure that the reflection of the simplicity of our hearts, reflected in simplicity of rite, would be pleasing in God’s sight.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

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