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?