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The Family Room by Michelle Martin

May 10, 2009

A first time for everything

I remember a little bit about my First Communion day.

It was a beautiful day in May, and I wore a white dress (of course). There were about 75 of us in the class, and we all sat in the front of church, spaced out in the pews just enough to make room for all the flouncy skirts. Or maybe they left room between us so we wouldn’t bother each other.

We received the host on our tongues and took the tiniest sips of the Blood of Christ — and were told that we likely would not receive under both forms very often in the future.

Frank just had his First Communion on a beautiful day in May. The girls in his class all wore white dresses; the boys wore white shirts, dark pants and ties. Not as much fun to shop for, but they still looked pretty sharp.

The day was the culmination of months of preparation, both in their religion classes and at home, and as it got close, Frank got excited. Two days before, he checked the closet to make sure his clothes were there.

At the rehearsal, he paid attention for more than an hour as his class went through the motions of what they would be expected to do.

The night before, he told me, “If I receive my First Holy Communion at 12:15, it will be in 17 hours and 25 minutes.”

They have been working on telling time in school, and I’m pretty sure his math was right.

At Mass, the pastor wore a vestment the kids had decorated for him with handprints all around the hem and a cross made of handprints in the center.

He preached about hands in his homily, about how many things they can do, about how the fingerprints they carry are unique to each individual. He also talked about how each child’s hands would soon become a plate for the host, and a throne for the Body of Christ.

As he spoke, Frank’s hands formed themselves into that plate in his lap, practicing once again.

Unlike my First Communion class, Frank’s group did not receive under both species because of worries about the H1N1 flu. But there will be plenty of opportunities for that going forward; Communion is usually offered under both species at our parish, unlike when I was a child.

Frank was ready for his First Communion, and I’m very proud of him. I’m also a little bemused; I’m not quite sure when he got so grown up. The same weekend he had his First Communion, Caroline, his big sister, went to her first middle school dance — a rite of passage of a different sort.

Martin is assistant editor of the Catholic New World. Contact her at [email protected].