Preparation for First Communion
Anna Wyszynska talks to Sister Irena Makowicz, USJK, director of the Catholic Primary School in Czestochowa.
Anna Wyszynska: - When we participate in First Communion celebrations we sometimes have doubts if parents and children appreciate the spiritual meaning of that day. What can we do to make the First Communion a joyful encounter between the child and Lord Jesus and not a parade of dresses and bragging match about who received the most presents? What do you do in your school?
Sister Irena Makowicz, USJK: - In our school the entire didactic process is closely connected with the pedagogical process, i.e. we teach and we educate, educate in accordance with the Gospel because this is the character of the school. Our aim is that religious affairs should not be autonomous but faith should be expressed by life. Our guide is the liturgical year. For ages it has been organised in such a way that all things have had their places, both important events from the history of salvation and our daily problems. First Communion is always a special event for the school community since it is a solemn moment in the child's spiritual growth - the first sacrament, which children receive in a conscious way. We stress this in our preparation for First Holy Communion - the spiritual dimension of this event and the fact that this is one of the 'stops' on the way to assume mature Christian attitude.
- What is the programme?
- The most important element is the Eucharistic celebrations that are very carefully prepared and both parents and children participate in them. We were successful last year, and this programme will be our tradition: families will take part in consecutive Masses celebrated in their intentions throughout the school year. It serves to revive religious spirit in families, to focus on the importance of Holy Mass, on the benefits of participation, deep experience and active involvement of all Christians. The particular steps are described in a special memoir book entitled 'My way to meet Jesus Christ in First Holy Communion.'
- The memoirs contain photos of children receiving rosaries, performance about Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, children receiving their First Communion dresses and the text of prayer to Saint Theresa...
- These are souvenirs of the important events in child's life. In October in the Eucharist that began our cycle of preparation children received rosaries and in November they received special prayer books for primary school children. The content of the prayer books was rich and the graphic design was beautiful. In December children got medallions, in January they received candles and in February they got booklets 'Hello, God! It's me - Conversations between Child and Lord God', which are to be patterns for their own prayers and to help them create their close relationships with God. The next Eucharist referred to the sacrament of baptism, godparents took part in it. Children took their baptismal oaths and received crosses that should be hung in their rooms. During the last Eucharist, in April, children received their First Communion dresses and suits.
- First Communion dresses often evoke controversy and they take much effort and money. Can this matter be solved without problems?
- Above all, First Communion should have spiritual dimension and it can be achieved by simple and moderate means, which we stress while talking to parents. That's why, the matter of dresses does not evoke discussions and emotions. Our children wear simple, long robes, and wear gold strings. It is important that nothing takes children's attention during the Eucharist. When they enter the church they carry white lilies, which they put before the altar at the beginning of Holy Mass. Nothing can distract their attention from listening to the liturgical texts and folding their hands to pray during this important celebration: all things should lead to the meeting with Lord Jesus. Children receive their robes beforehand on purpose so that they put them on at home and get used to them. Thus during the celebration they will feel comfortable.
- Another dilemma is First Communion gifts. There is even a saying: my First Communion, my first computer...
- Preparation for First Communion should make parents aware that they are called to help their children discover their spiritual meaning of this day for all family members. Our school wants to make that easy by taking on some duties, such as buying robes so that parents could devote more time for spiritual preparation of their children and themselves. We encourage parents to experience First Communion Triduum with their children, to pray on Friday and Saturday before the celebration so that all family members receive sacrament of reconciliation and both parents give their blessings to the child before leaving home on Sunday. In order to build the mood of that day it is important to begin their family meeting with lighting the Passover candle, prayer led by the child and breaking the special bread that has been baked for the occasion and blessed in the church. Al these elements deepen the religious climate, which should accompany this solemn day.
- Does First Communion finish some stage in child's life?
- As we have already said this is a certain 'stop' in the spiritual growth of the child and its family. Last year our third form pupils participated in the liturgical course for the first time. This is another stage of their Christian education that helps them understand the mystery of Holy Mass better. Since our aim is to make children and parents aware that a Christian is a person who work on himself and grows continuously, and the next sacraments he receive help him grow.