Friday, May 04, 2007

A niece's First Communion

Yes, it's May. The too-brief season of lilacs. The season of bowling banquets. The season of graduations... and First Communions.

First Communion:

  • Where little boys wear dark shoes, socks, a collared shirt and maybe even a tie all at once -- and for up to two consecutive hours!
  • Where little girls wear dresses that look like wedding dresses and cost at least as much as a prom gown.
  • When home remodeling projects finally get done... because we don't want to be embarrassed in front of our relatives at the party after....
Another of my nieces made her First Communion a couple of Saturdays ago -- as early a First Communion day as I can remember. Probably another symptom of Global Warming....

We were late, of course, getting to the church. Our late start didn't help; an accident ahead of us on the Tollway made certain that we'd be very late indeed.

As it turned out, I was grateful that I didn't have to sit through the entire proceeding: The celebrant may have

s p o k e n

m o r e

s l o w l y

than any priest I've ever heard.

My sister-in-law explained later that the priest was trained as an engineer in his native Mexico, entering the Seminary at the age of 38 and speaking not a word of English. But I am certain he does not speak Spanish that slowly... and with a church full of fidgety first communicants, trying so hard to remain solemn and serious and neatly combed, the length and ponderous pace of the Mass only increased the danger that one or more of them would fail.

(From my vantage point, in the back pew, I don't think any of the communicants actually did fail -- I doubt I would have done so well. Of course, if any of the communicants had lapsed, it might have been drowned out entirely by their even more fidgety siblings and cousins who were playing in the back of the church, directly behind me. And I couldn't blame them either. I could only be envious.)

Churches are generally crowded at First Communion Masses: All the kids, their parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles and cousins -- and, in this day and age, all the step-siblings, step-parents, step-grandparents.... I've been in churches so crowded that I've joked that the pastor must be dying to pass the basket.... I've heard celebrants make the same joke.

But I never actually saw the basket passed -- not until this most recent First Communion. I thought things were moving slowly enough because of the celebrant's glacial diction -- but they ground to a halt entirely while the ushers tried to raise a little revenue.

Enjoy the First Communions in your families this Spring... and, to any pastors out there: Don't pass the basket!


Hilda said...

You made me think waaaaaay back to my First Communion. :)

I was 7 years old and in the 2nd grade. We were oh so earnest. It really is an intense concept for a little kid (for anyone really) - the whole transubstantiation thing.

At that time we didn't take the Host in our hands, it was placed directly in our mouths. And only by Priests this was pre - Eucharistic Ministers. Oh and we had to kneel at the altar, which still had a railing.

It was a hot, muggy, Miami day in May and because it was a "Cuban Refugee" parish in 1970 we couldn't afford air conditioning. The girls' dresses had to be high necked, long sleeved and floor length, with a veil. One of my classmates fainted! She just toppled over sideways while standing in line waiting to kneel at the altar. It was all very dramatic.

You know what else was dramatic? First Confession - a couple of days before First Communion. We had two priests: a nice one and a mean one. I lucked out and got the nice one, but some of the kids that got the mean one came out of the confessional (old school confessional - dark room, red screen, the whole shebang)crying. Now what on earth could a 7 year old have confessed that would lead the mean priest to tell them something to make them cry?

I don't remember a party afterwards but I would imagine we had one. At the very least we must have had a gathering of "immediate family" (which for Cubans is a lot of people up to and including the new neigbors), a selection of early Cuban refugee party staples: meat pastries, guava pastries, ham croquettes, little ham spread sandwiches and cake. And presents. YAY!

The Curmudgeon said...

Still with kneelers in 1970? I thought they were all gone by then.... We had them when I made mine... but that was in the mid-60's still... when everything was up in the air.

Haven't had croquettas in quite a while either... but Abuela sent over a big hunk o' pork... so it looks like Cuban sandwiches this weekend.

Thanks for sharing your memories.

Hilda said...

Curmudgeon...are you Hispanic or are you just messing with my head?

If you got some pork you should make some pan con lechon instead!

Where fibers meet mud said...

Episcopaleans have enough smells and bells and give children communion at whatever age they come to the altar... avoiding the whole pomp and ceremony described herein... and I am glad they do it this way... being a recovering Catholic your story just makes me shudder... except the fine array of ethnic food mentioned... of to find some cheerios - the only decent midnight snack in the world...

The Curmudgeon said...

Hilda -- I'm as Irish as Paddy's Pig, according to my bloodlines, anyway -- although I did a post once on why the Irish won't have me... but my Long Suffering Spouse is Cuban, the first of her family born here....

The Curmudgeon said...

Fran -- I've heard kids ask (no joke) "How do Protestants know when it's time to paint their houses?"

The way I like to look at is this: As Catholics, we pray... and then we play.

Hope you found the Cheerios all right.

Hilda said...

Ah...Long Suffering Spouse is first generation who married an Americano - just like me! do you like being an adopted Cuban? Isn't it fun?

Hubby loves it! He definitely took to the food quite well.

So was the Communion niece from the Cuban-American side of the family? Does LSS' family live in Miami? How did you two meet? What fun!

Barb said...

Was that her in the picture???

The Curmudgeon said...

No, Barb, it's not a picture of my actual niece -- although (to answer Hilda's last question) the niece who is the subject of this little story is from my wife's side of the family....