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On The Eve of My Son's First Communion

alec vanderboom

My son's First Communion experience is proving so different from my daughter's path. Hannah was physically pained by being denied First Communion. We had this long count-down to her First Communion day starting at age 4. Since we went to a large church, Hannah was part of an official class of 40 kids. There were First Communion retreats and practices. I had some confidence she had some appreciation for the magnitude of this sacrament.

Two years later, Alex's experience is totally different. We moved to a small country parish. There are only three  boys receiving First Communion this weekend. The parish has no recognized "prep" program, it's entirely reliant on the parents. Our family just had a new baby added to the mix, so we didn't spend a whole year carefully going over the St. Joseph children's catechism. It was more "catch as catch can" over the diner table.

Unlike his older sister, Alex has shown zero enthusiasm for this Sacrament.

As an overly scrupulous convert, I'm tempted to worry that my son isn't prepared to receive his First Communion. Sure he knows his stuff. Yet he's not showing perfect reverence and awe. There's no silence and awe when we do Adoration together.

There was a moment, however, that I was reminded about how much seven year olds NEED the Eucharist, even if they can't perfectly sit through an hour Mass yet. Last night, my son started slamming car doors in jealousy after his older sister won a medal in her soccer championship and he did not. I disciplined him. Then I hugged him. He started to cry. I hugged him again. And I told him that Jesus really understood his hurt. (My son had played the best soccer game ever in three seasons, but it wasn't enough for his team to win a medal. because they came in 3rd place instead of 2nd). I told my son to let his big sister have her moment, because the rest of the weekend was going to all be about him and his First Communion. I said, Jesus knew it was hard to be kind after a painful soccer loss, but that was exactly why he was coming into  his heart through the Eucharist.  I told my son to "hold on because help was on the way."

I don't know if my son is going to "get it" when Sunday's First Communion comes. But that is okay. I didn't really "get it" when my First Communion happened at age 27. I trust that the grace from the Eucharist is real. I believe Jesus pours himself equally into little girls who delight in bowing their heads inside fresh white veils, and little boys who are openly annoyed st their itchy blue blazers.

Pope Pius the X, pray for us. Thank you for letting young children receive Holy Communion. They need strength for the Christian journey just like adults.