The Catholic Moment: The second holy Communion
Thursday, March 11, 2010
By Jeanne Hunt
I often begin my talks to children preparing for their first holy Communion with these words, “Hello, I am Mrs. Hunt, and last Sunday I made my 4,124th holy Communion. You should be so lucky!”
I then tell the children a story about working with Bishop Carl Moeddel (then Father Moeddel) when he served as pastor of St. James of the Valley Parish. Bishop Moeddel knew every student by name that was in the first Communion group. One year on the Sunday after first Communion, he counted only 17 of the 42 first communicants returning for their second holy Communion.
The odds have become even worse that these beautiful young souls will make it back to God’s altar the week after the big day. We, as parents, religious educators and pastors have put a lot of effort, catechesis, and money into a child’s first holy Communion. How tragic that some folks cannot see beyond the pageantry and ritual of this touchstone moment to make reception of the Eucharist a lifetime practice.
In years past most of us kept Sundays holy, spending the day with a sense that it was time set apart from the work and tensions and chores of the week, never thinking that Sunday Mass was optional. In recognition of people’s desire to keep one day sacred, stores and businesses closed. Our Sundays began in a special way — with the celebration of Eucharist — and continued through the day to be special. We invited family and friends to keep us company at Sunday supper. We took long drives in the country to relax and see God’s handiwork in field and farm. We sought quiet and calm in our actions and gentleness in our attitude.
That kind of Sunday may seem like a long-ago memory to us Baby Boomers, and perhaps like fairytale-land to younger generations. Many families today consider Sunday just an extra Saturday — a day to catch up on work, mow the lawn, do laundry and get the grocery shopping done or put in a few more hours at the office. In the busy shuffle of keeping up with our “to-do list,” the holy day, the Sabbath, is lost.
It is no wonder, then, that our little ones do not realize that their first holy Communion is meant to be part of a weekly journey to the Lord’s table. While catechists may have taught children that to miss the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is wrong and that our absence leaves a hole at the Lord’s table, many parents teach no such message. Parents, with their own dismissal of Sunday as sacred time, send a powerful message that joining one’s faith community in prayer and song and ritual is not important to our lives as Catholics.
One way to improve the odds of keeping the Sabbath holy is for families to make celebration of Sunday a priority in their weekend routine. Three ways to do this include:
Go to Sunday Mass as a family, every Sunday, with no excuses. Decide as a family which Mass and which church you will attend. Alternate times and places if necessary. The important thing is to share Eucharist together.
Reserve Sunday for activities that nourish the soul and reawaken us to God’s presence in our lives. Do only necessary work on Sunday. Plan Sabbath activities such as group movie-watching, nature walks, meal preparation, game afternoons or visits with relatives and dear friends.
Set aside 30 minutes or an hour for prayer or spiritual reading every Sunday. Consider this a way to recharge yourself for the week ahead.
This spring, if you know a child who is receiving Eucharist for the first time, make a promise to Jesus that you will give the child a second holy Communion as your special gift. Tell the child that you will attend Mass at his or her parish the next Sunday so that you can share Jesus with him or her.
The Book of Genesis hints at what God intends for us daughters and sons. It tells us that the world was created in six days. On the seventh day God rested. Could it be that the Creator was trying to model holy behavior? Perhaps we are the ones who need R&R every seventh day, who need to keep holy the Sabbath and proclaim a day of prayer and rest.
Let’s pledge this Lent and coming Easter season to acknowledge anew our Catholic roots and create ways to keep Sunday holy, in the spirit of our ancestors in the faith.
Hunt is the catechetical and evangelization advisor for St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications.