Where there are large numbers of children in a parish, Mass for First Communion is often celebrated on a Saturday rather than at a parish Mass on Sunday. Why is it that those responsible for preparing the liturgy for First Communion disregard best liturgical practice?
I recently attended a First Communion on a Saturday morning and was troubled by the lack of liturgical integrity. I admit I can be overly critical; however I fear that too many parishes insist on re-creating the liturgy for children. (See my Pray Tell post, “A Second Look at the Directory for Masses with Children.”
Here are some examples of poor liturgical practices I experienced:
- for the Responsorial Psalm each verse was read by a different child;
- multiple symbolic gifts were not only brought up during the Preparation of the Gifts, but this action was accompanied by an explanation of each gift;
- a group of children was invited to come forward to sing the Our Father;
- the communion procession began with the children, accompanied by their parents for their photo op as they received the Body of Christ;
- the choir sang during communion, with no congregational singing;
- after communion, the children were again invited to come forward, and strategically placed in front of the altar. They sang a “meditation hymn” and applause followed.
My concern is that all of this “special” attention to what the children are doing neglects what is really happening. These children are celebrating a sacrament of initiation. The problem may be that there is no rite of First Communion so we make it up. However, preparers should take a cue from RCIA 241 “… Some of the neophytes also take part in the procession to the altar with the gifts.” That’s it!
Should the celebration of First Communion neglect sound liturgical principles? Should these celebrations resemble something like a recital? Or should they be sound liturgical celebrations worthy of the praise and glory of God? What do you think?
Donna Eschenauer, Ph.D. is the Associate Academic Dean at St. Joseph’s Seminary-College in Yonkers, New York.