What’s the point of your book, in ten words or less?
This book explores the practice of First Communion liturgies.
What do you think is the most interesting thing you say in the book?
One of the most profound statements that I make in the book is “First Communion liturgies that move children toward “enchantment not entertainment” are possible… (3). I say this mainly because ritual prayer is a formative experience that contributes to the religious development of the child. Therefore, we cannot afford to expose children to liturgy that fosters an eclipse of good liturgical principles.
What’s the most controversial thing you say in it?
The chapters of the book are an attempt to “stir up” a deeper consciousness regarding how we prepare and celebrate First Communion. Many “out of place” practices or so-called “adaptations,” have taught over two generations that these “adaptations” are acceptable and these are what make the day a special event. Clearly, there are deeper issues at stake, for example, in my experience, when we do not adhere to including these “out of place” practices some people protest that First Communion is not special. This being the case, it is evident that some do not realize that the celebration of the Eucharist is the most special activity of the Catholic Christian community.
Why should I buy your book? Who do you hope will buy it?
You should buy this book because through reflective examination it offers the reader the opportunity to discover or re-discover one of the most important moments in the life of Catholic Christian children. This short book provides you with an overview of liturgy with children in general, a brief historical perspective of the developing patterns for celebrating First Communion, the theological context of First Communion, educational practices that will enhance the celebration of First Communion, and practical pastoral ideas that developed from my actual pastoral experience.
It is my hope that bishops, pastors, priests, diocesan catechetical office personnel, and all those engaged in pastoral ministry, including the educational ministry of the Church, i.e. catechetical, which includes Catholic Schools, music ministers, liturgy committees, and volunteers involved with teaching and preparing the liturgy for First Communion will buy this book and be open to it’s message.
Who will like your book? Who won’t?
Those who are knowledgeable about appropriate liturgical principles and those who are frustrated with the manner in which many parishes celebrate First Communion will love this book. In addition, pastoral ministers and religious educators who are open to exploring an alternative way of doing things will like this book. In other words, those who are not caught up in the risky mantra – “we always did it this way” will ponder my words with enthusiasm.
Those who are caught up in high emotion and sentimentality often resist change. Those not aware of the importance and significance of appropriate liturgical principles for every parish liturgical celebration and who are under the impression that we need to do something “special” for children, not recognizing that the celebration of the Eucharist is the most special thing we do as Catholic Christians, will most likely not embrace the proposal for honoring the integrity of liturgical principles when celebrating First Communion.
What do you hope might change in the church because of your book?
It is my hope that a radical change in catechesis both toward the celebration of First Communion and beyond will happen. For example, emphasis needs to be placed on the reality of the child’s initiation into the life of the Church rather than putting our energies into useless practices and gimmicks that do not have long-term effects. This change is nothing new. It reflects all of our recent catechetical documents, which places liturgy at the center of catechesis and gives strong precedence for adult faith formation and family catechesis. In order for this to happen on the parish level pastoral education is key. It is my humble opinion that no one should hold a parish leadership position without graduate studies in theology, which includes liturgical education. In addition, demonstration of the ability to implement good, effective pastoral practice is also vital.
Anything that didn’t survive the chopping block? Anything you didn’t include that might be in your next book?
The original purpose of the book was that it be pastoral and concise rather than an overwhelming exposition of the topic; however, since the book’s publication I have had the opportunity to speak to various groups on this topic. In doing so I have discovered that there might be a need to take a step back and expand on the first chapter, “Liturgy with Children.” I say this because inevitably many people still persist in referring to “children’s liturgy” and fall into the trap of wanting to showcase children rather than include them and teach them how to pray the prayer of the Church as members of the assembly.
Donna Eschenauer’s book can be purchased through Liturgical Press.