The First Communion... Mine was a bit wonky
Warning: This is not a religious story. This is what happens when a little girl decides to take charge of her destiny.
For Shelley Brown, the former little Jewish girl who wanted to be Catholic. Thank you for making me laugh.
I grew up in a place where all schools were public schools with a secular curriculum, so nobody learned about religion in school and nobody wore a uniform or received private education. Religious instruction was either taught at home or through the church on Sunday (usually both). I grew up in a Catholic family which had morphed into Catholic light by the time I got to be school aged. My parents didn’t force us to learn prayers or go to church. They rarely went themselves. As the youngest of five, I could easily say that my personal experience was that when it came to church, I could do pretty much what I wanted.
Initially, my parents tried to get me to go to Sunday school, but the nun who taught the class was a caustic old shrew whose face was perpetually pierced into a strained pile of wrinkles. She was certainly nothing like the flying nun on television, or Sister Jude, who came to our house to take violin lessons from my father. Do you know what happens when you try to get a six year old to like someone who is unlikeable? Nothing.
Needless to say, I didn’t go to Sunday school like my friends, so when it came time to make my first communion, I had no knowledge of it. Apparently my mother made a side agreement with the priest that I would do it the following year, but since I was only a kid, I guess she didn’t think I needed to know.
In those days, every Easter Sunday marked the First Communion ceremony in our church. As Easter approached, all my friends were practicing amongst themselves how to hold their hands (palms up, left over right) and how to take the host from the hand and ingest it. I was quite curious about this. It was all new to me and my friends were all so excited about it. No more sticking your tongue out. There was a new way to do it!
When my friends realized I didn’t know anything about this great event they were all going to be participating in, I was faced with a high degree of scrutiny. “Are you Catholic or Protestant?” one of my friends asked rather snottily. I didn’t know the answer because I was never taught to differentiate myself that way. Catholic sounded prettier than Protestant, so I said I was Catholic. I got it right. I was safe for a while.
The following year, I still didn’t go to Sunday school and no mention was made of me having to make my first communion. Easter was approaching, so I dutifully went to church with my older brother on Good Friday. Part of the Catholic mass on Good Friday is to kiss the cross, so when everyone began to line up to do so, my brother looked at me and said, “Why aren’t you going up to kiss the cross?” I replied, “I haven’t made my first communion.” “Heathen!” he hissed. I was disturbed to be judged in such a way, even though my brother made no effort to go up to kiss the cross himself.
When Easter Sunday came, I was yet again in church. All the kids who were slated to make their first communion walked up the aisle to receive the body of Christ. I sat and watched each of the girls in their white dresses and veils, looking like junior brides and the boys in their neat, dark suits. They never looked cleaner than they did on that day. I resolved that I must do something about my situation, lest I be labelled a heathen for eternity.
The following Sunday, I said nothing to anyone, but I made the effort to go to church on my own (as I often did). It was the early 1970’s and my favourite pants had purple and blue stripes which I wore with a snazzy blue sweater that had a zipper at the neck. I thought I looked cool. I put on my little platform shoes (I had a developing fashion sense, even then) and set off to attend Sunday mass.
I was excited but a little nervous about what might happen. This was unknown territory. I resolved to take a chance that the priest would not recognize me as a heathen if I just went up to the altar and accepted communion like everyone else. As everyone lined up to receive their symbolic portion of Christ, I did the same. My heart was racing. Would I get caught? Inch by inch the line moved toward the priest at the front of the altar. Then it was my turn. I put my left hand over my right and held it up so the priest could place the wafer into my palm. “The body of Christ,” he said piously. “Amen,” I said happily.
The rest is history. I never did formally make my first communion and the church still has no record of it. They do have a record of my confirmation, however, so I guess I’m in the clear. Meanwhile, I still don’t think of people in terms of what religion they are because religion has absolutely nothing to do with genuine human value. Even heathens know that!
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Renée Cormier is a public relations and communications specialist, certified coach and facilitator on a mission to show business owners how to stop wasting valuable resources and get the most out of their marketing. She will conduct a thorough marketing audit for you, show you how to refine your messages, and help you uncover the most effective marketing tactics for your business.
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