This past Saturday my daughter, Hannah, received her First Communion at Pax Christi Catholic Church in Rochester. It was a big day. On Saturday we celebrated with close family at our house, went to Mass, and then celebrated more afterwards at Pax Christi. Yesterday we went to my wife Amy’s family in Ellsworth to continue the celebration.
For the past eleven years I’ve attended Pax Christi Catholic Church with Amy. I’ve grown to learn the rituals that are very important to Catholics. First Communion is one of them. We have no corresponding ritual in the Protestant Church. A Protestant friend of our family (who grew up Catholic and understands these Catholic rituals) was asked by her husband about Hannah taking First Communion. “She has received Communion,” her husband said. That is true—Hannah participated in Communion at the Presbyterian Church where I most recently served. But my Protestant friend who grew up Catholic told her husband, “Hannah didn’t receive Catholic First Communion.”
There is a big difference between receiving Communion for the first time in a Protestant Church and participating in First Communion at a Catholic Church. When Hannah received Communion for the first time in a Presbyterian Church I talked to her briefly about what Communion means. When Hannah received First Communion this past Saturday she wore a gorgeous dress (she looked like a bride), we had family travel from all over the country to be with her, and she had people from the church congratulate her. Big difference
Some people might wonder what I—an ordained, Presbyterian pastor—think of my daughter receiving First Communion at a Catholic Church. My first thought is I’m glad she is receiving Communion. As a child I never received Communion until my Confirmation day—and I think that was and is wrong. I strongly believe that all children should receive Communion after they are baptized. Jesus loved children just as much as he loved adults. I think he is scandalized that children are prevented by almost all denominations from celebrating Communion.
My second thought is I’m glad that Hannah has this day to remember. It was fun this past weekend to hear Amy’s family talk about their First Communion day. They almost all remembered that day and what happened. First Communion is a special day on people’s journey of faith. Amy’s mom even brought a picture from Amy’s First Communion celebration.
What matters most to me is that Hannah grows up to live out the desires that God has on her life. I think this could happen if she becomes a practicing Catholic or a practicing Presbyterian. Of course I have a preference about what denomination she chooses, but she’ll eventually make that choice herself—without too much pressure about the denominational choice from Amy or me.
What I do know was Saturday was a special day for Hannah on her journey of faith. I will always remember the smile she had on her face as she got ready to receive Communion. She was so full of happiness and peace. I believe that she was experiencing the wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit. I take comfort in knowing that she will always have that moment as part of her faith journey.