Last week, I “confessed” the true story of how I became Catholic. This week, I will tell you what happened next. It turned out that Baptism was only the tip of the iceberg. As the night of my first communion drew near, I found myself staring down a new conundrum. Let’s call it the “parent predicament.”
As I mentioned last week, my father was not Catholic. My mother was, but the two of them married in my father’s church, which effectively cut my mother off from the sacraments. Because she couldn’t go up for communion, my mother always left Mass as the lineup got underway, which meant I had no idea what occurred after “Lord, I am not worthy to receive Thee, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” (Yes, I know we use a different translation now, but that’s what we were saying in the ’70s.)
Until I started Catholic school, it was like a big mystery to me…I was convinced that things got really interesting and was probably something that my mother felt not to be appropriate for a young girl. You can imagine my disappointment when I first got to see the proceedings and realized that what I was missing out on was an over glorified snack break that I was not allowed to participate in. Talk about a bummer!
But all of that was about to change. I was going to get to be part of the BIG MYSTERY at last. My mother took me shopping for a simple white dress and we borrowed a veil from a girl down the street. (My mother thought it was silly to buy one considering I would only wear it one time.) I practiced walking in height order with my class until I was blue in the face and I remember the day Father stopped by the classroom to do a mock drill of what would happen on the big night.
“OK, so when it is your turn, you will come up to Father with your parents behind you. With your left palm over your right, Father will give give you communion and then he will give communion to your mother and father…”
My parents didn’t DO communion! My father didn’t qualify for it and my mother had a tendency to bolt for the door! I suddenly had this vision of having to walk down the aisle solo while my parents waited for me in the car. It was the kind of problem only a six-year-old could understand and after the Baptism debacle, I didn’t feel like having another religious issue!
I went home once again completely confused as to how I was going to get through this one and after batting the whole thing around in my head with no feasible solution, I finally approached my mother and told her the whole problem. In one breath.
My mother smiled and assured me that everything would be fine. “You are going to leave everything to me and Daddy,” she told me. “First of all: Both of us will be behind you that night. We are not going anywhere and you won’t have to walk down the aisle alone. Secondly, Daddy is not the first non-Catholic to have ever been in this situation and he will handle it. They won’t even offer it to him. Thirdly, I will take communion that night.”
My eyes widened. “Can you do that?”
Mom laughed. “I think God will understand. I think He would rather I take communion with my daughter than watch her have a nervous breakdown over this.”
Just as she predicted, the night went off without a hitch and it was truly a special occasion. A few months later, after my brother received his first communion, my mother called the priest to ask about her “situation” and find out if there was any wiggle room regarding her “excommunication.”
“Look, if you feel comfortable going up for communion with your children, that’s between you and God. I am not going to judge you,” he told her.
From that weekend on, she never ditched the Mass again and she regularly participated in the sacrament until she died. She never thanked me for being the catalyst for this change, but I didn’t hold a grudge. In fact, the lesson I took from the whole event is that EVERY kid going through first communion has an issue or concern that they are hiding and I encourage every parent to find out what that might be. Remember what seems like a “no brainer” to us, is a big deal for a little kid. And you don’t want to cause a “host” of problems for them, do you?