Tag Archives: sacraments

Review of the Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism

This was published originally by the CatholicPhilly.com and is copyrighted to them. I do not own the piece, but thought I would share this really nice review!

‘Catholicsm’ isn’t so hard after all
BY LOU BALDWIN
IG Catholicism Cover     Idiots Guide to Catholicism1You can’t judge a book by its title, let alone its cover. Take Idiot’s Guides “Catholicism” (Julie Young and Father Eric Augustein, Penguin Group, 2015. 366 pp. $19.95).

It shares shelf space with such other distinguished titles in the Idiot’s Guides series as “The Catholic Catechism,” “Catholicism for Dummies” and “Catholic Mass for Dummies,” all of which suggest that particular demographic is well catechized.

Flippant title aside, “Catholicism” is a clearly written book, which explains in laymen’s terms what the Catholic Church believes, teaches and doesn’t teach. The particular expertise of the two authors are complementary. Young holds a degree in writing from St. Mary of the Woods College and has written for a number of Catholic publications. Father Augustein, who is vocations director for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, holds degrees in philosophy and theology from La Salle University and St. Meinrad School of Theology.
The book is broken down into 22 chapters over five parts: “What is Catholicism;” “The Sacramental Life;” “Living the Good Life;” Prayer and Holiness” and “Catholic Life and Culture.”

The writing is unquestionably orthodox in presentation yet in ways one might not have considered. For example the simple explanation of original sin as it is inherited from our first parents, refers “to people’s natural inclination to reject the will of God in favor of their own selfish desires and personal satisfaction.”

Breakout factoids and ancient and new quotes help to enliven the text, for example: “Ignorance of the Scripture is ignorance of Christ – St. Jerome;” “In the London betting houses I was in 44th place. Look at that. The one who bet on me won a lot, of course – Pope Francis.”

In another quote from Francis further in the text, the Holy Father comments, “The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.”

In its coverage of all things Catholic, the book is indeed thorough, to the point of overkill. Devoting 10 pages to a list of the popes of the Catholic Church is a bit much, unless the authors were paid by the word.

With that quibble aside, Idiot’s Guides, “Catholicism” would be a great supplemental reading for anyone considering entering the faith, good for catechumens and catechists alike. Also it could make lively discussion for parish study groups, no matter what the participants’ foundational catechesis.

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: My son and the Book of Mormon

Mormons       Most people who know me, know that I am an Olympic junkie. I love everything about the games and will watch sports I have never heard of if it means that the US might bring home the gold medal. I’m even worse if the games are actually held on US soil as they were in 2002. The Salt Lake City games were a big deal for the country and an even bigger deal for the state of Utah, which is known for its large Mormon/Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints population.

I willingly admit that I do not know much about the LDS. I have watched documentaries about their history on PBS and I was a big fan of Donny and Marie back in the day, but beyond that…my scope is limited. I can say with some certainty that they seem like really nice people who work hard and live good Christian lives. They build beautiful temples. They believe in big families, and they are constantly doing good works for others. As far as I am concerned, the mormons are fine by me.

I don’t know what my son thought, though. As it happened, the Salt Lake Games coincided with a unit on other religions in his theology class and after reading a Time Magazine article about their penchant for overseas missions and door-to-door evangelism, my ever curious child had a LOT of questions about the tenants of the LDS movement and why the governor of Utah encouraged them to quell their “enthusiasm” during the Olympic season.

“Did you know that these people have a different Bible?” he asked me.

“It’s not a ‘different’ Bible…they have the same thing we do, but they also have The Book of Mormon,” I informed him.

“Well, whatever it is, they give it away for FREE…all you have to do is call the toll-free number and they’ll send one to you!” He was giddy with excitement over getting a free book in the mail.

I shook my head. “Yeah, no…I am not calling that number. Do you have any idea what comes WITH that free book?”

“What?”

“The MORMONS!” I shot back. “I’m here to tell you, they are wonderful people, but they are harder to chase away than a Jehovah’s Witness. They’ll show up on their bikes looking like Steak & Shake servers and talking about God-only-knows-what and I am not in the mood for that conversation! No thank you. No ‘free’ book is worth all of that.”

He was so disappointed. After his success with the Jewish temple, I think he was under the impression that I would actually encourage his curiosity and have him call them right up. However, a few months later, while he was volunteering for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, he happened to work alongside a group of mormons and didn’t even know it.

“Hey, are you guys LDS?” I confirmed as we sat in the break room eating ice cream.

Their eyes lit up and big smiles spread across their faces. “Yes, we are,” one of them answered. “What can we do for you?”

I explained that we were Catholics and that my son had recently finished a unit on other religions and wanted to know a little more about the LDS faith. “If you have a couple of minutes, would you mind talking to him? He’s not going to convert or anything, but I think he would get a lot out of the conversation.” The pair readily agreed and told me to send him over.

“OK here’s the deal, see those two guys over there?” I indicated to them with a nod of my head.

“Yeah,” he replied. “What about them?”

I smiled. “They are Mormons.”

To explain the child’s reaction would make no sense in the English language. His jaw dropped open. His eyes became huge and he stared across the room as if he’d just discovered the one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater. “Oh for heaven’s sake, they are Latter Day Saints, not zoo animals! They agreed to talk to you for a couple of minutes and want you to come over.” I hesitated for a second before adding, “Just do me a favor, whatever they say, just listen. Don’t argue with them, don’t tell them they are wrong, and don’t get into some kind of theological debate. Remember, we asked them not the other way around so be respectful.”

“OK,” he said, and went off to introduce himself.

A few minutes he returned with a strange look on his face. His smile seemed frozen in place and he spoke through gritted teeth. “You are never going to believe this one,” he informed me. “Do you know these people think Jesus lived in America with the Indians and that when they die they can become gods?”

“Well, it seems I may have heard some of that along the line,” I told him, impressed by how much they were able to convey in such a short period of time. “I’m sure there is a bit more to it than that, though.”

He narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “Maybe, but I don’t know. They seem to think that they are the only people who are going to go to heaven too.”

Not being privy to the official list, I jokingly pointed out that perhaps they were right. The important thing was to hear what they had to say and not to judge them. After all, we as Catholics have our beliefs, and they have theirs. My son unfortunately had no intention of giving them the benefit of the doubt, especially where the hereafter was concerned.

“I’m judging them, but they are wrong. I am totally going to heaven when I die and I don’t need an extra Bible or a crazy fairy tale to tell me that! I’ve got two sacraments and I plan to get the rest of them as well…if that doesn’t get me in, nothing will,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Holy Week

Jesus-Picture-On-The-Cross-It-Is-Finished-Crucifixion-WallpaperMost Catholics consider Holy Week to be the highlight of the Church year. The events commemorated are the cornerstone of our fundamental beliefs and culminate in an occasion more glorious than the coming of the Word made Flesh that we celebrate each Christmas.

Needless to say as a child, I was not a fan.

First of all, NOTHING in a child’s mind is better than Christmas! I mean, Easter is great and all but it always struck me as a watered down version of a much better holiday. If Spring Break corresponds with it, that’s a little better, but you only get one week off instead of two. There is the half day on Good Friday that public school kids didn’t get and that was kind of fun, but again…it’s like a consolation prize for a shorter break. There are fun scavenger hunts to go on and a small cache of toys involved, but then you also have to endure seven weeks of sacrifice and an entire week of Massapalooza, which centers on a rather grisly death before you even get to the Main Event. I just had a hard time looking at Easter as a “happy” time.

Don’t get me wrong, I understood that Jesus died for my sins and Lord knows my teachers liked to point out how He made this big sacrifice for our benefit, but I have to tell you…I would have been fine with a less gruesome sign of His love. However, if you are going to do something to save the world, I guess you have to go big or go home, right?

With time and maturity, my attitude toward Holy Week has mellowed considerably and I am pleased to announce that I actually enjoy it nowadays, but not to the same level my youngest son does. If you think my reactions to all things church related are unique, this kid is going to seem downright peculiar!

Vincent     I can’t remember a time when “Boy Wonder” wasn’t wacky for Holy Week….or more specifically Good Friday. From the time he was very little, I would often catch him staring at the illustration of the crucifixion in his Kids’ Bible fascinated by this particular style of Roman execution. I’m not kidding, he had that page of the book open so much, he broke the spine at its location so if you stood the book on end, it would open to that scene.

“Wouldn’t you rather look at another picture?” I asked. “There’s a really nice picture of Baby Jesus in His manger bed.” Honestly, I wasn’t trying to dissuade his interest, I was just concerned this was going to become an obsession.

“No Mommy, I like this one,” he’d say.

Although there was nothing wrong with his enthusiasm, it occurred to me that it might be misinterpreted by others who didn’t understand or were unfamiliar with the prevalent images of the crucifixion that exist in the Catholic Church. Sure enough, when he was four, I took him to a local Christian church that was having a big Christmas event including barn animals and a live nativity and afterwards the congregation invited us to stay and hear “the rest of the story.” Now, I suspected I knew where this was heading, so I took the kids into the sanctuary to watch what I correctly surmised to be a passion play.

Everything started out fine. Jesus rode in on a live donkey while people waved palm branches and sang “Joy to the World (The Lord has Come)” Side note: I really kind of thought that was a cool tie-in and would pay big bucks to see a Catholic Church sing that song on Palm Sunday for a change. The scene then shifted to the last supper, Judas’ betrayal and the trial before Pilate, who of course, sentences Jesus to death.

As the actor playing Jesus was stripped of his garments and “nailed” to the prop cross, some women sitting in front of us became so moved by the scene that they started crying. Not Boy Wonder. With his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open, he picked that moment to holler, “Check it out, Mom! They’re stringing Him up!”

Now, I don’t want to imply that he was delighted by what he was witnessing…but he was. This was his illustrated Bible, Jesus of Nazareth and every other Gospel-based movie he’d ever seen brought to life. It was dramatic. It was wrenching. It was real! I cupped my hand over his mouth to shush him, lest anyone get the wrong idea, but I’m sure there were a few people in the audience who were convinced I was raising a heathen.

“You know, you really can’t get that excited about the crucifixion,” I explained later. “People get the wrong idea.They think you actually LIKE it.”

“I do like it,” he told me. “You can’t have Easter without it.”

Astonished by his simple wisdom, I knew that I had been beat and every year, I can count on him to get giddy over Holy Week knowing he will hear his favorite Bible story on Palm Sunday, announce “Today’s the big day!” on Good Friday and ask me  if I think they actually commemorate this event in Heaven. (I’m not being sacrilegious when I say I KNOW that kid has visions of party hats, balloons and a cake that says “Happy Crucifixion, Jesus!”) He actually gets excited if the weather is gloomy on that day because he is convinced it’s God’s way of reminding everyone about His son’s sacrifice and I have to admit, more often than not, it is kind of gross and rainy on that particular day. Who knows? Maybe he knows something the rest of us don’t.

They say that the worst punishment a parent can get is having a kid that acts just like them, but sometimes think the greatest gift is having those who are complete opposites, because every once in a while they teach you a thing or two with that child-like faith Jesus admired so much.

Happy Easter Everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: In Mass Entertainment

Mass kids     Last night I was in Mass, completely distracted by the family in front of me.  I do not hate children, nor do I have a problem with the occasional crying baby or fidgety kid…but this was something else entirely. These three made Huey, Dewey and Louie look like saints and could not stop dropping hymnals, lobbying for restroom breaks, sliding off the pew, banging their heads, poking, pushing, prodding each other, and of course there was that exciting round of Pass the Baby between the parents. To be perfectly honest with you, I never did figure out what the Gospel was about thanks to this group the only part of the homily I caught involved a story about beer, cheese, a German lady and a campfire, but I suspect there was a theological lesson in there somewhere…either that or a really bad punchline.

Now I appreciate the old adage “If you’re church isn’t cryin’ it’s dyin'” as much as the next person, but come on, when you’ve got a three-ring circus happening in the pew, no one’s having a good time. It made me wish more than ever that Catholic parishes had nursery rooms or Sunday School classes where kids could be dropped off and picked up at a parent’s leisure. My dad’s church had them and, quite frankly, I liked that a WHOLE lot better than sitting in Mass with my mom where everyone was taller than me, I didn’t get to participate in “snack time” and no talking was allowed. In Sunday School we sang, drew pictures, heard stories, ate cookies. I’m telling you… it was a heavenly experience.

Yes, Catholic churches have a “cry room”…a windowed space that for some reason reminds me of an aquarium or a People Exhibit at a local zoo…and some do have a children’s liturgy on Sunday, but the sheer volume of Masses that occur at a Catholic parish on a weekend make this impossible for every service. As a result, Mass goers in special VIP sections of the church are often treated to a unique brand of dinner theater which features an assortment of interpretive dance and and mime performance and can only be pulled off by the six-and-under-set.

bored       Now I was never that bad but I will say that I had my own brand of Pre-Mass and in-Mass entertainment that had a good-long run at my childhood parish. It was always low key but very effective and it kept the boredom from settling in. Generally speaking, it was also the kind of shenanigans that typically flew right under my mother’s radar (bonus!) While I have never shared my secrets before now, after last night, I feel I must spread the word so that others may learn from my knowledge. If you are a parent, or a particularly precocious child who can read and understand my blog, may I suggest the following activities:

  • Bug your mother for change so that you can light a candle. (Ordinarily playing with fire is forbidden so take this one while you can!)
  • Braid the bookmarks of the hymnal together. (This works especially well if there are multiple bookmarks in the hymnal otherwise some odd re-arranging must occur.)
  • If you are in the second grade or older, go to confession. (This not only kills time, but gives you an excuse to chat with someone.)
  • Ask your mom for a mint. (She always has them, don’t let her tell you otherwise.)
  • Read the Bulletin (Especially during the homily)
  • Stand on the kneeler to see better (Every kid does it…it’s OK! But don’t jump on it. Let’s have some class.)
  • Stare at the ceiling fan and then look away, noting that it always appears to rotate faster in your peripheral vision. (I have a feeling every adult is going to try this now that I have brought it up. LOL)
  • Tug on your mom’s arm until she let’s you put the envelope in the collection basket. (No one will believe that you really tithed, but you will feel oh-so-impressive)
  • Stare at the brightest stain glass window for 30 seconds then close your eyes to see a “ghost image” of it in your head.
  • Bring along the Mass book you received for First Communion and note that the word “lived” is “Devil” backward and look for other words that may have backward messages in them.
  • Play Guess the Saint with the statues then ask your mother who they are. (Delight in the fact that she doesn’t know either.)

Trust me, there is some Tomfoolery you CAN get away with in Mass, but subtly is the key here.You do not want to go for broke only to cause people to hate you prior to the Sign of Peace. As a former child myself, I can assure you, they aren’t giving you a big smile, they are gritting their teeth and biting their tongues to keep from telling you what they really think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: The Problem With Purgatory

Purgatory-Traffic-SignI was nine-years-old before I ever heard the word “Purgatory.” I playing some elaborate pretend game with a friend of mine when she announced that her character was going to die and that she would continue to interact with my character from the hereafter. (Believe me, It made perfect sense in the context of the story and if you knew anything about the two of us at all, you would understand that we were a tad…unconventional to put it mildly. LOL)

So of course we staged this dramatic death bed scene in which I hugged her, told her character how much I would miss her and then laid her to rest near a bush in the backyard that quite frankly, looked like it should have been a tombstone. A few minutes later, I watched as she stood in front of the bush with her arms out like she was waiting for the mother ship to beam her up and said, “What are you doing?”

“Getting my sins burned off in Purgatory,” she said, solemnly.

Where? I wondered. She said it so seriously like it was a real thing, but the only place I had ever heard of where fire was possibly involved was Hell. I assumed she had made up the word. “But your character was good. She wouldn’t have gone…Down There.”

My friend looked at me like I was crazy. “I didn’t go Down There, I went to Purgatory. You have to wait there for a while before you can go to Heaven.”

This was a new one on me. Prior to this conversation, I was only aware of two final destinations and none of them involved what sounded like a celestial equivalent to a doctor’s waiting room. “Let me get this straight,” I began. “God’s in charge of this Purgatory place, so it’s not like where the Devil is.”

“Right. It’s not a bad place to be, but it’s not Heaven either,” she told me.

I ran that one around in my head a few times. “So how long do you have to stay there?” I wanted to know.

She shrugged. “It depends on how bad you were here on Earth. If you die with a lot of sins on your soul you could be there for millions of years.”

Millions of years? Oh, she had to be pulling my leg. “I don’t understand. Why do your sins have to be burned off? Can’t God just take them away?”

“It’s not like that kind of fire,” she informed me, as if she had personal experience with the place. “It’s not hot. It’s warm and it makes you better. It doesn’t burn you up.”

My mother called me in for dinner after that and my friend went home, but the conversation stayed with me all throughout dinner, as I took my bath and got ready for bed that night. When my mom came in to tuck me in, I came right out and asked, “What’s Purgatory?”

“Where did you hear about Purgatory?” She wanted to know.

I offered her the five second explanation of what went down in the backyard, but before I could ask for any clarification, she dismissed the whole thing by saying, “Oh don’t worry about that. You’ll go to Heaven.”

But I wasn’t so sure. So, naturally I went to my father. “What’s Purgatory?”

My dad looked a little uncomfortable as though I had touched on something forbidden or taboo. “It’s a Catholic belief,” he said simply.

“So you don’t believe in it?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No, I don’t.”

I thought my parents had a very strange attitude where this Purgatory place was concerned and it wasn’t helping me at all. My dad was pretty smart and even though I knew there were some “differences” between his faith and mine, this seemed like a pretty big thing to disagree on. I didn’t like the idea of believing in something that my dad seemed fairly confident wasn’t there. And what about my mom? Dad said that Purgatory was a Catholic belief, but my mom dismissed the idea of it so fast, I couldn’t help but wonder if she DID believe in it. After all, she had been Methodist before she was Catholic. Maybe she didn’t believe in Purgatory either.

And if this place was so important, then WHY hadn’t I heard about it before now? I was in fourth grade. I had two sacraments under my belt, a phenomenal amount of prayers committed to memory and logged more hours in religion class than I could count. How had I missed the Purgatory discussion?

After giving it considerable thought and reading the section of the Bible where the concept is drawn from, I decided it was too loose of an interpretation for me to buy into. Now, I know this will not make me popular with hard core Catholics, but I stand my ground. The issue of Purgatory was very difficult for me to write about in The Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism because I just wasn’t sure. It was as if I couldn’t do it with a straight face or without rolling my eyes. It’s not that I didn’t want to, I just…struggled. At one point, I called my former religion teacher in desperation and said, “How am I going to sell this to the populous if I don’t believe it myself?”

“Wait a minute, why don’t you believe in Purgatory?” She asked.

God love this woman. She listened as I recounted the tale, laughing at the idea of two little girls talking about this over a game of pretend and how frustrating it must have been for me to ask my parents and come up empty on an answer. “No wonder you don’t believe in it. You grew up in a post-Vatican II world where no one talked about it. You lived in a home where it wasn’t discussed and then all of a sudden you heard about it and couldn’t confirm it? Why would you believe in it?”

She put on her “teacher hat” and began to explain Purgatory to me from the ground up. She didn’t tell me that I had to believe in it, but she gave me food for thought. I still struggle with the idea but if you haven’t believed in something for four decades, it’s a little hard to suddenly buy into it overnight. Thankfully she understood that and encouraged me to pray on it.

I have, but so far I have not reached a conclusion. While I would love to be a good Catholic girl with a rock solid faith, like it or not, God made me this way and He seems to like challenges. Who am I to deny Him of a great Fixer Upper project like me?

IG Catholicism Cover  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism is available wherever books are sold including:

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: What to do when Jesus Returns

jesus_communion    It started out as an ordinary Mass on an ordinary Sunday. The only thing outside of the norm was the presence of extra chalices on the little table next to the altar signifying that the Blood of Christ would be distributed at this particular service. While this is customary now, it wasn’t the case back then and it was something of an occasion when a little kid like me got to partake in a dab of wine. To this day I have no clue how my parish determined which Masses would have wine and which ones wouldn’t but needless to say it felt a little like winning a raffle to see the extra cups lined up for the service.

Of course it also meant that there would be extra communion ministers processing in during the entrance all wearing long while robes similar to the kind that the servers wore. This usually meant an extra verse to the entrance song, but I learned early in life that sometimes, you have to take the good with the bad. I was getting to drink illegally, I could handle an extra few measures of “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.”

At the start of the consecration, the Eucharistic ministers all took their places behind Father as he said the prayers over the bread and wine and that’s when I saw….HIM. Standing a little to the left of Father’s shoulder and looking very pious was a young man about 30-something with longish brown hair. He sporting sandals along with a mustache and beard and to be honest, he looked like every picture I had ever seen of, well….HIM. You know who I am talking about. Jesus. Christ. JC, God’s only begotten Son!!

Now, no part of this should have surprised me. I had that rapture-minded softball coach who warned me that this could occur at any time and at any place. I supposed if He was going to come back on that particular day, it made plenty of sense that He wouldn’t start with the Vatican but rather  a random Catholic parish on the East Side of Indianapolis. After all, my world was a LOT smaller when I was eight.

I looked around to see if any of the other parishoners were witnessing the same event that I was but no one seemed to notice. The Second Coming is getting underway, people! I wanted to shout. I was convinced that at any moment, He was going to take over for Father and speak the lines that He made famous during the Last Supper. However, Jesus didn’t do that. He was polite and let Father do his job. Talk about having a servant’s heart!

When the consecration was over and Father passed out the communion bowls and chalices, he handed one of the implements to Jesus but once again, there was no moment of recognition. He must be waiting until announcement time to tell everyone, I thought to myself as I watched Jesus bring His bowl of wafers to my side of the church.

To say that I was flabbergasted is putting it mildly. Jesus was going to give me communion! What would he say, “Body of Me” or go with the usual line? I had no idea but I have to confess I have never been so prayerful as I approached the altar. Looking into His eyes, I don’t know how I got through it, but somehow I did. I went back to my pew and continued confessing every sin I could think of. After all, if I was being taken to paradise, I wanted to be ready. No point in Jesus second guessing His position on me.

Needless to say, “Jesus” never took over the Mass and I left a little disillusioned. I said nothing during the entire ride home and it wasn’t until we pulled into the driveway that I carefully asked my mother, “Did you happen to see that one guy behind Father?”

She didn’t have to ask who I might be referring to. “Yes Julie, I thought he looked like Him too,” she said.

Oddly enough I never saw that particular communion minister again. Perhaps he shaved and cut his hair. Maybe he was visiting. Maybe he was scheduled at other Masses from then on. I have no idea. However, in my quietest moments, I can’t help wondering if maybe, just maybe I saw something extraordinary that day even if no one else wanted to admit it.

Then again, maybe it was the wine.

 

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: One kid, two parents and a “host” of problems

First communion    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…”

Come again?

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?

 

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