This is a time of great grace for our parish family. Bishop Dennis Sullivan will be here on Saturday, May 7th to confirm ninety-four candidates who have been preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation during two Masses (10 AM & 1 PM). Please note: there will be no 8:30 AM Mass that morning.
Additionally, during the next two weekends (4-23/24 & 4-30/5-1) we have the privilege of gathering as a parish family at Mass as our children receive their First Holy Communion. There are eight-nine children scheduled this year over six Masses (5:30 PM Saturday and 10 AM & 11 AM Sunday).
Why is First Holy Communion celebrated in this manner here instead of in large groups as in other parishes? There are a number of reasons for our current practice (which, incidentally, has been in place prior to my arrival as pastor over five years ago). Let’s first look at our diocesan guidelines for sacramental preparation:
The preferred option for the celebration of First Eucharist is within the Sunday Liturgy. It is the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its Head, that celebrates [the liturgy.] Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the Church which is the ‘sacrament of unity’ (SC 26*). Liturgical services pertain to the whole Church. Rites are meant to be celebrated in common, with the faithful present and actively participating, and should as far as possible be celebrated in this way rather than by an individual or quasi-privately. (SC 27*) Eucharist is the crowning jewel in the sacraments of initiation and should be celebrated within the parish worshipping community. It is recommended that the celebration take place during the Easter Season when the Church traditionally welcomes her new members. (Sacramental Guidelines when Sacraments of Initiation are not Celebrated Together, Diocese of Camden, 2005)
It is critical to remember that the two families that should be most important in the children’s lives are their domestic family and their Church family. The parents are the first (and need to be the best) teachers of their children in the ways of faith. It is also necessary to consider that we are preparing the children to be a part of the regular worshipping community that we call the Church. While it may look “nice” or “cute” to have all of the children together in one (or two) ceremonies with their classmates and friends, it is much more essential to emphasize for them the bonds of family and Church. Essentially, we are not preparing them to be with their current friends (who may not be their friends past next week), but to be regular, practicing members of the Catholic Church as experienced through their local parish family.
Let me again quote our diocesan guidelines:
Children should be made aware that Eucharist is not a “once and done” sacrament. Therefore, there should be encouragement to the children (and their parents) to form good habits of weekly celebration of the Eucharist.
We all have much to learn from each other and to teach one another. We should rejoice to see our children share in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church, as lived and experienced in our parish family. If the faith is not handed on to, experienced and practiced by our young, then eventually our Church will be nothing but a bunch of empty, lifeless buildings.
Congratulations to both our Confirmandi and our First Communicants! My prayer is that your faith in Jesus Christ will grow ever stronger as you receive another important sacrament in your spirtual journey.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
(*SC Sacrosanctum Concillium 12/4/63, a document of Vatican II)