Historically Easter and its subsequent 50-day season have been a favored time for First Communion and other sacraments of initiation. Parishes and schools place First Communion in April and May—and pray for beautiful spring weather to enhance the joy of the momentous day.
Do you recall your First Communion Day? Children like me who attended a public school and had religious instruction only on the weekend were typically held back a few months. Our parish in Bellevue, Ohio, scheduled First Communion for third graders on the Solemnity of Christ the King. (At that time—1957—the feast occurred on the last Sunday in October.) What do I remember? On the previous day I cut grapes in half for salad, raked leaves, and tried to keep the house clean. Furniture was rearranged to accommodate the two families of my godparents.
On the morning of my First Communion I got into my white dress—a little big for me, because it had to fit my younger sister the next year. I walked from the car to the church apparently in a daze, because my mom yanked me from almost walking into a sign. In church I was confident about all my cues. I was to walk up to the pastor, place my hand on a Bible and renew my baptismal vows with the rest of the class sitting behind me in the pews. (It wasn’t hard to memorize “I do.”) After receiving Jesus I was instructed to make acts of faith, hope, and love, which I did dutifully. I don’t recall any loving feelings, just nervousness. Did I close my eyes long enough? Was the teacher happy with me and my classmates? Would our class picture be good? Somehow I trusted that God was happy to come to me (although I don’t recall actual mental words about the feeling), and I suppose that’s the best memory of my First Communion Day. And—of yes—we served city chicken (kabobs of beef and pork) and salad with grapes, the delicacies for large groups back in the day.