Expert Answer Forum

First Communion QUESTION from Carole Keown April 7, 2000 I am not Catholic, but my neice will be celebrating her First Holy Communion on April 22nd. My husband and I (both Lutheran) have been invited to attend.
I was wondering if you could tell us what to expect. Is this traditionally a full mass? If so, what should we do and/or not do(aside from not taking communion, of course) to avoid causing offense or breaking any rules of the Church?
Also, is it customary to present the new communicant with a gift to commemerate the occasion?
I am deeply honoured to have been invited to share this special occasion, and I don't wish to do anything irreverant or impolite. You help is greatly appreciated. Carole
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on April 11, 2000 Dear Mrs. Keown:
First Communion is always a great thing to witness -- even these young people take this important step leading to mature Christians.
The Mass willas usual but with the added feature of presenting the young people. Usually those taking First Communion will take communion before the rest of the congregation. If anything, the Mass will be slightly longer than usual to account for the presentation of the First communicants.
As far as what you should do, just follow the crowd. Stand when everyone else stands, sit when they sit. When the congregation is kneeling, you may sit. Sing when they sing, etc.
During the communion itself, just remain in your pews while the Catholic are going forward to receive our Lord.
I think all will be interesting to you.
It would be nice if the priest did a full festive Mass with all the smells and bells. Each item, each color, each element of vestment, the insence, the bells, etc. etc. all mean something. I personally find the symbolism fascinating.
As to your question of a gift, yes, it is customary to give the young person a gift. Any Catholic bookstore/giftshoppe should be able to help you with choosing an appropriate gift.
Thank you for your sensitivity is wanting to be sure not to innocently break any protocols. Everyting is pretty straight forward as I outlined.
It is a privilege to see the First Communicants as well as those being Confirmed. I just had the privilege of seeing 40 young people confirmed in the faith by their bishop this last Sunday. I was out of town and visited a parish that just happened to be having a confirmation Mass. These events are great plesure to witness.
God Bless.
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