There has been a lot of talk this week about First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Sadly the talk has focused on situations where people feel they have to borrow money or seek government aid to fund these days. The comments have been varied – from the very rational and measured to the irrational and potential for rant that can so often raise its head. At this end of the scale we hear people calling for “separation of Church and State” and letting the Church “pay for its own sacraments”. It might be of some help to spend a few minutes with this.
The Church – insofar as its viewed by those who see it as some form of governing body that dictates every detail of or lives – does not encourage people to go to excessive expense in the celebration of First Holy Communion, Confirmation or, for that matter, marriage. On the contrary the advice tends towards simplicity that allows for focusing on the Sacrament rather than the trappings that have attached themselves to its celebration. Such trappings are just that – “trappings” that trap people into a belief that all these things are essential to the day. This could not be further from the truth. All that’s needed to receive Holy Communion, the outpouring of the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit and the gift that is another in marriage, is the ability to be there on the day and the desire in heart and Soul to receive God’s Grace. Nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with dresses, sunbeds, suits, lavish meals etc.
Of course it is right to mark these special events and people are free to do so in whatever way is appropriate to themselves but maybe this “debate” is calling us in the direction of simplicity. Even if more could be afforded, simplicity might still be the road to travel since it takes pressure of others who, not wanting to embarrass their children, feel the need to be “as one” with others on the day. This is not the “communion” intended. This is not the meaning of “confirmation” – we are not asked to confirm our ability to look a million dollars, but rather to Confirm within ourselves the presence of the Holy Spirit.
So, to finish, a question or two! What can we do this year as a parish, as families as “Church” to ensure nobody is put under pressure or made to feel in any way inadequate? How best can we enrich our appreciation of the Sacraments and ensure nobody, even if it can easily be done, goes to extremes to celebrate what is dignified and simple, courageous and challenging – a moment in Faith?