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What do Catholics think about making First Holy Communion at 8 years old?

(35 Posts)
PrincessFiorimonde Wed 24-Apr-13 23:55:58

I'm a lapsed Catholic. My brother and sister-in-law are believers. I respect their beliefs, although I don't share them. But my niece is shortly due to make her First Holy Communion. If you are a Catholic, you will know that she will be dressed in white, probably wearing a veil, looking like 'a little bride of Christ'. She is 8 years old, and (in my opinion) obviously too young to decide anything for herself apart from trying to please her parents on this score.

I'm uneasy about this. Of course, I won't say anything directly, as she is not my child.

But, really, is this the right thing to do for a child at such a young age?

IThinkOfHappyWhenIThinkOfYou Thu 25-Apr-13 00:06:04

It's not confirmation. Other denominations take communion much younger. I don't think they do completely understand at 8, despite months of prep but I think they understand enough. The thing I like about First Holy Communion is the tradition and the ritual anchors you in your community. Its a shared experience across time and across countries. It makes you feel like a 'proper' Catholic, in full communion so when you drift away when you are older, as people tend to do, then you always feel like you can come back again. Something happens when you are 18 or 25 or 70 and you have a place to go and I think its the ritual and shared experience that makes you feel like that.

Startail Thu 25-Apr-13 00:15:42

To someone used to the traditions of the CofE it seems very young.

Around 12-15 is the age I'm used to. DD1 thought about it at 13 because her BF was, but we were away. She wouldn't now. She's getting almost as cynical an old atheist as her mum.

DH was confirmed at about 11-12 with special permission that he did understand what he was doing. He was very young for back then.

Confirmation is slipping earlier and like the OP I'm not convinced that's a good thing. Certainly not for DCs with believing and atheist parents. They have to be old enough to make their own decision.

IThinkOfHappyWhenIThinkOfYou Thu 25-Apr-13 00:21:51

Our parish confirms at 15 but FHC is from 7/8, I don't know if it's diocese wide or up to the parish. I though Cof E did communion younger and with less fuss but I don't have much experience. I've seen quite little kids receiving communion in CofE churches and baptisms/weddings etc but maybe that was just those individual churches rather than a broader trend.

Gingerdodger Thu 25-Apr-13 06:40:16

I think FHC at 7 or 8 is fine. Holy Communion is about the person being able to receive the eucharist regularly so the thinking of having FHC at a young age was not to deny children of the strength of the eucharist, a key practise of the RC faith. Most children in my experience are able to understand the meaning of the eucharist in their own personal way.

My children were all given free choice as to whether they wanted to do this, I suspect any pressure on kids to do this comes from their friends rather then parents usually. It also doesn't mean that children can't then decide when they are older not to take communion anymore and not to partake in the life of the church any further if they have a different view.

The dressing up is traditional rather than obligatory and is about the child celebrating a very special day.

I have more issues with confirmation at this age and in our diocese they do confirm also at this age. Confirmation is a decision to do just that, to confirm their 'membership' of the church as their own decision rather than one made for them by parents through baptism. I think this would be far better left to older children and perhaps isn't starting that should be done in batches according to age but rather when the person is ready.

Again being confirmed does not mean that the child cannot decide to never cross the door of a church or follow another religion or denomination or nothing at all but it is such a special decision I believe it would be best left to people are older.

OrangeLily Thu 25-Apr-13 06:54:44

The last FHC I went to the kids were 8 & 9. They confirmed them in the same service which I was pretty shocked at to be honest!

PrincessFiorimonde Thu 25-Apr-13 09:29:50

Thank you for your replies; you have all given me something to think about. I appreciate that First Holy Communion isn't the same as Confirmation (and I'm amazed to read that Confirmation sometimes does happen as young as 8 or 9). But I see the point about the 'ritual and shared experience'.

Re: 'The dressing up is traditional rather than obligatory and is about the child celebrating a very special day' - Ginger, I do see that, but I still think it's a bit creepy for little girls to be dressed as miniature brides. I guess that may be a visceral response on my part,

Dd is making hers on Sunday, she's 8.

I'm perfectly happy with that, she understands enough for what it is. I wouldn't be happy with confirmation so young but they do that at 11/12 here and I think that's a good age really.

Being able to receive communion helps with the transition back to the church if like me you lapsed as a teen. If I hadn't done my fhc as a child I wouldn't have as a teen and I probably wouldn't have been brave enough as an adult to start all over again. As it was I felt like I was just coming back to the church after a break... I'm not a particularly devout catholic but it is nice to feel part of our community and celebrate mass with friends and neighbours.

I will allow my dc the same option my mother gave me to choose whether they want to participate in mass once they're in secondary school but they will be raised fully catholic until that age. It gives them the ability to choose with all the facts, if you're raised without religion you don't really understand what you're choosing to give up... Being raised in a religious community allows you to make an informed decision as to whether that religion is of benefit to your life or something you can live without.

elQuintoConyo Thu 25-Apr-13 09:49:00

It's mini-bride central here in Spain at the moment. Boys are dressed either in a suit or sailor's outfit. I don't know what's creepier.

My DH is lapsed Catholic but wants DS to be baptised - I've agreed to it as long as I don't have to go myself or throw a party afterwards and that he doesn't get 1st C or confirmed until he's old enough to know it's all bollocks know what it's all about.
DS is 16mo and a wriggler/screamer/headstrong bugger and I can just see DH trying ti hokd him down to be baptised - he HATES the bath.

Perhaps I'll go afterall [evil grin emoticon]

Sorry for hijacking thread. I'd just grin and bear it with your niece.

PrincessFiorimonde Thu 25-Apr-13 10:57:38

SummerRain, we were a lapsed RC family as I grew up, so I never did a FHC or indeed a Confirmation. I did embrace the church in my teens/early twenties, but grew away from it later. That's my personal journey, which perhaps explains why I find FHC at such a young age rather hard to understand.

elQuinto, I thought about this a lot when my nephew made his FHC two years ago. He was in a smart suit (not a sailor's outfit!), and although I was there to support him and my wider family (as I will be with my niece), I did, if I'm honest, find it rather yuck to see the little girls in their quasi-bridal outfits.

Sorry if that offends anyone. I'm just musing, really. I have no intention of saying 'yuck' to my brother or SIL, or of course to my niece.

Annunziata Thu 25-Apr-13 13:58:15

I think it's fine. They are definitely old enough to voice their opinion by that age. I honestly don't get the big fuss about the dresses, and I'm from an Italian family so used to white suits, lace, etc.

The parties I do think go over the top.

It's not a bride of Christ- that's a nun! (AFAIK)

Bunbaker Thu 25-Apr-13 14:04:43

"To someone used to the traditions of the C of E it seems very young."

Our C of E church does first communion at around 7, DD was 6. Our church is high church so it may make a difference. DD has just been confirmed at the age of 12 and really enjoyed the confirmation prep lessons because we have such a fabulous vicar.

They don't do the white dresses and veils thing at our church though.

MyNewCatIsFab Thu 25-Apr-13 14:05:10

I'm a lapsed catholic in Scotland, children go to catholic school. In our diocese the children wear albs when making their first communion. It's hard to describe if you don't know what it is. It's a unisex item which is plain cream coloured, bit like a monks habit, with a cord tied at the waist. Then there is a tabard over the top with some embroidery on it.

This was not popular with a lot of the parents in our school when it was brought in about 10 years ago and they resisted it but the diocese won. I think they wanted to bring he focus back to the spiritual side and away from the focus on big dresses, kilts and limos. The children can wear what they like underneath but in church they all look the same.

MyNewCatIsFab Thu 25-Apr-13 14:14:13

On the age thing. Obviously wil be dependent on the child but one of my sons, at 8, decided that he didn't believe and didn't want to make his first communion. School and priest were perfectly ok with that, in fact seemed pleased that he had considered it and was making a conscious choice not just viewing it as a party and how much money he would get in presents.

Bunbaker Thu 25-Apr-13 14:20:37

We didn't do a party or presents for FHC. We didn't do it for DD's confirmation either. She did get two presents, but I didn't get her anything. After the service there were cakes and drinks in church for half an hour and then we just went home and had a normal Sunday.

Gingerdodger Thu 25-Apr-13 15:35:16

The dress issue is always interesting (so much easier with boys). White dresses and veils often look beautiful and are traditional (maybe more so than for brides which only became popular in Victorian times). Sometimes the dresses are just too adult, it is that part I am less comfortable with rather than them being white. It seems to go in fashions, a few years ago a lot of the girls at FHC had very fancy dresses which seemed too grown up too me but in recent years they seem to have gone back to being little girls dresses again, some with veils, some not.

Whenever I find myself humphing I am reminded of watching an episode of 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' (the only one I have ever watched as I really wasn't comfortable with the stereotyping). Some little girls were doing their FHC and were dressed in very adult ways and elaborately. The priest was asked what he thought and he just said they were who they were, were just in keeping with their culture and all welcome to God's table.

NotTreadingGrapes Thu 25-Apr-13 16:28:42

<waves to summerrain>

No bride of Christ-ing here (southern Italy) either. Dd is going to be head to toe Monsoon party frockery with a tunic thingy from the parish on top.

hiddenhome Fri 26-Apr-13 13:06:20

Ds2 will be making his FHC this year and he's really looking forward to it and feels ready (he's more religious than we are tbh). If he chooses, he can be confirmed when he's a teenager.

In the Orthodox churches, babies are baptised, have FHC and confirmation all at the same time as infants.

sieglinde Sun 28-Apr-13 16:22:49

I don't get why this bugs people so much. It's as if they feel FHC is like marriage. But surely, OP, if you yourself can lapse, so can others, whether they make their FHC at 8 or 80?

MY dd made hers at 6. She was ready.

ICBINEG Sun 28-Apr-13 23:33:41

6,7,or 8 is too young to be in church, let alone pretending to sign on the dotted line for life....

I'd say stick with the facts until they are old enough to have some good interpretation of media skills and a fair stab at actually making their own mind up.

If they are going to be catholic, they will find the faith when they are old enough to understand what they are looking for.

I have it on strong authority from at least two priests that 'God doesn't want cardboard cut-out Christians', how can a child be anything else?

sieglinde Mon 29-Apr-13 11:31:00

Given that you think religion is rubbish anyway, why do you object especially to a 6-year-old's religion?

Let's face it - there are many many aspects of life about which a six-year-old has no choice - including Key Stage One tests, sharing a bedroom, being dragged to Grandma's, and in my house eating greens. Religion is only one of them. Later, she will have a choice, and she will make it.

You don't actually know my daughter, who has never in her life been a cardboard cutout ANYTHING. I find your patronising attitude to children dismaying. They are perfectly capable of making up their own minds.

Moreoever, this is another case where you don't understand that Catholicism is about GOING TO MASS and receiving the other sacraments. There is no alternative, private, later-in-life kind.

And no 6-year old should be deprived of the delights of story and imagination in the interests of 'facts'.

MareeyaDolores Mon 29-Apr-13 21:20:28

DS1 understood properly, and made up his own mind at 8. ATM, DD just wants the dress hmm

MareeyaDolores Mon 29-Apr-13 21:30:16

My Orthodox friend thinks Confirmation and Communion should be at Baptism and we're cruel and weird to make children wait so long before they can participate fully in the life of the Church...

The RC Church actually agrees with her, at least in the case of children who are not expected to survive to the 'usual' ages of Communion and Confirmation

PrincessFiorimonde Tue 30-Apr-13 12:02:30

Thanks for your responses. As I said before, you've given me a different perspective, which is always good.

I didn't know that about the Orthodox church.

ICBINEG Tue 30-Apr-13 12:22:36

At 6-7 I knew perfectly well that I didn't believe in god. But I also knew I didn't want to be 'other' from my family, and certainly didn't want to be the damned immoral unbeliever I heard so much about. So I gave all the right answers and pretended my heart out.

You could have wound me up and sent me out to convert the heathens etc.

So did my parents think I was a believer? And mature enough to make decisions about my 'faith'? Probably.

Did I actually have any? no!

Did it damage me to spend years of my life pretending to be something I wasn't and hating myself for not being what I was supposed to be?

Well the answer is probably plain to see in the fact I am on this thread at all....

So please at least consider the possibility that you are forcing your ideas onto a child that will be damaged by the whole environment you put them in.

And please don't think you can tell that your child really has faith. All you can tell is that they either have faith, or want you to think they do. the extend to which your child will believe you when you say that you will love them no matter what is also variable, but may depend on how much time they spend listening to people saying the opposite (ie. that they are damned/immoral if they are atheist, gay, feminist etc).

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