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Worried about First Holy Communion - WWYD?

(16 Posts)
jessia Tue 01-Sep-09 11:10:12

Inspired by a few recent threads, here I go (and this will be long - sorry)
I am a former Methodist who has become pretty much deluded with the whole religion thing and am close to declared atheism.
I live in Poland (pretty much blanket Catholic country) and my Polish DH was brought up Catholic. When we met he went to church regularly and I was still at the "I can't believe I have lost my faith, maybe I can refind it" stage. We had a church wedding and I signed a bit of paper saying I would not prevent him practising his faith or bringing our children up Catholic. We have two DDs (4 and 5) both christened.
However, over the years, he has stopped going to church on all except Easter and Christmas, he no longer goes to confession, etc etc.

When the kids were babies he always said he would start taking them to church "when they were old enough to understand". They have not started yet. Last Christmas he made a halfhearted (unprepared) attempt to get them out of the house on Christmas morning but because I would not force them to go - though I did try and encourage them, he gave up (after about 5 mins trying) and went alone. I might add he is rather lazy in all things, and this is no exception.
We live in a small village and the only preschool here is a state one, but run by nuns (go figure). I put their names down for another preschool but as they were not in the catchment area they didn't get in (all preschools here are massively oversubcribed), so they have gone to the local one with the nuns.
Next year DD1 starts school and with school comes preparation for Holy Communion. All children by default go through this, only those with actively dissenting parents do not. As the school is small and in a village, that will be none.
I do not want to send DD to Holy Communion. I feel it would be different if DH did go to church with them regularly and church was a part of our lives. He considers it a "rite of passage" that is more a cultural thing than a religious one. I say that suddenly forcing our child to go to classes where the marks/grades (which affect overall year grades) depend on the children's knowledge and recollection of what the priest said last Sunday, being forcefed as gospel (excuse the possibly tasteless pun) stuff about heaven, hell, mortal sin, etc., is simply conformist, empty, senseless and sending her all sorts of wrong messages. He says that if she comes out strongly against it, he will not make her go, but as she will only be 8 when the classes begin (and I would prefer to opt out of RE classes from day 1 of school, when she will be 7) I don't feel that is a responsibility we should be shouldering her with, or a decision she will be equipped to make.
He (and most of our friends, who are of the passive Catholic lack of persuasion) think I am making something of nothing, that I will be stigmatising her, denying her a "beautiful day in a pretty white dress (ugghh) and all those presents" hmm (this last thankfully not his argument). But I hate sham religion.
Am I really making something of nothing? Do I have a leg to stand on?

edam Tue 01-Sep-09 11:15:01

Of course you have a leg to stand on, you are dd's mother and your views are just as important as your dh's!

Only thing that would worry me about taking her out of RE/communion preparation is whether she'd be uncomfortable about being the only one not involved.

Also, would first Holy Communion involve dd/you making vows which you aren't happy to make or don't believe in?

I can kind of see dh's argument about religion being as much about culture as about belief, but don't think that outweighs your objections. It might hold sway if you were both lapsed Catholics with no particular objections, IYSWIM, but that's not the case.

pasturesnew Tue 01-Sep-09 11:20:36

I understand where you are coming from but think it is not too bad actually, it is not the same as confirmation and so can see the argument about it being slightly more cultural than religious in a way, esp. if DDs are going to Catholic school - it might be pretty difficult to get out of it now you have agreed to bring them up Catholic and are sending them to nun school.

However, I would def. not allow children to become confirmed unless they actively want to do it - but that's not until they're teenagers, I think 14 at youngest.

Polish Catholicism is quite old school so assume you have already seen the little mini-bridal outfits that little girls wear for their First Holy Communion? If not please don't let this freak you out, it is normal too, honest!

AMumInScotland Tue 01-Sep-09 11:25:26

I think it comes down to which you think will be the "lesser of two evils" on this one - if you pull her out of confirmation classes, which is virtually unheard of, then you're making her different from every other child in the school and the village, which is a difficult place to be in at the age of 7.

OTOH if you tacitly let her do the classes, then you're encouraging her in something you feel is hypocrisy, since you don't believe in it.

Normally, I'd say don't be a hypocrite, but in this case I think there might be something in letting her conform, while making it clear at home that you don't think any of it is true, but it's "polite" to go along with the local customs.

fluffles Tue 01-Sep-09 11:26:03

As an ex-catholic I think it would be a bit odd to go through holy communion without actually attending mass regularly. There will be first confession first and then you are supposed to go to confession if you miss mass before you take communion again.

If your daughter is going to take communion then really your DH should commit to taking her to mass regularly at least until SHE doesn't want to go anymore.

Also, people at the church and in the village will surely know you're not church attenders and so may be even more hmm about her turning up for the white dress bit without then going to mass afterwards.

Bucharest Tue 01-Sep-09 11:28:07

I'm kind of in the same position- we are in Italy and dp is a tub-thumping Catholic who can only be arsed to drag himself out of bed for church when it suits him....dd is almost 6 and will also be starting the whole catechism thing this year. She attended a nun-run nursery and tbh, I just went with the flow....and until such point as she comes home and starts telling me heinous things which I will not sanction, then I'll continue like that....
For me personally, it's more important that she does what all the other kids are doing, she's different enough as it is being blonde and having scruffy un-facelifted, non-designer clothed unmarried English mamma stomping around in a foreign fashion....
Tbh, I haven't looked too deeply into what they teach at these things....I've been fairly impressed with the type of RE they've done at nursery, kind of people-should-be-kind sort of stuff, rather than hellfire and damnation....(do they still do that???)
Sorry, I'm probably not the best person to advise, as I'm still a bit wait and see about it all....best of luck with your decision anyway..

fluffles Tue 01-Sep-09 11:28:10

Also, i hate to say this but in the catholic tradition it is ENTIRELY up to the catholic parent and a reflection on HIM only and not on you.

It's quite common in the UK or Ireland to have a child at catholic school, first communion and all that who only has one catholic parent and the non-catholic parent is not expected to convert or even necessarily support the catholic beliefs so long as they don't stop the catholic parent from bringing the child up catholic.

Bucharest Tue 01-Sep-09 11:31:02

Took me ages to finish my post and more have appeared! I certainly think that for me, the lesser of the two evils is letting her go to church etc...(rather than feeling too different) I am christened CofE but do weddings and funerals only etc, so I made it clear to dp right from the start that anything religious was his business...

pasturesnew Tue 01-Sep-09 11:42:43

Aren't DDs going to mass regularly during the school week though? I know Sundays are important but not sure that anyone in the parish would actually sneer at an 8 year old for missing Sundays when they'll know that she will have had the same preparation as her friends in other ways.

BTW First Holy Communion would take place during a Mass, that's kind of the point.

If they go ahead, DH should definitely go to the mass even if you feel that you can't and I would also say to get DD a present or she will feel left out among her friends.

giveloveachance Tue 01-Sep-09 11:47:32

The modern catholic church is much more - love God, love your Neighbour rather than hell fire and damnation - well in my experience anyway. They are usually only 7 or 8 when they do first Holy Communion so its all presented in a way the little ones can relate to and understand. Let her do her communion and if as an older child / teenager / young adult she doesn't want to be involved in it any more than she can make the decision to opt out, and then at least she will have had some knowledge and experience of the church to base any decision on.

jessia Tue 01-Sep-09 11:49:13

At the moment they are in "nun preschool" (but the only state option, and I disagree with and anyway could not afford private). DD1 goes to state primary in exactly 1 year's time. Of course, state primary is by no means secular but one has the option to refuse to let one's child attend RE. As such this is what I would want to do from day 1.
She is possibly the only child in the village that does not go to church anyway, but at preschool that is slightly less visible.
I have made it clear to DH that if he wants her to go to FC then he will have to do the taking, because I will not. But this will involve at least weekly meetings and toward the end rehearsals, practices, dress fittings and then "White Week" after the FC itself, when they have to go to Mass every afternoon in their wedding dresses. So I am worried about his staying power. And of course she will be expected to go to church every week for that year anyway.
But how can one explain to one's child that now you are 8 you have to go to church and when you are 9 again (and after you have taken the cash and the presents - computers, bikes, gold chains etc) you can stop?
As I say, a lot of people are sort of unaware that you could possibly want to do anything but send your child to FC so I don't think they will raise eyebrows if she does go. More the converse, but they already know I'm weird anyway grin
AMumInScotland your line of argument may well be what it comes to. The thing is though, I am worried about what they may or may not get told (it can get a bit fire-and brimstony) and how she will cope. She is already the only child in the preschool who refuses to trot out the expected greeting: "May Jesus Christ be praised" on entering and leaving preschool. I do not force her (though of course I never say she should not, and have never commented on it either way) and the nuns have not either. Until her little sister went to preschool last year and within a week had learned the Lord's Prayer and various other prayers and rituals (genuflecting, crossing herself), I had no idea what kind of things religious-wise the preschool did! I may add that there is no anti-religion talk at home (except after they have gone to bed, when it can get rather heated downstairs wink). We do all the more culture-based less full-on things like Christmas carols and decorations and Easter baskets, and we take her to churches and synagogues as architectural objects (there are no other religious buildings within about a 200km radius here). I dream of a comparative RE system like I remember from school, but it will remain a dream.

jessia Tue 01-Sep-09 11:58:30

Wow - so many answers I can't keep up! Fluffles: that is exactly why I'm so anti - IF he were a PRACTISING Catholic and not just one in name (Bucharest: mine isn'teven tub-thumping, he's actually quite critical of the Church) then I would have absolutely no objections because they would be being brought up according to his faith. But in fact we would be going along with all those things that at all other times we both disagree with: sham, "going to church" rather than "being a Christian", being sucked into this whole pageant thing, which necessitates what is practically a mini-wedding, the kids get drawn into whose new bike is better than whose, whose wedding dress is prettier etc... I am well aware of what it entails as we have been to several FCs in the family and of friends.
Pasturesnew: no they don't go to mass in the week. They have RE classes at school taken by the local priest or one of the nuns I think. So DH would have to drag himself out of bed find religion again...

Bucharest Tue 01-Sep-09 11:59:53

The wedding dress is the bit that most gives me the heebs....

giveloveachance Tue 01-Sep-09 12:11:50

The girls (but mostly its the mum's) do get a bit competitive over who has the nicest dress - that's just girls for you - what little girl doesn't like being dressed up and made a fuss of!?

At my church they have put a stop to it, and the girls wear very simple plain white dresses and look lovely. There are occasionally a few who ignore this and turn the little girls out as mini brides and they just look like overdressed dolls - but hopefully their intentions are good and they are just very proud of their daughters.

It is up to you waht you put her in, and how you tackle the ceremony / pageantry aspect, it you want to give her choices in later life and you intend to live and raise her in a catholic society, you can let her take part, that way she can make up her own mind later. Sit her down and talk to her about the preparations, what does it mean to her, what does it mean to you etc etc.

It really is not a mini-wedding. There might

pasturesnew Tue 01-Sep-09 12:13:39

If they're not going to mass at all then I don't think the priest would be very happy about including them in First Holy Communion, so that might answer your dilemma - either DH decides he is practising and wants to support it or he isn't and you'll need to break it to DDs when the time comes that they won't get the dress etc.

If DH's family are funny about it you could say, well, when they're old enough for confirmation, they can also take communion for the first time and we're waiting for them to make their own decision.

kreecherlivesupstairs Fri 11-Sep-09 09:19:00

My dd did her FC in May this year. I am a complete atheist, unlike my dh who is a crade to grave RC and does take her to church every week. I was a little miffed that I was the one who took her to the class every week, but, it was only once a week for an hour and he couldn't leave work early.
FWIW, I would tell your dh that if he wanted them to take part, he needs to drag his lazy backside out of bed and get them into the church. It's one day a week FFS, and he could always go back to bed after mass.

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