You may have noticed in the sidebar that I am doing a special "Sunday reading" this year. The book is tremendous, and each week I jot down a bit in my email drafts folder so that when I come to write the book report, I'll recall the individual churches the author visits each Sunday for a year. I've tried to think about a way to do this report in segments, because otherwise that next Easter book report will be mighty long. :<) Anyhow, this Sunday, I had my own visitation to a church which is not the one I attend. After reading this book for seven Sundays, I found myself wanting to jot down some impressions of this service.
A dear young boy, whom we have known since his birth, celebrated his First Communion today at a Roman Catholic church a couple towns away from us. The first thing that struck me was that the church was packed, and this wasn't a small church. I'm used to attending my beautiful little church and finding it not even half-full. Oftentimes, there are more in the choir than in the congregation. This may be because the church is in the midst of a search for a new rector, and we are in-between right now. Though this shouldn't matter. It should be the service, not the preacher; still, that's the way it is. The church may have been so crowded because there were twenty candidates, more than the priest has ever had, and relatives came from all over to attend.
The second thing I noticed is that the priest was young; under fifty. I haven't seen a young, energetic priest in a long, long time. He was wonderful with the kids. They got up and read lessons, and each spoke a prayer. Prior to the service, they all baked bread to share with their own families in the family meal. He had them renew their baptismal vows, and afterward took a fir branch and walked down the aisle, dipping it in holy water and gently sprinkling the congregation. He talked to these seven and eight year olds about what this day was all about, saying today they will be eating with the "grown-ups."
With great joy, he told us all that his favorite days were Christmas, Easter, and First Communion Sunday. I found out later that he is a DJ and puts on dances for the local kids, not just Catholics but everyone. He coaches a basketball team. This is the kind of priest we used to see everywhere; youthful, and involved with youth, as in those old Bing Crosby movies, and in the television program, Ballykissangel.
After the service, we went to the home of the grandparents, our longtime friends. All their kids were there, except the one who lives far away. There was a four year old granddaughter, and a daughter-in-law who is pregnant, and a new step-brother of the boy who took his First Communion today. Lots of people, lots of great, home-cooked food, (including the bread he had made - cut into pieces so we each got to share it) and lots of love and warmth and joy. It was really as perfect a time as I've ever had.