Springtime in the Catholic Church

This time of year always reminds me of my First Holy Communion and Confirmation. I was raised Roman Catholic and in our area both of these events are done in the April-May time frame. At least they were when I was growing up.

The best part about these events was that you got to wear a brand new white frilly dress with a special headpiece. For my First Holy Communion, it was a veil just like a bride. I was in heaven. New white patent leather shoes too. Can it get any better than this at age 7?

The first Holy Communion was really special because it was the first sacrament that you received other than baptism where you had no idea what was going on.

For this you had to learn stuff and memorize stuff. It was very heady and I took it all seriously. I was intent on going to heaven.

After months of classes, you prepare to give your first confession. In the Catholic Church you confess to a priest who gives you absolution for your sins. That was very scary.

The priest at my school church was not nice. He scared me so much I had nightmares. Now I had to tell him all the bad things I did. Worse than that, they gave me a list of sins to review to be sure I didn’t miss anything.

You must be honest or you won’t go to heaven. The nuns drilled that into us. If you tell the truth, God will forgive you. No one wanted to tell the priest. God yes, the priest no.

My school friend and I studied the list of sins very carefully. There was no way we weren’t going heaven. We had studied it, sung about it and dang we were going there. We were going there when we died of course which we were hoping was a long ways away.

Time is very long when you are seven. It could be centuries before you were old enough to die.

Back to the list, it had such things as adultery, suicide, and a couple other things that we weren’t quite sure what they meant. What should we do? We decided to err on the side of caution and confessed to them all. God would give us extra points for an honest effort.

To this day I wonder how many kids preparing for their first communion confess to incredibly grievous sins. I also wonder what went on at the Friday night poker game that the priests go to after confessions.

I imagine the conversations go something like this:

How was your week Bob? (priests are allowed to call other priests by their first names)

I heard the first confessions of 20 kids. It took forever!

That must have been fun! I expect there were a few adulterous kids, multiple suicides, some gluttony. some bigamy and a couple who were coveting their neighbor’s spouse.

Yep, that’s about it.

At this point the whole group chuckles and someone says, “You know it never gets old!”

I don’t care what went on there. I got to wear the white frilly dress with patent pumps and I was sure I was going to heaven.

31 thoughts on “Springtime in the Catholic Church

  1. Loved your take on the priests discussing confessions. I wonder if they do compare notes.
    Kate, it has to be worse to be waiting to confess when you see some little old person – who hasn’t had a chance to sin in decades – and you just know they’ll be in the confessional booth FOREVER!

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  2. I am not much on religion, but I can really identify with the excitement. The small community I grew in would have a sunrise Easter service at the Country Club. We weren’t exactly the Country Club set, so I was always excited to go even if Members Only went in for the breakfast after the service and the rest of us went to our respective church basements for the donuts. I remember getting a new dress and coat to wear. And remember crying about the patent leather shoes. I wanted some without the straps but my feet were and still are so narrow, they wouldn’t stay on. And the garter belt and the clear fingernail polish dabbed on a run.
    We Methodists didn’t have to confess anything. But I am confessing right now that I’m rather glad I’ve left it all behind and get to sleep late on Sundays. 🙂

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    • You would think in the spirit of it all that the country club would have served everyone for just that one morning! My sympathies on the shoes. I too have narrow feet and have difficulty finding flats that don’t tie or bucket to fit.

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      • I don’t think probably anybody thought anything about the separate (but not equal) Easter brunch accommodations. lol The Methodist Ladies Society was probably thrilled to host the basement affair. 🙂 Bet nothing has changed. Definitely not going back to find out.

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        • You are right. We look at things differently these days and I bet everyone was much more comfortable with the arrangements as they were. The good news is that we don’t need you to research it so no need to go back!

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  3. Haha! I can just imagine all those little kids, girls in pretty white dresses, telling the priest “I committed adultery, please forgive me.” How I would love to sit on the other side to listen to all of that

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    • We had to wait in the pews. No chance of eavesdropping. Can you believe I do not have a picture of me in my holy communion dress? I have a picture of me in the confirmation dress but I had to wear a stupid white beanie. For the other it was a delightful veil.

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  4. I had no experience like first communion. Presbyterians are just too practical for cute little white dresses & patent leather shoes! Looking back on it now, seems like I missed out on something fun [which I don’t suppose was the point of the activity].

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  5. This was a riot….I’ll make no comment on what you confessed to or its truthfulness. I believe that God has a wicked sense of humor (some priests not so much)…so bring on the confessions.

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    • I actually don’t remember exactly what I confessed to but it took a long time so it must have been a lot of stuff. I hope that today they have a child’s version of the “sin list.”

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  6. This slayed me… Sounds so much like my experience too.
    The girl in the row in front of me took her first communion, spit it out as soon as the priest moved on and gave it to her mom, while I watched in terror (apparently my facial expression was priceless) and reported to my Mom that “[so and so] just spit out Jesus.” For weeks, when I would misbehave, I would point out that at least I didn’t spit out Jesus.

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  7. We Protestant children had a similar catechism, but we didn’t get the bride dress! I always wanted one of those when I was a little girl. I think you must have been pretty close to the mark with the priestly conversation–unless you hung out with a very rough crowd of seven year olds! 🙂 I love your banner photo, Kate!

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    • I think for confirmation they changed to school uniforms but it was after I was confirmed. There is something so special about dressing up for little kids. Even the little boys in suits and ties looked great (especially with slicked down hair!).

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  8. I bet you look like a little angel with that white gown. Last weekend I watched a group of boys and girls for their first communion, they were so adorable.

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  9. Funny how scary it seems when you are 7 and still a bit scary when you are 20…40…62…No matter how old you are telling God is easier than telling a priest that you are going to see Sunday morning when you go up for communion

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    • I have had some really great priests but the one at my school was mean. I swear he didn’t like kids. I think he used to try to peer through the screen to see who you were. Mostly I went to confession at my parish which had nicer priests.

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