Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Struggle of Eucharistic Proprotions

My eldest son is 6 years old.  He's a very smart, compassionate, and intuitive young boy.  I'm amazed by him every day.  In watching him grow, I've been trying to discern something, that I now turn over to you for your input.

This coming fall, my son is supposed to begin classes for his First Communion and First Reconciliation.  I'm not sure if I want him going to CCD classes at our Parish or if I should do all of his formation for these Sacraments at home as part of his school curriculum.  I personally know the teachers of the First Communion class and love their teaching style and classes.  From what I know of them, I would say they both have solid Faith lives and would be a good example to my son.  I'm stuck on the example presented to my son by fellow students.  Children who are ignorant of the Faith (and not by any means is that their fault) coming to receive Jesus for the first time.  It's a beautiful day in our Parish, with an average of 40 first Communicants there.  The Church is packed to over flowing with parents, family, and friends to witness this glorious day.  We usually hold our Parish First Communion on the Saturday morning before Mother's Day.  I've been involved in the music for this day for several years, and its always the same thing.  On Saturday morning there are 40 beautiful souls receiving Jesus.  On Sunday morning we're lucky to get 6 back.  My husband makes the point of telling me we can tell our son that the other kids went to another Mass.  But again, the following Sunday morning in our Parish is usually the May Crowning.  And all First Communicants are asked to come back and take part.  So here are six of the same little boys and girls in their beautiful dresses and handsome suits, sitting in the front row, waiting to make their dedication to Mary after Mass.  It's obvious the other 34 First Communicants are missing.  I'm not trying to judge, but I have to wonder, are there really 34 sets of parents who would rather cut their First Communion parties short in order to go to the Saturday Vigil Mass?  Or 34 sets of parents who are going to wake up early and get to the 8 in order to avoid the May Crowning?  It doesn't look good, and it lends scandal to the Parish, and to the First Communicants who have made the commitment to show up.  What starts as a beautiful day turns into a heartbreaking weekend for those who witness it.  And if its to the point that my son might turn to me and ask "Why do I have to go to Mass twice in a weekend and all my friends get to stay home and sleep in?", I have to wonder about my response to him.  The easiest thing I could do would be to homeschool him through his First Communion Prep.  My husband is right to point out that Communion has a communal aspect in that it should be Parish/Church oriented.  I could have my son receive at a Sunday Mass with our Parish.  But I also struggle with this decision as I don't want it to become a form of spiritual pride for me, or for my son for that matter.  I don't want either of us to think of ourselves as "Catholic Ultra" because we homeschool.  It's like I told a friend this past weekend, we're called to faithful, not to be laundry detergent.  I don't want my son to look down on other children because he's somehow "more Catholic".  But I don't want him to be scandalized by the actions of his peers, or the blatant disregard of his peers' parents.

The homeschooling programs we've been looking into for next year have beautiful religious programs.  And that brings up another discerning point for me.  We are a "Catholic" homeschool.  My husband and I reached an agreement about homeschooling based on academics.  In study after study, it has been proven that homeschooled children do better in all tests and scholarships etc.  But in discerning this First Communion issue, I realize that I can't just do this for the academics.  If I'm going to homeschool, it also has to bring in my Faith.  As I cannot lose my Faith identity when walking throughout my life, I cannot allow my school here at home to lose its Catholic identity because I've decided not to lend my teaching skills to preparing my children for the Sacraments.  How many parents do this?  Use the local CCD program at their Church as a crutch not to have to explain morality or the Faith of Christ at home?  On Mother's Day, my Pastor said these words during his homily and it hit me hard, "...Saying things like 'I'm not going to force my child to go to Church.  Instead I'm going to wait until they're older and then let my child decide what he/she wants to believe.'  Isn't this just another way of saying 'I don't care about my kids?'"  Whoa!  That really hit me between the eyes.  Am I using the term "Catholic homeschooling" because I'm a Catholic who happens to be homeschooling?  Or am I trying to incorporate the Faith into my school life?  And if I'm not going to prepare my children for the Sacraments at home, then why do I bother calling my school Catholic?  Afterall, when I attended Catholic School as  I child, I was exempt from CCD classes.  Because I was learning the Faith in school.  Am, I teaching the Faith to my children?  Or just how to add, how to spell, how to read, and how to write.  Wouldn't it be better for them to go through life completely uneducated and yet know the Lord?  Well, I'm not extremist.  I'd like them to know both:)

So this is where my journey has brought me so far on this...Undecided...  Please let me know you're thoughts?  Or what you have done with your own children that works, or doesn't?  And please keep us in your prayers as we continue to discern this most important point in my eldest son's life.


  1. Patty,
    Glad to see you writing again!:) Our kids are too young for these issues, and we don't even have CCD in Canada (thank goodness). :)

    I have two points, though: The first is that you have to decide what you want your son to "get" out of his instruction. Does the communal aspect take precedence over the private instruction of his parents? Is receiving with everyone else important enough to mean that you will have to explain why no other kids showed up the next day?

    What do you want his instruction and the actual day to be about, and how do you best accomplish this? Also, you know him best. How do you think he will react if in CCD? Will the other kids have a bad influence on him?

    Secondly, while Communion most definitely is a sign of our unity with Jesus, each other in the parish, and the universal Church, I don't know that that automatically translates into kids being required to receive Catholic instruction with a bunch of other kids whose families won't be bringing them back to Church. That, in fact, shows a lack of unity - that people come for First Communion and ditch the Church until Confirmation or marriage.

    For me, being instructed at home and receiving at a Sunday Mass (instead of the big First Communion Mass) IS still communal. The family is the domestic church.

    Can he be instructed at CCD but receive his First Communion at a normal Sunday Mass? You know, that might make it kind of special. It's happening more and more in Ontario that kids don't receive First Communion in great big groups. It's a quieter family function, though the kids do get recognized at the end of Mass with the presentation of a little certificate.

    In the end, if you're worried at all about "sheltering" him, I would advise you not to even think about that. I just transplanted some little seedlings into my garden. They need light watering, close watching, and I even covered them with plastic until they get used to being outside. I was reflecting that children are very much like this. Until they have strong roots, formed in a strong and faithful family, they need to be protected.

    For what it's worth - my rambling thoughts. :)


  2. I love Andrea's analogy to a seedling. Perfect. I homeschool as well, however my kids all went through the parish CCD program for their sacraments. My oldest, 15, withdrew himself from the highschool program last year and asked to join the adult "coffe & theology" because all they did in class was text and goof off. On one hand I was outraged, on the other I was very proud that HE chose not be a part of that and wanted to actually learn something about his faith. He's gone to the adult class ever since and his brother is following in his footsteps. I don't think it's a bad thing for your son to see and realize that not everyone takes their faith seriously. It sounds like you have a good priest and good teachers. Sometimes we need to see what we are up against. These kids will be his peers. His friends as he grows up. He needs to know where they stand so he can figure out where he will stand. Prayers for you all!

  3. Wow Andrea and Dawn! Great thoughts! Thank you.

    First Communion is a Sacrament, and so is marriage. And just as we shouldn't get married to see how many people will be in attendance at our Reception, we shouldn't treat First Communion the same way. I never would have thought of it like that until reading both your responses:) There is that intimate relationship with Christ to be fostered, that only a Catholic can share in the Eucharist with Him. And while marriage certainly has a communal aspect, it can still take place in the intimacy of two peoples joined together before Christ. Same with a Communicant right?
    I'll have to get DH to read this:)

  4. Reading this post is making me cry. I stumbled across your blog on accident.

    I'm in high school and I should mention a few things that are common with students who are home schooled up until high school. All the high schoolers who were originally home schooled that I have met are socialy awkward, and are far from self sufficiant.

    I have had to walk, a previosly home schooled kid, step by step through evey project in my metals class because he is not self sufficiant. Yet that same kid makes fun of me whenever he is not in need of help or instruction.

    Home schooled children may have a better chance for scholorships, but do you really believe that you and your husband can teach your kids advanced math like geometry, algebra, trig. calc. As well as advanced sciences like biology chemistry and physics, better than someone who has been trained to instruct students in these feilds? (from your post they are not at that age yet but you should bear that in mind, when you plan out their schooling)

    As for the other children corrupting your children, children do not corupt anything! They are the most pure and sacred proof that there is a God, and that he truly loves us!

    Your children will encounter ideas and concepts you are not fond of whethor you home school them or not. When they go to collouge. When they get a job. When they move away to start their own lives and familys.

    When they encounter those ideas and concepts they will have only three options: reject them and whenver faced with them feel anger or disgust, rethink there perception of the world, or reject what they once new to be fact and go in serch of a different truth.

    The last two are the ones you are consernd about correct?

    Well it is the first one that worries me the most. Not just in your particular case but in any case. Someone who deliberatly rejects parts of the modern world because it dose not fit with their beliefs no matter what those beliefs may be will fill up with negative emotions towards the world which they reject. That can only lead to depresion or violence.

    That is why in my opinion it is better for children to learn to axcept or at least to deal with the world as early as possible. When all is said and done they will make their own choices anyways. So why not let them make those choices now while you can still influence the end result?

    I will pray that you and your children give the world, good and bad alike, a chance, because to be a good Christian we must walk this earth and let the world see the goodness of God through our actions. To hide in our homes and in churches for fear of being influenced by the noncatholic community would be a rejection of the faith, and of our duty to God. they are our brothers and sisters and we must love them no matter what their religios, politicol, or culteral background may be.

    One last parting thought you said you were against racisim, but you are concernd that the other children might "taint" your children in some way. In other words you feel your children are superior. How is this any differnet from the mentality behind the segregationlaws that once made it impossible for blacks and whites to attend the same school or go to the same resturants or any number of other things?

    Please consider what I have said and do not just brush it off as someone who is arguing for the sake of arguing. I wrote this because I felt it was my duty as a conserned Catholic to do so. Make of it what you will your three options are the same as the ones which will one day apply to your children and you are the only person who can decide what you will do, just like they will one day be forced to do.

    May God bless you and your family.

  5. Also came across these thoughts and comments by accident. As a catechist I can look at both points of view as we do not see a number of our students return for the Sunday celebration of Mass after First Communion. We know these young folk cannot get themselves to church therefore it is the parents who have given up -and why?I would say that to let students make up their minds as they "walk the earth" is no solution either - just as they need to learn maths. English and all the other skills needed in life, so too they need educated in faith matters -how else can they make decisions in a world that has so many other attractions and not always the best!