30 May 2013

'Delay communions until adulthood, says priest' - Irish Examiner today


May is the month in Ireland when children make their First Holy Communion. Over the years it has become less and less a significant moment of faith in the lives of young Irish Catholics and more and more an extravagant family celebration where the Christian faith is no more than a background and very often lacking in the parents of the First Communicant.

Today's Irish Examiner carries a story under the headline Delay communions until adulthood, says priestFiachra Ó Cionnaith's report begins:

The claim has been made by a leading Catholic priest, who said the age-specific system has lost almost all connection to what is meant to be intended. 

Speaking on RTÉ Liveline programme [a very popular phone-in radio show on the main national station] yesterday, Fr Paddy Byrne said the modern-day version of the religious rites of passage has become a 'hostile' event involving families who do not want to be there. 

He said cultural changes in recent years mean many ceremonies now involve parents who have moved away from the Church, but feel peer pressure to allow their children to join the ceremonies. 

In other cases, he said, otherwise religious families see the events more as family parties and opportunities for their children to be given money and presents. 


The article quotes Fr Byrne: 85% of children taking first communion are not seen again by the Church. This figure may not be quite accurate as probably most of them will appear in church at least once after their First Holy Communion - for their Confirmation about five years later. Then for many, maybe most, it's 'Goodbye'.


TV3, a commercial station in Ireland, broadcast Modern Ireland - My First Holy Communion  (video above) in 2009. It looks at three families, two Irish and a Nigerian family now living in Dublin. Ironically, the immigrant family is the most comfortable financially. For all three families the First Holy Communion of one of their children is a very important family event. One father hopes that it will bring his separated parents together for the occasion. Sadly, it doesn't.

But it is only the Nigerian family that clearly sees the day above all as a celebration of their Catholic faith and an occasion they hope will be one of a deepening in his faith of the young boy making his First Holy Communion.

The excerpts from the Mass in County Louth shown in the video made me shudder.

First Communicants at Holy Family Home for Girls. I had just baptised and confirmed some of them. Most of these girls come from backgrounds of poverty and many have experienced far worse than that.

Though I'm not sure that I'd go along with the idea of leaving the sacraments of initiation until adulthood I think that Fr Byrne is highlighting the crisis of a widespread loss of the Catholic Christian faith in Ireland, something I've posted about before, also in the context of First Holy Communion.

Father Byrne observes that First Holy Communion and Confirmation are losing their meaning for Irish Catholics and notes, There’s a majority [of parents] who are quite unruly when it comes to the basic etiquette of how to behave. I’ve often been asked 'do you have wi-fi here, can people go on Facebook?'

How can someone who doesn't now the alphabet teach another how to read? How can parents or grandparents who have in effect lost the faith or for whom Mass is not important pass on the faith to their children and grandchildren? Pope Francis carries in his breviary a note from his paternal grandmother, born Rosa Margherita Vasallo and who emigrated from Italy to Argentina with his parents: May my grandchildren, to whom I have given my whole heart, have a long and happy life but if pain, sickness or loss of a loved one should fill them with sadness, may they remember that one breath taken at the Tabernacle, where the greatest and august martyr is present and one glance at Mary at the foot of the cross, will act like a balm that is able to heal the deepest and most painful wounds.

Where are the Rosa Margheritas in contemporary Ireland?


Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus
A traditional Irish Communion / Christmas hymn

SA GHAEILGE / IN IRISH

Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa,
Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa,
Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Shlánaitheoir
Céad míle míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa...

Glóir agus moladh duit, a Íosa, a Íosa,
Glóir agus moladh duit, a Íosa,
Glóir agus moladh duit, a Shlánaitheoir,
Glóir, moladh agus buíochas duit, a Íosa, a Íosa...

Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Shlánaitheoir,
Céad míle míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa...

IN ENGLISH / SA BHÉARLA

A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Saviour,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus...

Glory and praise to you, o Jesus, o Jesus,
Glory and praise to you, o Jesus,
Glory and praise to you, o Saviour,
Glory, praise and thanks to you, o Jesus, o Jesus...

A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Saviour,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus...

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