My First Communion took place in 1940, when I was seven years old.
I remember that Mama wrapped the faucets in the bathroom in rags to remind us not to take a drink of water if we got up during the night.
I have a vague memory of processing into church, genuflecting at the sound of the clicker, rising at the second click, and settling in the first pew. Monsignor intoned the Latin words facing the back wall and the altar boy clinked the censer and the holy smoke rose and perfumed the air.
I also have a distinct memory of Mother Frances Therese coming to the front pew to admonish us girls in the first row. Mother made it clear that if we didn’t stop fussing with our veils and dresses, and stop exchanging our white purses, prayer books, rosaries, and scapulars, she would take us out of line and we definitely would not be making our First Communion that day. What? How could I face my parents, Grandma and Grandpa, not to mention my godmother, aunts and uncles and cousins, who were coming to our house for dinner, a dinner my mother and Grandma and aunts had been preparing for days ahead! I am sure I was filled with shame and fear until the time I was safely kneeling at the altar rail with all the others, to receive my very First Communion.
Quite a few years have passed since that day, and having received Communion many times since then, my understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist has matured. The community of family I knew I would be shaming has broadened to a larger community with which I am united. The spiritual food I have consumed has strengthened me for my long journey. My lovely white Communion dress eventually morphed into a white habit, both becoming fond memories. The fear I felt that First Communion Day has morphed, too, into a deep appreciation and love for “the Sacrament Most Holy, the Sacrament Divine,” the gift of the Eucharist.