Keeping Focus During First Communion

By Sister Jean McGrath

After many years as principal in a large parish school, spring time has become synonymous with First Communion. For weeks preceding the celebration, the anticipation increases exponentially for our second graders. Because I began my career in education as a second grade teacher, the event always holds special significance and an awareness that although times have changed, the day is always a memory maker.

Despite my best attempts to provide age appropriate theological reflection on the significance of the sacrament, attention to other details often took precedence over my desire to plan grace-filled days of preparation.

giphy (23)

First, there was the dress.  Would the church be filled with mini brides and prom queen wannabes? Move over Louis Viutton, our communicants had beautiful white plastic purses with mini missalettes and tiny white gloves inside.


The boys were at their sartorial best, often in bow ties and suits that suggested a board room position at the local law firm.

communion-cake-edits 2

First Communion cakes were adorned with lilies, crosses, and gold cups the size of small kettles.

My how things have changed!

Today, First Communion gifts like silver miraculous medals have been replaced with iPhone 6s.

Perhaps the greatest evolution has been in the way we encourage the communicants to be on their best behavior. “Be good because your guardian angel is on your shoulder” is now, “Be good, the videos are capturing every moment.”

guardian angel cropped

One could easily be discouraged. Did we lose the beautiful meaning of this precious sacrament to the commercialism of pretty dresses and after mass parties?

Absolutely not!

On the Monday after First Communion I ask the second graders to tell me about the most special part of the day. “When I went to Mass yesterday, I had my second Holy Communion with my mom and dad.” “My Nana gave me her rosary.” My personal favorite from last year: “When I was in Church, I felt like Jesus really loves me even more.”

rosary cropped

Each year at the beginning of the First Communion Liturgy, our Director of Religious Education invites all present to close their eyes and think about their own First Communion and about the child who invited them to this very special Mass. Each year it is a moment of grace for me as I think about the thousands of Communions I have had since my first. I invite you to do the same. You may be amazed at the graces and blessings you will remember.

First communion historical photo, cropped

But be careful, the videos will be rolling.

About the Author



Sister Jean McGrath is principal at St. John Fisher School in Chicago and enjoys a good book, a good conversation, and a great bargain.

12 thoughts on “Keeping Focus During First Communion

  1. Judith Ann Teufel says:

    Your article certainly brings back memories for I too started teaching with second graders and dearly loved First Communion Day.


  2. Mary Jo Hazard says:

    Jean, I just took your good idea and thought about my First Communion. And then my mind also went to Jean’s and Katie’s as well as our grandkids. Such precious memories, thank you!


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