The gospel choir began with a bang and kept the energy high during this celebration of First Eucharist at St. Therese parish in Seattle. A tiny girl, younger sibling of one of the seven children receiving Eucharist for the first time, carried the cross high, leading the entrance procession. Parents bounced babies, everyone clapped more or less together, and the choir poured their hearts out. I was there for my granddaughters, and as the Mass went on, thought, “This is the best of Catholic.”
A group of many ages and diverse ethnicities, our focus was on the children. All wore simple, identical white albs, so none of the emphasis on clothing that had shadowed too many of these celebrations. To them we were entrusting one of our finest treasures, and they had been well prepared. The day before, they learned to handle the chalice reverently and not make funny faces for their first sip of wine. They decorated a candle and lit it from the Paschal candle, then their parents told the children how they brought the light of Christ into their homes.
It reminded me of the day before my own First Communion, over 60 years ago. Still, I hold one vivid memory. Skipping with anticipation, I was walking across the playground with the sister who had prepared us. “Are you excited?” she asked. “Of course!” “And God is just as excited,” she happily replied.
That tone of joy welcomed my granddaughters and their group. Each child played a part, one carefully placing and smoothing the altar cloth, another bringing wine, a third pouring water. The preparation was similar to ways they’d probably set the table at home, but this time was special. Jesus was host and hostess, inviting and delighting, calling the littlest to himself, as he had always done. He would’ve liked the relaxed attitude here—no pressure on the children about not goofing up, so of course they didn’t. The pastor even included Mrs. Cleopas in his homily on Emmaus, so extra points to him!
Little here to make the heart soar; I thought longingly of Celtic spirituality which de-emphasizes the role of church and instead looks to God’s shining throughout creation. Probably a personal preference and maybe a quirk of character, but guess where I felt closer to God—St. Therese’s or St. Peter’s?