I’m Protestant, as is my sister and her daughter, my niece. However, my niece’s ex-husband is Catholic, and they agreed to raise niece’s daughter as Catholic. Niece’s daughter is 7 years old and wasn’t baptized as an infant. I just received an invitation to join them “in celebrating the Baptism & First Holy Communion of our daughter.”
Am I expected to do something besides attend? Gift? Niece told my sister (her mother) that a co-worker who’s Catholic mentioned a “money tree.” Other than that, niece apparently doesn’t know squat about this Roman Catholic ceremony. Does that mean I should bring a gift of money? Your advice please.
On my First Communion, I got a lot of small religious gifts, like a children’s Bible. However, the best gifts were cards with money inside. A card with a picture of Lincoln in it will satisfy most 7-year olds.
I would give a little bit of money in a card-you can probably find religious cards in certain stores.
Other than that-were you invited to the ceremony at the church? If so, just dress nicely and sit and watch. Really, it’s not that big of a deal-although it is ADORABLE to see all the little kids in their First Communion dresses and suits. (To us Catholic girls, your Communion dress is almost as special as your wedding dress-and looks a lot like them, veils and everything!).
If you’re comfortable, stand and kneel with the crowd at the appropriate times. If you’d really rather not participate, that’s fine; just don’t sit in the front row and make a big deal about how you’re not participating in this heathen cult ceremony. Be considerate, et cetera.
If it’s a Mass and not just a ceremony, odds are that everyone will go up for Communion. Technically you’re not supposed to, but (in my experience) no one will really gasp in astonishment and murmur behind their hands if you go up as well. On the other hand, if you stay in your seat, no one will think any different. Of course, this is again based on my experience in relatively liberal parishes - it’s entirely possible that you’ll be crucified and killed and lynched, in no particular order. (Well, not really, but there are parishes on both spectrums.)
A card with cash is highly appreciated. I’ll email you my address. (If you want, you can give your niece some money too.)
djf750, you should really go look up your second grade teacher in her retirement home and demand that she explain why she should not be burned as a heretic. Fr. Feeney of Boston tried to use "outside the Church. . . " to condemn Protestants around 1950 and got excommunicated for his bad interpretation. A lot of the drek that Sr. Mary Torquemada passed on was not theology but personal belief or local legend.
Sycorax, as mentioned, at the ceremony, just show up dressed nicely and either follow along with the sit-down-stand-up-fight-fight-fight gestures of the community or sit quietly–whatever is more comfortable for you.
As to a gift, that tends to be a cultural issue more than a religious one. My German and Irish extended families limited gifts (prayer books, rosaries, or small cash gifts) to the parents and godparents. I know of one Italian community (one: I will not generalize) where they keep track and hold grudges based on who did and did not give what.
Unless they are laying out a banquet to feed the multitudes after the ceremony, I would think a card would be more than adequate unless you know the child and feel the urge to do more.
Another thing to keep in mind in re the gifts, is that the kid is already going to be getting a bunch of religiously-themed gifts anyway. It’s almost a given that a child at First Communion will be getting a Bible from someone (probably parents or godparents); they don’t need two. If you can think of a creative religious gift that the child is likely to appreciate, go for it, but money is pretty much guaranteed to work. How much (if any) depends on how well you know them, among other factors. Do you give this kid birthday presents?
If the ceremony is at a Mass, as is likely, don’t worry too much if you don’t sit-stand-kneel at the right times: Half of the regular members of my parish still can’t get it right, despite instructions printed in the bulletins. Come time for communion, you can stay in your seat, walk up with everyone else and just walk past the Eucharistic Minister, or walk up and take communion with everyone else, and nobody’s likely to notice (although if you’re not Catholic, the last might be construed as disrespectful, if anyone does notice).
Actually, come to think of it, a First Communion by definition is going to take place at a Mass; see above paragraph.
I can’t say I’m totally ignorant of RC customs – I went to church with a girlfriend who’s Catholic…and no, I didn’t feel comfortable kneeling or taking Communion. We Baptists do Communion, but pass the bread and wine around and put in our own mouths. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the sermon and observing. Like DJF750, I was at one time “bitter” about the Roman Catholic religion because my mother had a child (boy) a few years before me, but he died before he got out of the hospital. A Catholic neighbor told her he would end up in purgatory because he hadn’t been baptized. Well, you can imagine how this upset my Mother. She didn’t believe it, but hearing someone say something like that doesn’t help the grieving. Of course, after hearing it(as a child) I didn’t like Catholics much. But, hey, I’m an adult now, and I realize the neighbor was a crude, rude, insensitive person. I try to respect ALL religions and their customs. I happen to think one should keep an open mind – you might learn something.
I certainly had planned to attend the ceremony – I just didn’t know if I should take a gift. I’ll do a card and put in some cash. Thanks all.
(FYI, note that the Catholic Encyclopedia dates from 1910, and the Second Vatican Council in the 60s didn’t even mention Limbo. It’s a teaching that’s included in cathechisms, but not ‘official’ - rather a generalized solution to the sticky problem of “what happens when a non-baptized baby dies? Are they REALLY going to hell?” Scratch a Catholic theologian and under the surface you’ll probably find someone who considers Limbo a temporary solution. I don’t makes the rules, I just works here.)
But, assuming it’s a Mass(and a First Communion will be) there will be several parts.This site has an overview of the Mass. This site tends to assume you will be following along with the rest of the attendees. (And it’s sort of geared toward kids.) Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. Rather, sit or stand quietly.
Gifts-for a niece that you see fairly often, especially a 7 year old, about $5 in a religious card is nice, but not required. You can find First Communion cards in Hallmark stores-or a simple congratulations card will do as well.
I think the reverence of Catholic services is wonderful. I hope you enjoy seeing the Mass celebrated as much as I enjoy the vibrancy of some Protestant/non-denominational services.
At my church, the priest says before communion that if you arent Catholic, you can go up with everyone else, and get a short blessing (you cross your hands over your chest, mummy style). It’s pretty cool and lets non catholics feel included though they are told they cant have communion.
Something my diocese does is we all remain standing after we go up for communion. The bishop felt this would give more of a sense of community, instead of everyone kneeling and going back into their own little worlds. You can always tell who are old school, or never go to church except easter and christmas, because theyre the ones always kneeling after they recieve communion.
LNO - this incident occurred a long time ago - it may have been “limbo.” Over the years, one of the problems I had with the Catholics was that the “rules” seemed to change every now and then. At this stage in life, I simply don’t believe baptism at any age, or a belief in any organized religion, is required to be “saved.” But I realize this an important occasion for my niece and her daughter, but especially for the Catholic father and his family (their Hispanic, BTW), so I’m looking forward to it and expect to enjoy the occasion.