Monday, May 4, 2015


In my 35 years as a priest, I've seen all the creative suggestions of liturgists and liturgy committees and those who prepare children for First Holy Communion.

One stupid idea was to have the children making their First Holy Communion sit with their families. How could this be stupid?

1. Small children get lost in the church and many are at the back of the church.
2. Some parents are not allowed to receive Holy Communion with their child because they are either not Catholic or have an impediment due to an irregular marriage situation. So the family comes processing up at Holy Communion hiding the child who making their first and then they can't receive and are given a blessing. Stupid? Yes.

Another stupid idea was to ask children not to wear special clothes like white dresses and veils and shirt with tie, but what they would normally wear to church on Sunday. Yikes, how stupid was that?

Then there was the stupid idea that children would receive their First Holy Communion at a normal Sunday Mass and simply be recognized as doing so. So over the course of the year different Masses were used for different children for their First Holy Communion. How dumb was that?

If it isn't broke, don't fix it is my motto and I sure wish it was and is the Church's motto!

So at our First Holy Communion on May 3rd, we had a very tradition First Holy Communion. Girls wore white dress and veils. Boys wore dark pants, white shirt and tie.

They processed in as a group and sat by themselves together as a class. They were well behaved and it was a rite of passage in terms of the maturity level.

The music for the Mass was adult fare and traditional Our school choir supplemented the cantor.

Each child came to the altar individually and knelt to receive Holy Communion. As they did this the cantor and choir sang Panis Angelicus. I almost got choked up! I know many parents did! It was simply beautiful!

The Rite of Sprinkling Holy Water was employed as was incense as we do each Sunday. The Mass was completely chanted to include the priest's parts.

This was not a childish Mass geared to children.

Parents read the Scriptures for Mass.


There were no liturgical gimmicks. It was as high of a high Mass as you can get in the Ordinary Form.

And the compliments from our parents were many. However, family and friends who came from elsewhere and know how First Holy Communions are in so many places said they were blown away by the reverence and traditional way in which our First Holy Communion was celebrated.


Basilicaship anyone?


JBS said...

You're right on all points, FrAJM.

qwikness said...

That was great I choked up a little reading that. So precious. Just wondering: When I went through we had to wear a red tie. Are red ties not used anymore or was that another time and another place?

gobshite said...

Have you changed any medications recently? You're acting pretty weird.

John Nolan said...

About ten years ago I attended a parish Mass in Bavaria where the children of the village were making their first Holy Communion. Girls in white, boys in traditional Bavarian dress (as were many of the adults). At the homily the priest asked the children to come forward and addressed his remarks (a very traditional take on the Eucharist) to them. The music was traditional 18th century devotional style (village musicians with violins etc.) and the competent village choir sang Latin motets.

No applause; the occasion was joyous yet solemn. There is more to tradition than the EF Mass, important as this may be. Recently I sang for one where one boy received his first Communion. He approached the rail by himself and received after the servers. Only after he had returned to his place did the rest of the congregation come up.

Those who fancy themselves as 'liturgists' and sit on 'liturgy committees' are nothing of the sort. They have probably qualified by completing a correspondence course run by Rita Ferrone. Sack the lot of them.

Anonymous said...

It's a crying shame that you are the only priest who is not "stupid," "dumb," or both.

How lucky you are....

Anonymous said...

At this traditional First Communion, did the children receive on the tongue as is the universal norm for the Church or did they receive in the hand?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

on the tongue by intinction as Holy Father Francis does for Firdt Communion for either children or adults.

Lefebvrian said...

I was recently at a First Communion Mass where, as John described, the first communicants received just after the servers while everyone else remained in place. Seemed like a very special event for them.

It seemed appropriate that the day was Good Shepherd Sunday, as well.

rcg said...

Our children approach the altar rail to receive first communion before the rest of the congregation, after the choir. Everyone is smiling, no applause.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I debated with myself about using the altar railing. It would have been faster but family members wouldn't see it and individual photos would prove difficult. So we used a kneeler on the main level of the sanctuary for individual communions.

WSquared said...

This was not a childish Mass geared to children.

Thank you, Father!

For that, and much else that you do at St. Joseph's.

Minor Basilica-ship?

Yes, please.

Anonymous said...

Did the parents/children have the option to receive in the hand?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Only the children received by intinction thus only on thr tongue. The rest received only the host and the choices that are theirs to include hand or tongue and the other two choices.

Anonymous said...

Fr. McD, this sounds so beautiful. I remember my First Holy Communion back in the early 1960's. I remember it was such a BIG deal, not only for us kids, but for our parents, and for the nuns that taught us. We did it much like you describe, only we processed in right before the servers and priests to take our places in the front pews (our parents snapping away with their Brownie cameras!) As we processed in, we sang O Sacrament Most Holy. I've loved that song ever since, because it speaks directly to Jesus, and you can sing it as a prayer (as the holy sisters often said, singing is praying, twice.)

It remember it was such a special day, and our parents made a great fuss over us, and for me, a girl, about the dress, white gloves, lacy anklets, white shoes, and even, as I remember, I was given a little white purse that held a special white children's missal, and a white rosary (which were of course blessed); many photographs we taken of mom and dad and me, and we had a party at home with all the relatives with a huge cake that had a chalice and host as decoration.
That you gave the same kind of experience to the kids and parents of your congregation in 2015 is really such a very good thing to do.

For the greater glory of God, Father McD. And I break into applause for you (but only at home in front of my computer, because I too just shutter when someone starts clapping in church.)

JBS said...

Don't worry, Anonymous. Communion in the hand is not going away any time soon.

Anonymous said...

So, you used intinction to force children to receive their First Communion on the tongue.

Clericalism still runs rampant...

Anonymous said...

I agree that medication adjustments are needed!! How insulting to infer that every one is "stupid" but Fr McD. Get a life and spend a little more time on feeding the poor, visiting the prisoners, etc. rather than writing this rubbish.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Are you suggesting that those who don't do stupid thing at First Comminions don't help the poor? Now that's really really stupid!

Also to stupid about intinction are you suggesting the same about Pope Francis who gives deacons Communion by intinction on the tongue in his Masses as well as to First Communicants without the option of. Receiving in the hand??

Joe Potillor said...

Sounds like a good thing. Intinction should be done more often, and thank you for the no applause.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Mac - You would be HOWLING with indignation if a "liberal" priest forced children to receive in the hand.

But when force them to receive on the tongue by giving them no option, but giving that option to others, it's basilica-worthy.

Actually, it's hypocrisy.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

You still do not answer the question about the pope and intinction because your premise is a straw an at worse and mixing oranges and apples at best. The children know how to receive in the hand if they wish to do so when intinction isn't used. So this week at our school Mass they will have a choice and CCD kids next Sunday at Mass. The question for you which remains is Pope Francis method of offering communion by intinction to deacons and first communicants who MUST RECEIVE ON THR TONGUE.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In addition these children from here on out will have the choice to kneel or stand as well as receive on the tongue or hand.

Anonymous said...

Pope Francis' choice is the straw man here. Rules are different in the Diocese of Rome.

Here you force the children to receive on the tongue by using intinction while giving the choice to receive in the hand to others.

Clerical hypocrisy abounds.

John Nolan said...

First Communion is special, and Vatican II recommended that Communion in both kinds be offered to the laity on special occasions (another would be for the bride and groom at nuptial Masses). The best method for so doing is intinction.

The anomaly arises when everybody else is given the option of receiving the Precious Blood but in a different manner. I don't take the Chalice because by doing so I am self-communicating (I don't receive in the hand for the same reason). Self-intinction by the laity is rightly condemned as an abuse.

To receive the intincted Host from the priest is an entirely different matter and cannot be construed as self-communicating. In 1965 a change was slipped into the Mass which was little remarked on at the time but was very significant. The priest said merely 'Corpus Christi' rather than 'Corpus Domini Nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.'

A sacerdotal prayer was replaced by a simple statement of fact which can be uttered by anybody and now frequently is.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

People received in the hand all the time at St. Peter's saw it for myself. You'll have to do better or be accused of clericalism or laityism yourself.

Anonymous said...

What works at your church might not work in every parish, especially the smaller rural ones that have only a few children making their first communion. For those churches it sometimes takes a little extra effort during mass to make the event most memorable for the children. That doesn't include stupid liturgical stuff, just a little liturgically appropriate creativity.

Anonymous said...

"On the contrary, a clear directive was given in the official publication for the Roman Clergy as recently as 1977 that the abuse of Communion in the hand is strictly forbidden in Rome and throughout Italy."

"Communion in the Hand and Other Frauds by Michael Davies" page 16

Signs in the sacristy at St. Peter's restate this policy in three or four or five languages.

qwikness said...

The first communion could be the one and only time they do communion on the tongue. I know when given the option for my first I was too afraid to stick my tongue out. It was thirty plus years in the hand. I wish I was brave enough then to try it on the tongue and get corrected if I did it wrong. I still wonder if I'm doing it right.

Lefebvrian said...

northernhermit, it seems like the thing that makes the event more memorable for the children should be the fact that they are receiving Our Lord, God, and Savior for the first time. The pre-Communion catechesis should be the place to teach the children how special that moment is rather than some liturgical creativity, regardless of how appropriate the local parish judges it to be. Not making the First Communion an overblown event focused on the children might also teach them a valuable lesson about humility and the real importance of the Mass as a prayer directed to God and not an event to provoke an emotional response in the congregation.

Deacon Jim said...

Thank you, Father, for keeping with the rubrics and the beauty of both the liturgy and the Sacraments. The only thing I take umbridge at is your implication that "liturgists" would condone the craziness. Genuine and educated liturgists would not. Those not formally trained, but who fancy themselves liturgists ... well, we all know how well that has worked out (especially the practice of placing the liturgy in the hands of musicians so that parishes do not have to hire two staff members).

One other point... it amazes me how vocal some people can be when they are hiding behind the title "anonymous." If a comment does not identify its author, it's not worth reading, in my opinion.

John Nolan said...

Can creativity ever be liturgically appropriate? Silly me, the Novus Ordo is nothing more than a protracted and largely wrong-headed exercise in creativity.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Mac - I did not object to your use of intinction and I don't object to the use of intinction by the Holy Father.

It is your use of intinction to FORCE the First Communicants to receive their first communion on the tongue.

This is rampant clericalism.

Anonymous said...

I am happy to say that as a parent I have indeed "forced" my children to receive on the tongue. I have also instructed them as to why it is inherently wrong and disobedient to receive in the hand and how the "indult" to receive in the hand has a long legacy of dishonesty and how it was dishonestly obtained in the United States.

So far, no psychological trauma. I don't know if that makes me a clericalist or a laityist and frankly, I don't care. One thing it DOES make me is one small brick in the rebuilding of proper reverence for the Body and Blood of Christ.

Angus McTavish Dundee. said...

As if "Deacon Jim" wasn't anonymous!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

"Forcing" is a very forceful word and if true fits Pope Francis in this regard. So I treasure being in His Holiness good company and see your comment not as you intend it but in a positive light, not as clericalism but as a sound liturgical practice.

Lefebvrian said...

People should be forced to do things correctly in the liturgy. This increases within them the virtues of humility and piety. Having options and choosing among them in an exercise of our own preferences, on the other hand, increases the vice of pride.

Anonymous said...

Fr Mac - Bringing the Holy Father into this discussion of your behavior is completely disingenuous.

You used intinction for the children, but not the others, in order to force the children to receive on the tongue.

Forcing anyone, especially children, to conform to your preferences is not "sound liturgical practice" but arrogant clericalism.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I feel like I'm dealing with former PI with your inane objections based upon strawmen and your complete lack of understanding of clericalism.

1. Intinction is a valid way to give Holy Communion to the deacons of a Mass and to communicants. The rubric for this (found in the new English Roman Missal and adapted for the USA by our bishops and approved by Rome) is that the communicant must receive on the tongue. Nothing clerical about following the rubric here as it it permitted by the Missal and its GIRM.

2. Clericalism has nothing to do with the legitimate authority of the pastor following the canons of the Church especially with options concerning the liturgy.

I choose to allow people to kneel or stand for Holy Communion by making it comfortable for either way. Another pastor might not allow for the kneeler, that would be his choice--nothing clerical about it.

Clericalism means doing something that is against the canons of the Church, against the rubrics of the Church and against the law and thinking that just because one is a priest he can get away with it, like changing the words in the gloriously new English version of the Roman Missal because a certain priest doesn't like this, that or the other of the translation and thinks he knows better. That is true clericalism.

Anonymous said...

Fr Mac - I am not disputing that intinction is a valid way to give communion. ( I never disputed this - you have raised it as a distraction.)

I am not disputing anyone following a rubric. (I never disputed this - you have raised it as a distraction.)

You chose not to give a perfectly legitimate option for receiving communion to your First Communicants by using intinction.

At the same time, you gave that option to others attending that Mass.

Why would you choose not to give this perfectly legitimate option to the First Communicants?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

What a silly question. Intinction was offered only to the First Communicants and not to the congregation. That was my decision and a legitimate decision at that. No clericalism there as I broke no liturgical norms and did not break any with under the premise that because I am a priest I can get away with it, unlike priests who change the words of the Mass to suit their own ego or belief that it is a better translation the one they offer.

Anonymous said...

I'm the parent who forces his kids to receive in the tongue.

The "perfectly legitimate option" you are so obsessed with is only because we have an INDULT for it, which is special permission. That indult can be revoked at any time. The worldwide norm for receiving Communion is ON THE TONGUE. There are many solid, good reasons for this, not the least of which is it greatly reduces anyone stealing Hosts to profane them, it reduces the risk of particles of the Body of Christ falling on the floor (which you step on while exercising your "perfectly legitimate option") and touching the Host has been , for centuries, the privilege of the ordained--as such, the practiced engendered a deep reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, a reverence that has diminished logarithmically since the introduction of Communion in the hand.

You want more reasons? For centuries the Roman Church prohibited this practice. It was not the norm or tradition ANYWHERE. In the 60's some Dutch bishops (leave it to the Netherlands, motherland of disobedience) began to permit Communion in the hand. Pope Paul VI didn't like it one bit, but they objected that it was a local "tradition". The Pope granted them an indult, albeit reluctantly. Other countries began to request such insults after Vatican II, and as the great "revolution" that gave us folk Masses, clown Masses and all the other rot set in, the US bishops decided that they too would import this "tradition". The only problem was, the pope required that the bishops had to testify that the practice had been a tradition in their own country and IT WAS NEVER A TRADITION IN THE US--ANYWHERE. But the USCCB (or whatever it was called back then) voted multiple times to try to get a majority to request the indult. After several failures, its leader (the highly questionable Cardinal Bernardin) changed the rules and allowed bishops not in attendance to vote. By doing so, he squeaked by enough votes and submitted the request to Rome for the indult.

If that's not dishonest enough, in many parishes, us poor unwashed in the pews were being taught that Communion in the hand was the new way that we HAD to receive Communion and no one bothered to tell us that it was an option. The results have not been anything to cheer about.

Today, children across America receive their First Holy Communion in the hand, never being told that it is only by an indult that they can and never being told that they have the option of receiving on the tongue. That's a soft-core brainwash in my book. I applaud Father for exercising his pastoral authority to restrict this lame practice and assure that at least their FIRST Holy Communion would be a reverent one. If that rattles your cage, then obviously you are obsessed with making sure lay people can grab Hosts. Fine. I'm obsessed with seeing to it that they don't.

Anonymous said...

THERE YOU GO! You chose to take away the legitimate option for the First Communicants, believing it was your right.

It was not.

"Those who receive Communion may receive either in the hand or on the tongue, and the decision should be that of the individual receiving, not of the person distributing Communion." - USCCB The Reception of Holy Communion at Mass

"The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. . . . The priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying The Body of Christ. The communicant replies Amen and receives the sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed and if the communicant so chooses, in the hand." (GIRM 160–161)

Notice that it says, "The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant." It does not say, "At the discretion of the extraordinary minister of the Eucharist" or "at the discretion of the priest or bishop."
- Catholic Answers "Can a bishop prohibit receiving communion on the tongue?"

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

You are wrong, wrong wrong. When intinction is used, the communicant must receive on the tongue, there is no choice for the communicant--ready the Roman Missal's GIRM and the American adaptation allowing Intinction in the USA!

Get with it!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

should have written READ the GIRM and the portion on Intinction and that the communicant is to receive the intincted host on the tongue. Do you homework before you reply to this, so you know what you are writing about and don't mix apples and oranges when it comes to intinction.

Michael (Quicumque Vult) said...

Father, God bless you for "forcing" Communion on the tongue by use of intinction. This Anonymous commenter doesn't seem to understand that it's not YOU doing the "forcing"--it's the intinction itself, which automatically forbids Communion in the hand! And yet this poster has no problem with intinction? He/she doesn't seem to understand intinction properly.

JBS said...


There's no such thing as an "extraordinary minister of the Eucharist". Please get your terms straight if you're going to engage in an intelligent discussion.

Jdj said...

Father, I'm going to step out onto a slightly different slant here...
Why should you apologize for giving a clerical response?
I would hope that clerics will be cleric-al and always give the very best professional clerical response. Just as:
1. I would hope that physicians would be doctor-al and always give the very best professional doctor-al response.
2. I would hope that lawyers would always give the very best professional leg-al response.
3. And on... get my point, I'm sure.
For heaven's sake, stop trying to justify/explain/? when you know you are on solid ground. Whatever "clericalism" is, I am sure you know that is not germane to this topic no matter how many anonymi come forth with spurious accusations. All that accomplishes is to fan a non-fire. Don't dignify it.

John Nolan said...

I would go further than Jdj. A layman with legal knowledge may plead on his own behalf in court; a layman with medical knowledge may treat himself. No amount of theological and liturgical expertise qualifies a layman to act as a priest.

The priest's role is essentially cultic; the 'pastoral' side (usually understood in terms of works of mercy) is the responsibility of the entire Christian community. Visiting the sick is the duty of the laity; taking Communion to the sick is the duty of the priest, since he alone can offer absolution through sacramental Confession.

No priest is obliged to accept a female server (even if no males are available), to offer the chalice to the laity, or to co-opt the laity to help him distribute Communion at Mass.

Only those laity who are used to calling the shots and having their wishes pandered to (and they tend to be middle-class liberals) call this 'clericalism'.

Anonymous said...

The Anonymous who is so upset by Father "forcing" children to receive on the tongue, should remember that this is not clericalism at all because Father is the person responsible to instruct the faithful, including the children. He is the shepherd who looks after his flock. Communion on the tongue is in fact the norm and communion in the hand is an indult. Therefore, it was correct for the children to receive their first Holy Communion on the tongue as it is the norm. And Anonymous receiving on the tongue would have made the children much more aware that they were receiving something special rather than what could have appeared as a piece of ordinary bread placed in the hand.

Thank you Father for making the hard but the good and right choice to start those children off in the right direction. A beautiful photo it is too.

I have never forgotten my First Communion Day, and like Bea I still remember the hymns and "Godhead here in hiding Whom I do adore" always brings a tear to my eye" because it is a reminder of the most important day in my life. Thanks to the priest and nuns who made it so ...

Deo gratias for good, holy priests.


Anonymous said...

The Anonymous parent correctly states: "In the 60's some Dutch bishops (leave it to the Netherlands, motherland of disobedience) began to permit Communion in the hand. Pope Paul VI didn't like it one bit, but they objected that it was a local "tradition". The Pope granted them an indult, albeit reluctantly".

Interesting that it was recently anounced by the bishops in Holland that two-thirds of churches in Holland are closing down and that the Faith has all but died out there. I wonder why ...? So much good their "local tradition" did them.