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Unwrapping the Gift of First Communion
By Susan Hines-Brigger


Refocusing on What Matters
Relive the Moment
Online Discussion: What to Get?
Did You Know?

If there's one thing I've learned in my 12 years of motherhood, it's that you can often learn a lot by just being quiet and listening. That's exactly what happened when I overhead a conversation between my eight-year-old son, Alex, and some of his friends.

They were discussing what cool gifts they all hoped they would be receiving when they made their First Communion this year. They listed everything from video games to a new baseball glove to "lots and lots of money" so they could buy whatever they wanted. Not surprisingly, no one mentioned a prayer book, rosary or medal of their patron saint.

To say I was a bit disheartened is an understatement. My husband, Mark, and I had worked hard to try to instill in Alex the importance of taking this next step on his faith journey. So, too, had his teachers, judging by what Alex had been telling us. But apparently that didn't trump the latest gadgets on the market.


Refocusing on What Matters

It reminded me once again that as parents we are in a constant battle with the latest, greatest gadgets and trends presented to our kids—and of how important it is to remind our kids of what really matters.

So Mark and I decided to ramp up our efforts to emphasize the importance of this big step along Alex's faith journey, regardless of what he would get at the party afterward. Our focus became the sacrament he would be receiving at his First Communion.

When most of us think of First Communion, we probably picture little girls in white dresses and veils. And while most girls do tend to follow this custom, there is no requirement that the dress be white. The same thing goes for veils. In fact, any nice pastel dress is considered appropriate for this occasion. White dresses and veils just seem to be the custom that has caught on.

Many dresses are passed down through generations, or constructed out of family heirlooms, such as wedding dresses, as is the case in my family.

For my first attempt at doing just that, I asked Alex to recall for me all the toys he had gotten for Christmas last year. Much as I suspected, he could remember only about half the gifts he got, and admitted that some of them had already been broken and discarded.

"Exactly," I said. "But the Eucharist is a gift that is always there for you whenever you need it or want it."

In the following weeks, I continued to take advantage of every opportunity I could find to point out to Alex how the concept of Holy Communion connects with and fulfills our daily lives. We talked about how every time our family gathered at our dinner table we were reminded of the eucharistic celebration at Mass. We discussed how the nourishment we receive through the body and blood of Christ at Communion reflects our everyday need for physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment.

Before long, Alex started catching on to the connection between the Eucharist and our everyday lives.

Relive the Moment

This month, as many children celebrate their First Communion, you can mark this special time in their faith lives by taking part in some of the following activities.

• Share pictures of your First Communion, or those of other family members.

• Invite friends and family over for dinner. Sit around and share good food and conversation in the spirit of communion.

• If you are lucky enough to be celebrating a First Communion in your family this year, incorporate family history into the celebration. Prepare family recipes or decorate with pictures of First Communions past. Invite as many friends and family members as possible to emphasize that this is a moment worth celebrating with others.

• Talk with your child about taking some of his or her First Communion money and donating it to a worthy cause.

• Say a prayer for those children receiving their First Communion this year.


As I mentioned on the previous page, Alex is making his First Communion this month. The conversation he had with his friends reminded me of one my friends and I have annually around this time of year. We are always debating what types of gifts to give to a child who is celebrating his or her First Communion. Do the gifts have to be religious in nature? Usually, the immediate family gives most of the standard First Communion gifts, such as rosaries, prayer books, medals, etc. What other religious items make good First Communion gifts? Is it O.K. to buy nonreligious gifts?

I'm interested to know what people think, especially since I'm sure it's only a matter of time before my family and friends start asking me about ideas for Alex. So tell me: What is your standard go-to gift for First Communion? Log on to and post your responses.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at "Faith-filled Family," 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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