Last Wednesday, as I was driving the children home from school, the Princess said that the school choir was going to sing “Panis Angelicus” for the First Communion the following Saturday. And she had to learn the words and music rapidly. I started going through the Latin with her translating it roughly into English. When I came to “o res mirabilis/ manducat dominum”, I said “oh miraculous thing/to eat God”. Not a great translation but I was driving and I haven’t studied Latin in almost 30 years. I was unprepared for Michael’s reaction. “What,” he exclaimed, “eat God?? What are you talking about?” “Michael,” I said despairingly, “you are making your first holy communion on Saturday, do you really not know the first thing about the Eucharist?” At this point Daniel chimed in,”You know, Michael, ‘this is my body, do this in memory of me'”. Michael lost interest, “Whatevs,” said he. Whatevs, indeed.
Anyhow, “Panis Angelicus” was dropped because there just wasn’t time to learn it properly. However, the Princess did get to sing a verse of one of the songs solo and made a great job of it. She was most pleased.
So, as you may have guessed, yesterday was the boys’ first communion. I despise people who take time off work to prepare for their children’s first communions [I am a very judgemental person and it often fills me with guilt; both of which I enjoy – the judgemental bit and the wallowing in guilt; being a Catholic, it’s all good]. There was a certain inevitability then that I found myself looking at my obligations for Friday afternoon and deciding that I would have to take a half day. Things I achieved in my pre-communion half day: 1. left work after 2 having sworn I would run out the door at 12.30 2. Ate lunch. 3. Spent half an hour on the phone to airtricity [our romance is over] 4. Collected my aunt from the train station [late] 5. Made stew that remained uneaten. Did I need to take a half day to achieve this? Conclusion: probably not. Among the many things I did not achieve: buying the boys some kind of religiously appropriate gift. I had to make do with two card games [one pirates, one Gods of Olympus – there is no need to tell me how inappropriate these are – the Princess got a nice cross and chain] purchased in a local gift shop while my poor aunt waited patiently in the car outside.
Anyhow, you will be delighted to hear that the Communion day was a day of miracles, as well as everything else the sun shone for the first time this year. The boys looked saintly and lovely in their white jumpers with their little rosettes although I haven’t a single decent photo because invariably when I tried to take them, one was holding up bunny ears behind the other’s head.
The ceremony itself went very well and the children all remembered the many, many lines that they had practised. For my taste, there was too much of the offering up of random things at the offertory [a basket ball, a tin whistle] and odd features [giving the teacher flowers on the altar – Don’t get me wrong, I love the boys’ teacher who is absolutely brilliant and I pray nightly that their sister will get her next year – the boys already having had the maximum of two years of her ministrations – but I just don’t go for giving her flowers on the altar. I’d be perfectly happy to giver her flowers at school on Monday] but overall it was a nice, if long, ceremony.
I felt for my sister-in-law’s new husband who very gamely came over from London with her for the ceremony. Firstly, although neither of them are particularly religious, his family are Jewish so first communions are somewhat outside his field of expertise; secondly, the whole thing was in Irish which means that it was also entirely incomprehensible to him. He said later that it reminded him of a Bar Mitzvah he had attended. I did point out that, to be fair, at least the Irish alphabet was roman so that increased his chances of being able to get some value from the missalette. This is not particularly relevant but a friend of mine once told me that Hebrew is horribly difficult and he had to do a Hebrew exam in college and he sat there staring at the paper in despair. The lecturer was marching up and down the aisles looking to see that the students were alright and, as he passed my friend, he put his hand down and turned the paper the other way around.
So, back to the communion – after the ceremony we went back to the new house where we had prepared mountains of food [stew was only the beginning]; much of which is now in the freezer and will carry us through the winter. The weather was so fine that we were able to sit in the garden all afternoon which was lovely. The children had Domino’s pizza on the grass. The height of sophistication.
All in all, I was very pleased. I was a bit sad that my parents weren’t well enough to travel and that my brother had to stay in Cork to help mind the fort but my sister and my aunt came and all of Mr. Waffle’s family so we were well stocked with relations. The first communicants themselves enjoyed their day although there was a wobbly moment at the start when Michael discovered that he wasn’t going to get Minecraft for his first communion [I can only imagine how well that religiously appropriate present would have gone over].
Funnily enough, I found it much more moving when today at mass the boys went for communion in our own parish church than I did yesterday at the first communion. I didn’t expect to find it particularly moving and I have no recollection of the Princess’s second communion being anything out of the ordinary but there was something special about this morning for some reason; maybe because the boys themselves were so solemn about it.
For a variety of reasons, much of the rest of today [the second sunny day of the year] was spent driving around in the car and snapping at each other and now Michael has come down with a nasty cold so all holiness, if any, has well and truly dissipated.