Monday, May 26, 2014

FIRST COMMUNION

As I watch the Pope Francis ( and what is not to like about this new pontiff) travel in hostile lands, my thoughts have turned more toward organized religion.  Today, I have no regular religion, do not attend church but consider my self quite spiritual.  

When I was young,I had a strong pull  towards the church.   Once at three and a half,  I took my self to church.  Then as I grew older (seven) I experimented  going to  different churches with my friends. I was searching. 

I visited the Catholic, Methodist,Baptist, Pentecostal, and a Jewish Temple with friends.  I finally chose the religion of my grandmother which pleased her enormously--Episcopal. 

She attended a high Episcopal Church that my father referred to as a slightly watered down version of Catholicism.  I liked the service being in English,the elaborate ceremony, incense, glorious robes, alter boys,  and the really handsome young red haired priest tipped the scales. 


This is actually the actor Robert Horton but put a turn around collar on him and he is the image of my priest. My devotion was tinged with a case of the "smittens."  
I was born an old soul and from my first memory, I desperately wanted to do adult things. I had just turned  eight when I decided I wanted to take communion and begged to take the  catechism classes to prepare.  Sunday school was not doing it for me.

We had a closed communion so I had to study hard, be confirmed, received by a traveling Bishop in a special ceremony before I  was ready to take my place in the adult church world. After what seemed forever, I was ready.  

Sunday came and I was to take my first public communion  with the rest of the congregation. My grandmother was so proud.  In our church, we knelt as a unit at a rail to receive communion.  I would be the only child at the rail.



 
The day finally arrived and eagerly I took my place kneeling  with all of the grownups. By stretching mightily, my chin came just to the edge of the rail. I saw the problem before the priest did and my eagerness was quickly replaced with dread.   

While I was a little put off by having to drink after so many people,  germs were not my main concern that day-- my height was. I had always been small for my age. So much so that every time I entered a new school, I would hear the shocked whispers, "she is so tiny."  At eight, I was probably the size of an average 6 year old. 

The wafer went well but as the priest moved down the line with the chalice, gloom filled me.  The meaning of the ceremony took a back seat as I sensed  pending disaster.  Lord, we have a problem.

Just as I feared, when he presented the chalice to me, there was no clearance between the rail and my mouth. Though he tried to be careful and I stretched my neck far enough to make a turtle proud, my worst fear happened.   

 The wine sloshed over my chin and down the front of my new dress, missing my mouth completely. Because of the awkward angle, more than the traditional sip decorated me.  Good thing I wasn't driving. I reeked of alcohol. 

Eyes wide he mouthed "oh no", then  continued down the line of participants as I blushed as red as the splashes of wine decorating my new white dress.

When the last sip was served, I folded my arms across my chest and slithered back to my pew thinking this was truly my last day as a  church goer. Heathenism seemed the safest future for me.  

Before I could escape however, an acolyte approached my grandmother and I. He whispered that the priest needed to talk to me.  I was not to leave. 

Oh great, now besides the humiliation and ruined dress,  that handsome young priest was going to yell at me. What  a perfectly horrid day.

What did happen however was that the priest apologized profusely for the spill.   He then gave me special permission to be the only one who could stand briefly when time for me to receive the chalice. I still had to bend my knees slightly but that way I would be able to clear the rail. We even practiced with a water filled chalice. 

That modification worked perfectly and I was happy to finally be a proper parishioner. I never again wore wine home from church---well except for that  wedding in the 70's but that is another story.

Did you ever have a "first" that you thought might well be your "last"??

38 comments :

  1. Patti what a wonderful, funny, and beautiful story. How nice of the priest to accommodate like that to prevent any future spills. And now I really want to hear about the wedding from the 70s that you wore wine home LOL!

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  2. I can imagine that memory would stay with you forever. We're Catholic and everyone made their first communion together at 7. And I too no longer attend services, but still consider myself Catholic and definitely more *spiritual* - but not *religious*.

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  3. Robert Horton for a priest would have made me become Catholic as well.

    Methodist have inclusive communion and everyone who wishes to participate may do so. This goes for children as well. My children sat with me in church and the first time my 3 year old daughter experienced communion she saw the grape juice and crackers being offered and stood up and gleefully yelled, "Refreshments!"

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  4. That is a wonderful story, wonderfully told. I am what they call a "Catholic in recovery" although it was certainly never close to anything like an addiction for me. My mother took it all much more seriously and she took herself to church often--sometimes at 3 in the morning once she started suffering from dementia.

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  5. The Priest should have had you stand up...good that he apologized and corrected the issue. Sounds like a good man.

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  6. We have so many things in common, Patti. I learn more all the time. I grew up in a home without organized religion and chose for myself the Episcopal Church. I don't go to church any more, but finally joined the Unitarians after a few years. This is a great story, and I enjoyed it tremendously. :-)

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  7. What a lovely story and so well told. I felt like I was there with you, sharing your embarrassment.

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  8. Hello There, We just got home from a great week--which was a terrific 'healing' experience for me --as I recover from gallbladder surgery followed by that wicked infection... You'll have to check out my blog post today (if you haven't done so yet).

    Happy Memorial Day to you and yours... Let's never forget those men and women (past and present) who were/are in the Armed Forces and have done so much to give us the FREEDOM we have today. God Bless ALL of them and God Bless the USA.

    HA HA---love your 'wine' story... I grew up Methodist --so I had never had real wine at communion (Meth. Church serves grape juice).... When I married George (who is Episcopalian), we started attending the Episcopal Church (once we moved to Fairfield Glade). I learned alot about drinking 'wine' from a chalice (it was served in tiny cups in the Meth. Church) ---and that was a FIRST for me (at about age 60).... BUT--it wasn't the LAST.... I love the traditional ritual of the Episcopal Church --even to this day!
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  9. What a wonderful story, Patti.

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  10. Patti, this was a fabulous story. Thank you so much for sharing this important part of your history...or herstory actually.

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  11. What a "Catholic" moment!!! I was raised Catholic and as you know, now a Buddhist, but I remember several "Catholic" moments. I can relate to this story. You are so funny and tell wonderful stories that bring back so many memories for me. Thanks for sharing...
    P.S. Don't you wish we could tell the young ones that "embarrassing" happenings in youth make the best of stories.

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  12. Interesting, Patti ~ I too, went down to the altar when I was 8 … not for communion but to be 'born again'. Everyone 'took' communion, it was expected.

    I was raised Methodist, my Dad was a Methodist minister. Soon after the being born again, is when I began ALL the questioning… especially after learning in Wednesday Bible Class that Sarah was the one who turned around and became a pillar of salt. I just knew it would be the woman! haha

    Beautiful story ...

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  13. That is such a cute story. I too fall in the spiritual category. I have yet to find an organized religion that speaks to me.

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  14. What a sweet story and what an understanding priest.

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  15. oh Patti, my heart goes out to your young self. I have had too many first to enumerate here; I never would have known that you were small in stature, is that still true. I am 5'2" and my Gary is 6'2" and he sometimes jokingly calls me a midget.

    my first communion Catholic was so many years back I hardly remember; I am like Rian, more spiritual but not religious haven't been a church since I was 18.

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  16. Lovely that you had such a wish at that young age!

    I was raised Methodist, married a Catholic. After 30 years as a non-churchgoer I joined the Unitarians, with whom I can be "spiritual" but not "religious".

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  17. I think we can all relate to the childhood struggle to appear mature. Too bad we all race to become grown up when once you achieve this it isn't so much of a thrill. Nice post.

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  18. I'm a Baptist and we take the wine individually in small glasses and then all drink together. Fortunately I've never had an issue chucking anything down myself, well not in church anyway. :D

    Nice to hear more about your childhood.

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  19. I would have been crushing on "Robert Horton", too! Great story, Patti. Happy Memorial Day to you!

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  21. What a great way to remember... I was about 8 or 9 when I (after attending services at Presbyterian, Methodist and a few other churches) visited the Catholic church... now I'm 72... and after several "in and out" kind of church experiences attend mass at churches wherever we happen to be. Don't know what it is, because these days I know very little about he doctrine itself... just feel "at home"... Reading your story makes me happy that you had the priest you did.... Father Kish would have chastised you for everything from being too short to wearing a white dress. I'm sure he made many a good person leave the church they loved.

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  22. Keith,
    Thank you and so glad you enjoyed. The wedding is for another day and not my finest moment:)). The excesses of youth.

    Rian,
    What,no classes?? They made it hard for us.

    Grannie Annie,
    Oh my goodness,that is just hilarious. She must have had the congregation in stitches.

    Olga,
    Sometimes I wish I were more churchy. I'm sure it gave your Mom comfort at such a difficult time.

    Cranky,
    He eventually came through. I was the youngest to confirm during his reign as priest. He was really young.

    Djan,
    I notice that also. Interesting how we both chose that religion. We don't have Unitarian as a choice here or I might try it.

    Inger,
    Thank you. It is a pretty vivid memory.

    Betsy,
    Got to like the individual cup idea especially in this day and age of weird diseases. So glad you are finally doing much better.

    robin,
    Thank you. It was much more fun in retrospect.

    Linda W.
    Oh,thanks. I like that "herstory" take.

    turquoisemoon,
    I agree. Some of my best stories come from disasters at the time. Too bad kids can't see past the red face. Sure would save some anxiety.

    Carolyn,
    You make a great point. The Bible really doesn't give women much more than a wrecker role starting with Eve.

    islandwonder,
    I think if I could find one that didn't claim to be "the" answer, I could follow it. Church fellowship is something I miss.

    NCMOuntainwoman,
    He certainly was more than a pretty face.

    Linda S.
    Good to hear from you. I finally made it to 5'1.5". I emphasized the .5. However, age has stolen an inch and a half so I am back to an even 5'.

    Linda M,
    You are the second to mention the Unitarians. Wish we had one close by.

    Stephen,
    I was like that from birth till teenage much to my parents distress. Then I enjoyed being a kid.

    Joey,
    I know your religion is very important to you. I really like the individual glasses approach.

    Cheryl,
    He really was adorable and very young. Hope you have wonderful day of remembrance also.

    The Odd Essay,
    I was really expecting to be chastised. It was quite a relief that I wasn't. Though I am not Catholic, I like this new Pope's attitude. Much different, forgiving and more benign.

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  23. I loved your story. I, too, have memories of being a child in our local Episcopal church in Tulsa.
    I lived there pre-air conditioning, and I remember on at least two occasions faintly quietly from the heat while kneeling at prayer. I must have been very subtle - I don't recall that anyone noticed, but I sure to remember the spinning and blacking out!

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  24. Neat story! I haven't thought of Wagon Train and Robert Horton in decades. What a memory you have!

    I don't have a personal experience story, but will tell you that in one of our moves, we attended a church in a changing neighborhood. The congregation was an odd mixture. The membership was about 50/50 racially. One woman, showing perhaps the ravages of long-term alcohol addiction, would sometimes come to church in a long sequined gown and wander up and down the aisles during the service, sometimes talking to herself. Once when my husband and I were kneeling beside her during communion, the wafer part went fine, but when the server (a member, not the pastor) offered wine, the sequined woman shook her head and asked for grapefruit juice. When the little glass of wine was offered again. more loudly this time, the woman asked for grapefruit juice. When it happened a third time, my dearly beloved reached into the middle of the tray where little glasses of grape juice were kept, pulled one out of the tray and handed it to the old woman. She drank it. Not sure about the legitimacy of the rite at that point, but to my mind, he got the job done.

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  25. DEar Arkansas Pattie, thanks so much for giving us the link to your 2009 story about going to church alone when you were 3--almost 4! I found myself smiling broadly with both your posts--that one and today's. Like you, I was very independent as a child and have pretty much remained so.

    As to doing something and having it go awry, I so remember at age ten baking persimmon quick bread and thinking that if one cup of mashed persimmons was good--as the recipe called for--then three would be even better! Needless to say the bread never merged together into anything a knife could slice. Peace.

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  26. Sweet Patti I really enjoyed this post. I was raised in a Pentecostal home, my hubby was raised Catholic. Neither of us were happy in the religions we had been raised in. We tried many, many others over the years. We no longer attend any church and are more spiritual than we have ever been. I was never happy with religion but I sure am with spirituality. Hugs for you and nose kisses for sweet Minnie

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  27. My first disaster was at a concert, when I had to play on my recorder together with a piano player. I was nervous and my fingertips were wet, which is absolutely devastating for then you can't play the recorder at all.Let alone the fast parts of a piece.
    So the concert being over, I decided
    never to play again. Before that concert I played daily on both my recorders for hours. Now I still feel ashamed.
    Your story is great and very well told as always!

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  28. This was such a wonderful post, as always, Patti. I could just picture it all. I wish all priests could be as loving and sensitive as this one.

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  29. Marty,
    Now that you mentioned it, I do remember ladies fainting. I was always told it was due to the fasting but the heat could have done it.

    Mary lee,
    Goodness, you really had an entertaining congregation. Kudos to your hubby for solving the problem.

    Dee,
    I am so glad you took the time to read the other post. Thanks.
    I also kind of think along the lines that if a little is good, a lot is bettet. I usually have the same results you had:))

    Maggie,
    I too am much happier now. I guess I just bristled at each religion that insists their way is the only way.

    Reader Wil,
    Aw, I hope you play today and that episode didn't ruin it for you. I had to look it up to see what kind of instrument it is. Thank you for stopping by.

    Kay,
    I think it helped that he was so young. He was a real peach.

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  30. hmmm...I want to hear the story about wearing home wine from a wedding in the 70's - I did A LOT of that...

    I'm with you about religion, I don't practice anymore but am very spiritual.

    I also think the new pope is pretty amazing...

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  31. This is a wonderful story. It reminds me that for many years I took communion, but knew in my heart I was not a true believer. There came a time when whenever I took communion I choked on the grape juice (we evangelicals did not have real WINE!)and I took that as a sign that I should stop pretending. Eventually I did.

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  32. This is an amazing story! So wonderful that the priest wanted to make future experiences much better ones. And I, too, want to hear about the wine spill in the 70s now, please :)

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  33. A sweet remembrance. As the youngest of 5 girls I have more memories than I want to recall about always being last and doing silly things to catch up.

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  34. Oh Patti, you have such a wealth of funny stories in you, and I am so glad you share them! I can just see your horrified little face when he spilled the wine on you. I am so glad he apologized and made exceptions for you to stand.

    Have a great weekend!

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  35. RMW,
    Ha, me too, more than once till I quit drinking.

    Linda R.
    Yikes, repeatedly choking on the juice would make you rethink your commitment.

    Beate,
    Like I told your sweetie, that was not one of my finest moments. I'll have to think about posting that:))

    Ginnie,
    Being the youngest does make one want to catch up. Seems they always got to do the cool stuff.

    Terri,
    Thank you and so glad you enjoyed. He really was a special guy. Not just a pretty face.

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  36. I can feel your dilimma and embarrassment as I remember how things always seem magnified when we were young. What a kind and thoughtful priest to be able to waylay your future fears.

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  37. Lovely account of your first communion and was so glad that the priest spoke to you afterwards. Reading what you wrote, brought back memories of my first communion. I had mine when I was 10 year old. I remember holding out my little hands for the bread and trying to remember if you put the left one over the right, or the other way round! I kept wondering if something amazing would happen.., a thunderbolt, or a light from heaven! A Bishop took the service, and he was quite magnificent in his robes, and everything was very serious and formal.

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  38. Oh my! but interesting story...;)

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