Figure 1.--My First Communion took place April 1944, well before Vatican II, at my boarding school (the Convent of St-Lambert ) on the south shore of Montral in Quebec. It was a boarding school for boys and girls. This was the banquet we had afterwards. Click on the imagecfor an elargement of the boys' suits.
My First Communion took place April 1944, well before Vatican II. It was conducted at my boarding school . It was a boarding school for boys and girls. When remembering that time when we were 7 years old, the learning of the little cathechism was more something like rote learning. The most impressing was the list of sins to memorize and the fear of hell . We were not so sure to be saved by Christ Jesus and even innocent, we felt guilty. And the way to feel better was this coming day of First Communion. Oh the Great day !
From a catholic standpoint, Communion is the central act by wich any member of the Chuch is invited to approach the Holy Table for receiving a Host from the priest's or deacon's hands. The essential feature of the Holy Communion is this: in receiving this Host, the believer receive more than a piece of bread. The Host, from bread becomes the Christ Himself in His reality of God. The Communion is not an act of commemoration in the memory of the last supper before the passion, death and reurrection of Christ, In other words, the appeareance of bread becomes, for the catholic orthodoxy, the substance of Christ. What is signified then, is a kind of fusion between the Savior and the saved from sins. It is during the consecration, when the celebrant repeat the words
of Jesus 'This is my body" "This is my blood..." that happens transsubstantiation,
Until Vatican II, the concept of sin was central in that sense that there was a lot of prescriptions telling any believer what was capital sins and venial sins. The catalog of sins to avoid was promulgated at the Concil of Trent from 1545 to 1563 in reaction to the Protestant Reformation. It was requested the sacrament of Penitence to confess sins of all kind. When the soul is purified from any sin, the individual can approach the Holy Table for receiving the Holy Host. Living in narrow relation with Christ give the grace to act accordingly the Holy Precepts of the Catechism. The community aspect, so important for many Protestants, is related to the fact that communion is more of a a memorial service, a simple commemoration of the Last Supper. While for Catholics God is seen as actually present in the Holy Host.
My First Communion took place April 1944, well before Vatican II. It was conducted at my boarding school . It was a boarding school for boys and girls.
Before having to receive his First Communion , any baptised person needs to know the implication of such an act. On receiving Chist in our body is more than receiving a simple king or president at home. Chist is the perfect King of Kings, the Almighty God. Any child able to use his reason is able to receive God for the first time in understanding how Christ was sufferering and died for our sins. Before, he will learn and memorise some quotes from the "Little Cathechism" explaining in simple terms a rule of conduct. If he commits some sins, he will go to confession before receiving the Holy Host. For weeks before receiving the First Communion, children had to follow courses in preparation for this great day. They are told who is God, why they are created, and what they have to do to be a good Christian and enter into Heaven.
When remembering that time when we were 7 years old, the learning of the little cathechism was more sometghing like rote learning. The most impressing was the list of sins to memorize and the fear of hell . We were not so sure to be saved by Christ Jesus and even innocent, we felt guilty. And the way to feel better was this coming day of First Communion. Oh the Great day ! Something will happen like Jesus talking to us like a friend . This marvelous feeling excited our imagination as if we were the chosen children. We really tought something great will happpen like in any fairy tales. The last days before, we were asked if ready to go through this passage. We said "yes" (We had no choice in saying "no") with some accelerated heart beats. Us, from first grade, will be the most important boys and girls of primary grades for one day. After having prepared to walk to the Holy table, boys on one side of the main alley, girls, we never saw so near from us on the other side, prepared seriously for the Great Day of First Communion.
The chronological age to receive the First Communion varyed greatly since the beginning of Christianity. Until the 12th century, a child received communion when baptised. In 1215.The Concilium of Latran IV decreeted the first Communion around 12 nd 14 years of age. No special ceremony accompanied this event. . Changes took place after the Concilium of Trente where a solemn ceremony took place in the spirit of the Counter-Reform. The age stayed the same , something as a rite of passage between childhood and adulthood. In "Quam singulari" in 1910 . Pope Pius X asked for the admittance of children aged 7 years old at the Holy Table because at this age, a child is able of rational thinking. Then were distinguished the " private communion " as being First Communion and the " Solemn Communion " at 12 years old as a remaining of ancient rites as they exist yet in some oriental Churches. It is now a kind of solemn pledge of faith.
After having been prepared in going to Mass during the Sundays for the years before the First Communion, after having been taught some simple principles to live in good faith without sinning and in knowing the principles emanating from the Credo, after having been initiated to the Sacrement of confession called today " forgivingness ", the child is ready to make is First Communion. All adults will remeber this special Mass when , at the moment when the parishers are supposed to approach at the Holy Table, priority is given to those little children of 7 years of age dressed in distinctive clothes. For long, white was for girls and black for boys. Classical religious songs and anthems like "Pange lingua" were sung choral fashion as it is today .
After the ceremony, every family dressed at home the table for the child who, for that memorable day, became the center of attentiont. This kind of ceremony end with the photography taken outdoor or sometime at a renowned photographer someday around
Some thoughts about the photograph picture taken in April 1944. In the photograph , you can see me sitting with the other boys and girls. In those boarding schools where I lived for several years, boys were separated from girls. We looked on each other from far. Two years ago, my aunt who died last year gave me this picture. I never saw it before. It was a kind of shock because my memories were so far from this picture. I got the same feeling like on looking at "The Mystical Lamb" by Jan Van Eyck with a central point : the lamb in van Eyck, the bunch of flowers here. I remembered so well the Millet " Angelus " on the walls coupled with a picture of Pope Pius XIIth and the Apostolical Nounce, Hildebrando Antoniutti . Something from Ancient Ages, really. No doubt: nuns had a real sense of artistry. Just at looking at the convents they built everywhere in Québec, they had a good sense of architecture and theater! The table creates a deepness effect centering on the girls dresssed in white at rear. Those children were beautiful, dressed like this. And like in a jewel box, boys in black were like a casket magnifying the beauty of the girls.
While I do not remember the photograph, I do remember my clothes because I was dressed like this all the year round safe in holidays in July and August. The only difference was that our weekdays outfit was brownish, with long tan stockings. The uniform was a standard one everywhere in any boarding schools: white shirts with a detachable stiff collar that was worn with a white bow. The jacket and short pants with long black stockings completed the usual dress as we can see easily in looking at the boy at right. To keep the stockings upright, it needed a suspender which I remember was always entangled. Not long after my First Communion,I remember having asked my mother to wear garter rings which were easier to pull in and pull out.
I value this picture because it is the only one I know pictures a group of children after a First Communion. it is some kind of a work of art telling so much about my childhood and all that vanished society which surrounded every boys and girls. At that time, religion had a real signification as rooted in history since Middle Ages This picture is a piece of past times which will never be forgotten.
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