French First Communion: Types

Figure 1.--

Describing First Communion in France has proven a bit more complicated than I anticipated. One French reader tells us that there used to be two kinds of First Communions. These two types are still known today, but less common. Generally speaking the English term "First Communion" means what the French call "Communion solennelle". The literal translation "Première communion" was a more private ceremony that only a small number of children expeperienced. Another reader provides us a different assessment of French First Communions.

Première Communion

The " première communion " (first communion) was a private and ordinary ceremony. Some young boys were allowed to receive First Communion before 11-12 years old. The boys allowed to do their First Communion early were generaly altar boys who alredy had a quite good knowledge of the Mass. These boys were choised by the priests, for their deserved praise. A French reader writes, "So, myself I did my private communion on a Sunday in 1954. I was an altar boy and able to understand the mass in Latin. I liked to sing the Gregorian chants. When I was 12 or 13 I wanted to be apriest, but my Parents didn't want me to. I have all time long keept contact with this circle." These boys received their first communion long before age 12 during a ordinary Sunnday Mass. These boys later at 12 took communion solennelle with the children in their clss or church.

Communion Solennelle

The more common type was " la communion solennelle " (the solemn communion) which is a beautifull and important ceremony for French children. This ceremony can be also offten called first communion by the fact the children recieving were receiving communion for the first time in their lives. A boy who had had his privat first communion, would also participate at 11-12 years old in the solemn communion with his friends. A reader tells us, "Before vatican II, Communion solennelle happened at about 7 years of age (the age of reason).

Profession de Foi

Because many childrens entered the working place after the primary grade at 12 years of age, they made a kind of "profession de foi"--roughly " A promise to stay a good catholic " Every young people repeated then the words of their baptism. Boys about this age in the Protestant Church do their Confirmations. This sounds somewhat similar, but not as important.

Reader Comment

A reader writes, "There is no difference between France and Canada or United States. The difference is elsewhere. It is Pope Pius X around 1908 who promulgated that FIRST COMMUNION, instead of beind at 12 y.o. will be at 7 y.o. So, if you are looking pictures of first communion before 1908, you will see big kids doing their first communion. After, that date, children made their first communion at 7 y.o., (the age of reason) and they did a Solemn Communion at 12 years of age before going out school. During this ceremony, as I said, they repeated their promess to be good catholics in going each sunday to mass and behaving as good practizing catholics. In short, they repeat at 12 their first communion , taken as granted , they are more conscious at that age of the implications of bein a catholic. I feel your French contributor is not really informed on those questions."


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Created: 6:01 PM 11/24/2004
Last edited: 6:01 PM 11/24/2004