My daughter Grace has been waiting for the day of her First Holy Communion forever it seems. She's been asking to receive Jesus since she was quite small, but unlike our two older daughters, we decided to have Grace receive with her 2nd grade class at school.
At first, she didn't quite understand our reasoning. The other girls had the genuine desire, had been able to learn their commandments, had a good working knowledge of the Mass and knew their definitions of all the important vocabulary necessary to receive First Penance and First Holy Communion. Even though we had the older girls receive in 1st grade, we noticed how there was something strange about doing it out of step with their classmates. There is definitely something to be said about being in "communion" with others.
The other girls did not have to make a banner, or get to feel the tingling of excitement that builds up within the group as the special day approaches. Grace is getting to experience all of that in anticipation of her first union with our Lord in the Eucharist. Somehow, it makes waiting really worth the wait.
I don't regret having the other girls receive earlier -- they were well prepared to enter into Communion. I just see the difference in the two approaches. Our youngest daughter will wait to receive with her class, too. Being in the school community, it makes sense to prepare all the hearts eager to receive at the same time. It's a uniform process that stresses the hows, whys and wherefores of the reason we don't open Communion up to any and all believers. There is a process that we must follow, a learning period, a growing time to discern and internalize all that you are entering into-- All that will be entering into you. And, in the end, you must know and believe what you are receiving is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As I listen to Gracie say her part of the First Holy Communion Novena that we are offering, it is a joyful noise when at the end she says: "Four more days to Jesus!" counting down to that special moment. She can't wait to become part of the Church that receives His Body and Blood. I wish more people were as eager as those receiving for the first time. We should have that same internal eagerness each time we approach.
God bless all the First Communicants that will receive Our Lord in the Eucharist on 8 May 2010. May their lives be changed forever!