Catholic Communications Office statement on the importance of the faith significance of the celebration of the Sacraments
In light of the public debate today on the celebration of the Sacraments, and the commercial costs facing families, the Catholic Communications Office has published the following statement:
The primary focus of First Holy Communion is the reception of the Body of Christ by the child for the first time; and, on the continued growth of the spiritual life of the child. The First Holy Communion and Confirmation ceremonies are important days – landmark days – and should be memorable, proud and happy occasions for the child, her/his parents, grandparents, sponsor, brothers, sisters, classmates and school. However all the pressure of trying to make these sacramental days special for the child can cause parents a lot of stress. Bishops, priests and schools are very concerned about the cost issue facing parents with children for First Holy Communion and/or Confirmation and have discussed this matter in parishes. If the emphasis for sacramental preparation is placed on commercially related concerns, rather than on the spiritual significance of the sacrament, then it is not a good preparation for Catholic children.
The Church’s role is limited to sacramental preparation – in cooperation with parents, schools and parishes – and responsibility relating to social celebrations rests with parents. To experience that authentic celebration of a sacrament, those celebratory aspects which take place outside of the sacramental ceremonies ought to be balanced and appropriate for the occasion. In this regard the Church continues our long tradition of encouraging parishes to provide, for example after the First Holy Communion Mass, a locally organised and modest gathering so that the faith community can together celebrate this special day in the lives of children and of their families. Such modest parish-based initiatives also help to move the emphasis away from the commercial focus. Simplicity ought to characterise the social celebration of these sacramental occasions so that their faith significance is not lost.
Further information: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444