Monday, April 25, 2011

First Communion Gift Ideas and Attending the Ceremony for Non Catholics

My girls on their First Communion
A friend asked me about First Communion gift ideas. At least I think she did. She mentioned her niece was having her First Communion in May and my friend, not being Catholic, had some questions. And I, being totally pushy, kind of did her shopping for her.

I thought I'd go ahead and make a blog post about it because I'm sure she won't be using even half of what I sent her unless her niece's First Communion party is meant to top the royal wedding. (Oh super, people will stumble into this post because they've googled "royal wedding."- Lookin' for THE royal wedding, go here.)


For First Communion gifts, you won't go wrong with books- particularly by shopping at the store. (That there was a link to the Children's page, btw.)
My kids love The Little Acts of Grace books, Just Like Mary, Beatitudes for Children. ($6.95 each)
And especially The Princess and the Kiss ($15.95) But those are just one ones we're familiar with. Don't be afraid of anything in their kids department.


I found some reasonable prices on wall crosses here. I love the pewter floral cross.


The Catholic Family Catalog is a good resource:

The Weight of a Mass by Josephine Nobisso is a fairy tale about a baker, his son, and a widow on the day of a royal wedding (there's that phrase again) and a miracle that demonstrates value of the Mass. ($9.95)

The Weight of A Mass

Also, a beautiful white Communion themed Holy water font caught my eye on that page. ($21.50)

This thing is totally cool. It's a hooked-together saint card thing with pics and stories of the saints. ($10.16)

Patron Saints: Catholic Cardlinks

A subscription to Magnifikid Magazine for $34.90 would to totally awesome!
Child's Guide to The Seven Sacraments by Elizabeth Ficocelli. $8.76
Lovely Mary and Jesus statue! ($23.79)

One of my favorite sites: SERRV- a hand crafted, fair trade organization. They have some nice cross necklaces. Check out there other stuff while you're there and remember them for all your gift giving. Their baskets are super well made!


And today, I discovered Keepsakes Etc. I love this First Communion blanket! They have others as well, so shop around.

And if you're thinking ahead and you're the crafty sort, you may want to knit this sweet First Communion shawl for the young girl in your life. Go here to The Knitting Vault.

If you have a local Catholic Book store- go there. It's great to support local businesses and they'll help you find the perfect gift!

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Okay, say you are not a Catholic or you're a super lapsed Catholic and you haven't stepped into a church since your Great Aunt Mabel died in 1974. You get an invite to a First Communion and it's in a Catholic Church (they always are, you know) and you feel you ought to go. After all, this family agreed to wear pointed Vulcan ears at your kid's Star Trek themed first birthday party.

You bought the gift because you read the top of this post, but you're nervous about the Church part. Isn't there a lot of prayer stuff you gotta know? Kneeling/standing/genuflecting. (Crud, now I have the "Vatican Rag"stuck in my head. Don't click this unless you have a light heart and a sense of humor.)

You may participate as much or as little as you feel comfortable. You may follow along with the rest of the people and sit,stand and kneel when they do or just sit. For such events as First Communions, people aren't surprised when non-Catholics attend because you're supporting friends and family.

Priest celebrates Mass on an aircraft carrier

The only thing you may not do if you aren't a practicing Catholic, is you may not receive Holy Communion. We believe it's the very blood, body, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. We won't go into why you can't have it in this post. This day is about your nephew/niece/friend's kid. I wrote about Communion here and here.

In some parishes they invite guests to cross their arms across their chests and come up for a blessing. Keep your mouth shut so the priest doesn't think you're trying to receive Communion on your tongue. ;)

Roman Catholic Eucharist

If you aren't going up to get a blessing, just sit down and scooch your knees aside as you sit there to let others pass by to get out. No worries. I've done this too when I first returned to the Church before I could receive Communion again. When they sit back down and kneel, you can kneel too if you want, that way the people behind you who kneel down won't be breathing into the back of your neck as you sit there. Say a prayer if you pray. (I hope you do.)But if you don't, think about cake. They're sure to have cake at the party after Mass.

Cupcakes my niece, Jasmine, made once YUM!

Words and other things you might want to know:
Holy Communion = Holy Eucharist = Host
The Holy Water Font- Everyone is allowed to bless themselves before entering the church. Dip the fingertips of your right hand into the water. Touch your forehead, chest, left shoulder, right shoulder. (In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.)
Amen is a Hebrew word meaning "truth" or "truly."

Any questions about attending Mass, the meanings of things, or gifts?

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Little C.S. Lewis on Good Friday

My littlest girls and I were just reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe of C.S. Lewis's Narnia series. I enjoyed these books prior to having kids, loved sharing them with a couple of our older daughters and now with our ten year old twins.

Lent is a particularly apt time to read this particular book of the series because of the Passion. Though Lewis himself pointed out the book isn't a strict allegory, the Christian themes are vivid. The lion, Aslan, is Christ. He takes the place of the sinner/traitor, Edmund, and goes willingly to his death on a stone table (think altar).

The chapter where Aslan walks slowly to the stone table is moving and reminiscent of the Stations of the Cross. He is accompanied by Susan and Lucy. (Think "Jesus meets the women") He even stumbles at one point. And like Jesus Christ, it is the women who are the first to see he's risen in the morning.

I remember reading (So sorry I don't have my notes about this. Perhaps some gentle reader can direct me where this is referenced) that Lewis said it's not strict enough to be an allegory, but it's more like if God created Narnia and Christ came in a lion form, this is what his sacrifice might be like.

Now we chose to read The Magician's Nephew prior to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. So the kids got to see Aslan singing Narnia into existence and understood his Godhood before The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But I think any Christian will get it even if they don't read T.M.N. first, for Lewis makes it quite clear.

Have a blessed Good Friday.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eggs, Chocolate, and the Easter Bunny

 Eggs on an easter bouquet
At one time Lenten fasting for Catholics was stricter than it is today. They'd fast from meat, milk, butter, and eggs. This is why Fat Tuesday was celebrated so fully. They wanted to clean out the pantry of all animal products. So, naturally, when Easter (Pascha) came they had a lot of eggs and butter for their celebrations.

Now, sure, people used eggs for celebrations before Christianity. They also used cakes, music, and dancing. That doesn't mean Christians shouldn't use these things.  I read here that "...the Greeks who celebrated Pascha with eggs did so using specifically red eggs not merely decorated ones."According to New Advent "The (egg's) symbolic meaning of a new creation of mankind by Jesus risen from the dead was probably an invention of later times." So, while the symbolic nature of eggs works, it's not the reason for them at Eastertime. It's just that people had a lot of them around after not eating them for so long and they were hungry for them after not eating them during Lent.

If you'd like to keep with tradition and dye your Easter eggs red this year Pantry Spa has instructions for natural egg dying instructions.
Hot Chocolate by Raimundo Madrazo

Easter celebration foods have to do with the things they couldn't eat during fasting time. So, the traditions really make sense. Chocolate, of course, came along later. They didn't have chocolate in Europe until the Spanish came to the Americas. But it's become something many people voluntarily give up at Lent. It normally also contains milk, so it makes sense (under the old non-dairy Lenten law) to abstain from it during Lent. Golly, I'm getting a craving.

1907 postcard

The Hare was a pagan symbol for the ancient German people. The Easter Bunny or "Osterhas," was brought to America with German immigrants, who were Protestant. Now this is a little funny because from my experience it's typically the Protestants who complain that Catholics have too many "pagan" traditions. Jacob Grimm wrote about the pre-Christian origins of the myth and connections to the goddess Saint Bede wrote about and as we read last week, even Bede didn't have much evidence to go on.

Now, I've given up coffee for Lent and I'm very much hoping the Osterhas will leave me a nice trail of coffee beans. Gee, I do hope they will be coffee beans...

If you liked this post, you'll love last week's. It's about the history of Easter (Pascha).

*Links to image sources embeded in image captions.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yes, Virginia, Easter Really is a Christian Holiday

(I go into a bit of a tirade at times in this post. Sorry about that. Guess I'm feeling feisty.)

Some people enjoy spreading rumors that Easter and Christmas have their origins in Paganism. This is a load of donkey hee-haw. But because, once-upon-a-time, I embraced paganism, I have a hankering to clear up that myth. For now, I'll discuss Easter, because it's Lent. Next Advent we'll tackle Christmas.

Bede Manuscript
If we're going to find any pre-Christian roots for Easter, we must look at its Jewish links. The Last Supper was a Passover meal. (If you want to argue this point- first read this article at Catholicanswers.) Jesus rose on the Sunday following the Passover. (He might have risen Saturday night, but that still counts as Sunday by traditional Jewish reckoning.)

A word about the word Easter  (Here's where I clear up a misconception.)

I did our homework for both of us. You can cheat off me. Please read on! :)

Easter is not the original term for the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, which the Church calls Pascha, (a Greek word translated from the Hebrew -- Pesach). It come's from Old English (aka. Ango-Saxon).

Okay, check it out- people will tell you- both neo-pagans (and even some Christians) that Easter is named after a pagan Goddess. They'll even tell you that it used to be the feast of this goddess and that Christians took it over. This is NOT true. That's like saying the 4th of July celebration is named after Julius Caesar. (Because the month of July was named after Julius Caesar.) If that is true, we'd better be sure to always call these two celebrations Pascha and American Independence day, respectively. Wouldn't want anybody thinking all those fireworks, parades, and hotdogs are in honor of Julius Caesar!

hot dog
Anglo Saxon England worshipped a goddess, according to Saint Bede, named Eostre. They named their month of April after her. When they became Christian they started calling Pascha, Eostre (Easter), because that feast typically falls in that month. They were just saying something like "The April Feast." Simple as that. It's funny because Bede, a Christian, is the only source for this reference. (Read Bede's quote on the matter here  )

I'm sure the Old English people kept many of their old traditions (foods, ways of doing artwork and whatnot) when they became Christian, just as gentiles (and indeed Jews) all over the globe kept many of their ways when they converted to Christianity. So what? People who are anti-Christian sometimes read more into that than they should.

How to Calculate Easter

Now we turn to the math portion of our blog post. (Which also points to the fact that it's planned around a Jewish feast -Passover- not a pagan feast.) How does the Church calculate when Easter is to be celebrated? Go to the Spring Equinox (March 21). Now find the Paschal full moon -- the first full moon on or after the Spring Equinox. (This year it's April 17th). Now you must go to the following Sunday, because the Paschal full moon was a Sunday this year. (They never have Easter on the actual Paschal full moon, so you have to fly ahead a week.) Now you have found Easter- April 24th. 

Great job! :)  Next week maybe we'll talk about eggs, rabbits, and chocolate.

from "Wonders of the Night Sky"

((p.s. Don't let anyone give you no pucky about the Equinox being a pagan thing. It's a natural event like moon phases etc. that everyone: Jews, Gentiles, Christians were/are able to observe.))  *sorry for the mini-tirade

*Links to image sources embeded in image captions