Sunday 24 September 2017

Mary Kenny: rites of passage - why not have First Communions without the 'Holy'?

Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Yes, just like Napoleon, I did remember my First Holy Communion during the month of May. The Emperor, though not a believer in his later life (although he admired Islam as a warrior religion) still venerated the day of his First Holy Communion. Not everyone venerates the occasion. It sometimes shocks Protestants the extent to which Catholics can bring a carnival scene to religious ceremonial. And more than one son or daughter has remonstrated with a parent for being tipsy (or even totally inebriated) in the party that followed.

In later life you recall atmospheres as well as events, and I remember that there wasn't a serene atmosphere around my First Communion. Firstly, there was an argument about rig-outs. I yearned for a long dress, like princesses have in fairy tales, but this was ruled out on budgetary grounds. A kindly aunt was funding the First Communion frock, and she argued me around to a short dress in the Communion department at dear old Clerys, where you got everything.

I wasn't satisfied with this, but seven is the age of reason and I must have recognised the reality principle, because I accepted it, though I went on to bargain for a more elaborate confection as a headdress. The ceremony itself had an impressive level of drama and occasion, but a discontented atmosphere hung over the outing afterwards, which might have been to the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire, with its wonderful view of the harbour. But my mother was distinctly down in the dumps. I think she was worried about money, about my elder brother's drinking, and, very probably, about whether, as a widow in her 50s she could manage as wild a child as I was.

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