And a Little Child to Guide Them (Is. 11:6)

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 18:3-4)

When my father was going through the belongings of my grandmother who recently passed away, he came across A Catechism for First Communicants.  This small book, about the size of my checkbook and consisting of only 32 pages, was given to him in Catholic school at the age of six to prepare him for the sacraments of Holy Eucharist, Penance, and Confirmation.  He has the fourth edition which was printed in 1944.  The book is set up in a question and answer format with small prayers tacked on the end of each section.

In the spring of 1947 my father received all three of the sacraments together.  By the time I was at the “age of reason” in 1985, the sacraments had been split up.  First Holy Communion (Eucharist) was done in second grade, First Reconciliation (Penance) in fourth grade, and Confirmation in eighth grade.  And none of the sacraments were explained very well.  Unfortunately, I was educated in the post-Vatican II “Kumbaya” period of Catholic religious education.  Our preparation book for First Holy Communion involved drawing pictures of our families and friends in a church setting and the story of Samuel, and those are about the only significant things I remember about it.  I believe there is also a part where I described feeling the presence of God when I listened to my dog breathing.  (I really did love that dog.)

My point is that if I and the many other poor Catholic children educated after the second Vatican Counsel in 1965 had received this little 32-page booklet and been drilled in it instead of the shiny gold activity book perhaps so many of them would not have drifted from the Church due to misinformation or complete lack of solid information.  Non-Catholics are not the only ones who are often unclear about what exactly the Catholic Church teaches.  As many devout Catholics have lamented, when there is an absence of anything solid to cling to it makes people look elsewhere for something  that seems solid, whether it be another Christian denomination or “reason” in the forms of agnosticism and atheism.

Someone on a Catholic forum I visit regularly asked her priest what is the most important thing for keeping Catholics and he said that it was true understanding of and belief in the Eucharist.  This made a lot of sense to me.  If you truly believe that you are receiving the presence of Jesus Christ through the bread and wine received at Mass, how can you ever settle for a communion or Lord’s Supper ceremony that only remembers and symbolizes the Last Supper?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an over 900-page book that includes all of the official teachings of the Catholic Church.  It is roughly the weight of a phone book, so unless you are Hermione Granger you won’t be checking it out for some light reading.  A more concise Compendium is also available, but I’ve yet to see a copy of it.  However, I have really been enjoying reading my father’s Catechism for First Communicants.  It seems to be at just the right speed for my pregnant brain.  (Who am I kidding? Probably for my non-pregnant brain as well.)  So, depending on how much time I have before and after this baby comes, I may from time to time try to go through this child’s Catechism and discuss aspects of it here.

And for those who want something a little more “grown-up”, I recommend the blog “Read the Catechism in a Year-For Moms!”  A Catholic-convert is attempting to read through the Catechism in the midst of her busy homeschooling life and is offering up her thoughts and observations in addition to welcoming comments and observations by others.  She’s only on week two at this point; the web address is:

Note:  I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I am against the changes and clarifications stemming from the second Vatican Council.  I just lament how poorly they have been executed for the past 35 years or so.

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One Comment on “And a Little Child to Guide Them (Is. 11:6)”

  1. Kelly Says:

    By the time I was at the “age of reason” in 1985, the sacraments had been split up. First Holy Communion (Eucharist) was done in second grade, First Reconciliation (Penance) in fourth grade, and Confirmation in eighth grade.

    Not to be nitpicky, but though your parish might have done this, it is a MAJOR no-no. I mean, the age of reason is the age of reason, right? How could you be capable of understanding that Jesus is present body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, but not of understanding that it’s wrong to lie to your mom? I think this practice has been mostly stamped out by the Vatican by now, but I’m sure there are a few hold-outs in places.

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