My First Holy Communion, May 1946

It’s communion time again, at least what’s left of it. In our time, the whole class made First Communion, without exception. This was preceded by a lot of preparation, especially at school.

The parish priest or chaplain came to the school once a week to talk about this sacrament. The teacher and schoolmistress were also busy preparing us months before the happy day.

This was done by telling about faith and, of course, confession. Because the day before we received our first communion in church, we went to confession together. One by one with the priest in the confessional. Pastor sitting behind a transparent hatch, the penitent on his knees in front of the hatch on the other side.

We were told what we could do wrong: disobeying your parents, arguing, lying or telling untruth, swearing, etc. There was always plenty to confess. Although, when I got a little older, I sometimes repeated myself in the confessional.

You would receive solemn absolution (forgiveness) and penance that usually consisted of praying a few Hail Marys in church.

The day itself was of course very exciting. Not only for the party, because that wasn’t too bad, but we really felt that we belonged a bit more now and we felt “very happy”.

Mass was usually early in the morning, around half past eight. Of course, we still had to stay sober for Mass. No food and no drinks from 12:00 at night. There was usually a new communion suit and new shoes.

The Holy Mass was beautiful, because we were completely in the spotlight and we received the first Holy Communion, the host still on our tongues.

Then we quickly went home for a good breakfast and then family came. Not the whole family, that was a lot of a good thing. There is the godfather and godmother and the grandfathers and grandmothers.

There were also gifts. My parents gave me a rosary and a beautiful crucifix. I carried the rosary with me until my military service. Not every day, but on Sundays and when you went somewhere. I still have the crucifix.

My godmother gave me a beautiful statue. Jesus carries the cross. I let my brother watch it and he dropped it, so immediately a piece of the cross. I got so angry that I had to go to confession again the next week. The other visitors and the neighbor gave me money for the piggy bank.

How much it has changed! I think this is a pity. It really doesn’t have to be like it used to be, but a little would be allowed, party with a certain sobriety. Nowadays you often hear elderly people smirking about their communion. I think, you were happy for a moment and probably thought the same as I did at the time. I think it’s a shame that there is a great exaggeration for things that people don’t believe in and don’t do anything with anymore.

I was in a church on Sunday where a few communicants introduced themselves to the churchgoers. Very pretty. But I do think, “How often would they go to church with their parents after First Communion?”

I myself had a nice first communion and learned a lot from it, which I have always carried with me.

Jan Huys