Saturday, 11 June 2011


Taking this idea of mixing childhood innocence with womanliness in religion for creating my Virgin Mary, I find myself turning to the somewhat creepy Catholic practice of First Communion, which is when a child (or adult) assumes a new position in the church and can take the bread and wine offered by the Priest at Communion, whereas before they could only take a blessing.

I myself never had a First Communion. Being brought up Protestant, I had the equivalent, which is called a Confirmation. I remember being taken to St Martin's church in Brighton and having to sit at the front of the lengthiest church ceremony I have ever attended. I think I was about nine, and the day before I had drawn a picture at school of the devil riding a motorbike. On it, I had written SATAN RULES. I didn't really have any comprehension of what that might mean religiously or morally or anything of that nature, I just knew that after my Confirmation, I wasn't supposed to do things like that anymore, so I might as well make the most of the time I had left.

The Ceremony was long, and the priest sung in Latin for half of it, which was quite pleasant. I liked the smell of the incense. Then I and all the other children (and a few adults) had to form a large queue and make our way slowly up the aisle to the alter to take first communion. The bread wafer was disgusting and tuck to the roof of my mouth, the wine was tepid, and I spilled some on my white shirt. I remember when we used to visit my grandmother in Belfast and we went to church, they didn't give you bread wafers, but a small chunk of crust from a proper loaf, which was a delicious mid-morning snack when eaten with the sweeties I would be given from practically every old lady in the congregation.

Catholic First Communion is a slightly more sinister affair, where all the girls dress as miniature brides and the boys as bridegrooms. It's much more of a cause for celebration than Confirmation, more akin to a Jewish Bar Mitzvah. This combining of the purity of childhood with the maturity of bridal celebrations is something that I find very interesting.

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