Next Sunday my parish will have a discussion after the morning service on whether we should introduce a First Communion for younger children so they may participate in the Eucharist before having been confirmed. Apparently this discussion has been going on for quite a while, and everyone is hoping that staging a public discussion with a guest speaker will get things going. I will be there and discuss with everyone. This is something that is quite close to my heart, since I, as a Catholic, of course celebrated my First Communion when I was 9 and then my Confirmation at 16. Why is it so important to me? Looking back, I think, it is partly the fact that, as soon as I was allowed to participate in the Eucharist, I felt like a full member of the congregation. During the preparation I had learned a lot about what the Eucharist meant, how a mass was celebrated, and why in this order, and what everything we did meant, and I, as a 9 year old girl, felt very adult and privileged to become a part of the adult world. At the same time it was a great spiritual experience for me. Generally, the First Communion is a big deal for Catholic children and their parents, almost a mini-wedding, and some people really go overboard with the dresses and presents. In my village you get presents from almost everyone who knows you or your parents (for example I got a holy water basin from the church choir because my mother was a member, but also presents and money from the individual members). My village parish had just decided that things had gotten too far the year I had my First Communion, and that, for many children, the purpose of it all had taken a far second place behind the material side of it. So we had, what was called a silent First Communion, on Maundy Thursday, just over a week before the public ceremony. For me, that was exactly right; the idea that here I was taking Jesus’ body and blood for the first time was unimaginably precious. But what decides my opinion today is, that having a First Communion and being welcomed into full public membership early on, made my decision to be confirmed when I was 16 (everyone being confirmed was my age) a matter of my personal relationship with God rather than a requirement needed for me to feel like a full member of the parish community. Also, because all of us were older, we had the chance to discuss a lot of topics in more detail than if we had been younger, and some topics that we would not have been able to discuss at all; including sexuality. Having had that chance made my faith stronger, I believe, and having made the decision to be confirmed as a young adult also made it feel more of a commitment to God that I had personally chosen. All of this helped me to find my way back to Jesus and prayer after I had strayed a little while at university. It was definitely the right way for me and as much as I like and am committed to the Church of England, I will always look back with pride and gratefulness to my Catholic upbringing.