Wednesday, June 29, 2011

felt banners & prom night

Homeschooling families can get a lot of questions when they tell friends and families about their educational choices. What about socialization? What about physics and calculus? What about the babies?...legitimate questions all...the question I can't abide is: What about the prom? I really disagree with letting a one-night event be a part in such serious decisions- should our children go to a brick-and-mortar school? Perhaps, but it would be for a combination of many reasons that doesn't include a dance.

A couple of years back, a visitor at the Divine Liturgy was talking with a semi-permanent parishioner who she knew from our Catholic homeschooling group. I was so happy to have a visitor from the group as it doesn't happen often (what with all the confusing incense, "pictures"-icons- and that married priest). I overheard "so you go to Sacred Heart too right- and what about John's First Communion?" so I fled into the kitchen, knowing that we would soon be losing the parishioner and her lovely family.

There is just something about making felt banners with mom and the smell of that hot glue gun. There is something so strong about that photo with a little seven-year old with his praying hands draped with a rosary. The classes, the veils, the suits- so important that even the Byzantine rite in the United States waited until the age of reason to allow Eucharist to our children up until very recently. Sometimes the traditions of today override the traditions of many, many years. In the Byzantine rite, infants receive  baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, but we until recent memory decided to conform ourselves to the majority rite so our children wouldn't miss out on the dresses and parties and checks from Godparents. Perhaps there is deep theological significance to receiving sacraments early or late, but it usually comes down to "I don't want my children to miss out on the dress."

So the First Communion classes won out, and the family is no longer attending our Byzantine Catholic mission. My family does meet socially with them, and the parents sometimes complain about their parish of 5,000+ families. They regularly compliment my husband on his singing and preaching, but only when he is substituting at the Roman-rite parish. They have their felt banner on display. I hope my children will be okay because they didn't make one.


  1. I just don't see the attraction of the felt banner. And I think you can find a different reason for a teen to get a pretty dress.

  2. I've been thinking about writing a post similar to this for the past few weeks--being from a Roman family, but now practicing Byzantine; maybe I should sit down and do it.

    What's the point of the banners anyway?

    If it's any consolation--I didn't have a felt banner either ;-) I'm not torn up! I made my 1st communion at 7. What happened between 1987, when I made mine, and 1992, when my next oldest cousin made his? He had a banner, and so did his brother in 1994.

    I don't think my "baby" cousins (so young they could be my CHILDREN) had banners, but what was different for their 1st communions was how "done up" the little girls were. It was a big deal for me to have my hair curled in my mom's hot rollers. She pulled the top half into a ponytail, but that's all I had. Oh, and I got my ears pierced the week before, but I had teeny little hearts. Now, the girls look as if their hair is professionally done with serious looking up-do's, touches of make up, fancy elaborate jewelry. I make it sound like I want my kids to live like monks/nuns. I'm all for jewelry & make up...but when it's appropriate. Which is NOT at seven.

  3. Rabbit- I hear you!

    Melanie- yes! In so many things, we parents need to find good and fun alternatives to things that we would rather not have them do (like the ballet-restaurant-movie-coffee night I had with girl friends instead of prom)

  4. Oy! We're Episcopalian, and one of the reasons we landed here was that we commune infants as soon as they're baptized. I can't imagine letting a craft project and dress take precedence over such a gift. Then, we are trying to form our children as Christians, with the virtues and sacraments as important to theosis. I think a lot of Western Christians have lost the idea of theosis - God became man that man might be made divine. All this age of reason mess is so novel, and seems to me to weaken the case for infant baptism altogether. Not very catholic, in my opinion.

    Besides which, Easter is a lovely time to buy new dresses, and any parent can make a banner with their child. Felt is readily available. I would far rather have my children miss out on a craft project than the presence of God.

  5. just want to clarify...I'm just little-old-me not making any kind of call for change with the Roman-rite...and I don't really hate felt banners...I just don't think that they are the be-all and end-all, just as prom night is no reason to go to high school. There are better reasons that I can respect..ok? ;)

  6. Hm, I'm Roman rite and the FHC catechist in our parish -- and I've never ever heard of this banner business. One more convert moment for the photo album, I guess. (and I used to be Episcopalian, and my oldest daughter received from the time she was tiny, but we have grown to love the learning experience of a first-communion year. My youngest daughter's FHC dress will be the dress her older sister wore for her Church of England confirmation in Ely Cathedral -- go figure . . . )

    And re prom: this year my oldest daughter chaired the committee which brought to over a hundred kids in our area a "ceili prom": a sort of combination folk and swing dance called by a friend who teaches Irish dance. This dance has happened every year for the last 4-5 years and has become a standing tradition among local homeschoolers and their go-to-school friends. This year's was held at a YMCA teen center and was gorgeous: a mom with experience as a florist and decorator did the decorations, everyone brought food, and it looked like a wedding reception. It was (unofficially) a no-date event, and everyone danced with everyone. Big fun.

    So no, I wouldn't send a kid to school just to experience the joys of your typical prom. Nor would I say that a homeschooled teenager has to miss out on what can be a really magical experience -- you just make the magic happen your way.

    I wish I could come up with some kind of summing-up that makes clear that I'm not arguing with anything you say, at all, at all.

  7. sally- great comment- you are so right that we can be flexible- it doesn't have to be an 'all or nothing' thing- especially with dances, etc. My oldest is almost 12- so we are just about ready for the English Country dances in the areas (yah- maybe homeschool nerdy, but I bet my kids will love it!)

  8. We asked a Roman rite priest to give communion to our toddlers and he said it is his job to give the sacraments to the faithful. Then he laughed and said, we Romans receive you into the faith at infancy and then ex-communicate you until you are seven...

    I used to be Roman rite and when I entered the Byzantine church I told my husband that my confirmation year of preparation was very important to me and there ought to be some sort of coming of age year of instruction and receiving of the Holy Spirit in the Byzantine rite. He looked and me cross and then gently explained the reason to receive all rites at once in infancy. I never looked back. I know my children will not need that year that I needed so desperately.

    On a side note, a lady at our church told me that you wear a white dress at your first sacrament of reconciliation in the Byzantine church. Did she make that up?

  9. I still have my felt banner, but I'm not the least bit crafty, and hope we don't have to do that when my kids make their first communion. My oldest is 4, so we'll find out in a few years.

    We also had to make clay pots and dance with them to the song "Abba, Father." It was ridiculous.

    Honestly, I wish we in the Roman Church did not get so out of hand with the first communion. I'm 29, and when I made first communion, all of the girls wore simple white dresses. Mine was made by my aunt, and my girls will be wearing it too. But they will stick out like a sore thumb in the sea of miniature wedding dresses you see these days.

  10. Renee- Some Eastern-rite churches, while they are going back to our tradition of early sacraments, still want the kids to 'have something they can remember'---hence white dresses for first confession at about 7. I'm not against it, but we forgot. The girls needed confession more than they needed a white dress.

    As for 'coming of age'- Renee- you could give an icon writing seminar to teenagers, sort of like- ok- you think you are so big- let's pray through writing an icon. very adult and meaningful

  11. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog - and I'm so pleased to have found yours!

    I homeschooled my older children, and have a heart for homeschooling, it is just that things have changed so that I can't do it anymore with my adopted ones.

    As it happens I am the DRE at a Roman Catholic parish and prepare children for first Communion and Confirmation as part of my job. Of course everyone LOVES first Communion; the children are still little and compliant....but Confirmation is a constant "issue". No - a constant panoply of issues! But, I find myself feeling that first Communion and Confirmation ought to be conferred at Baptism. It makes sense. And while people (adults) love the "hoopla", I don't think the children usually benefit too much - from doing it at the "age of reason" (which we now know isn't that at all). At this year's parent meetings I asked the parents what they remembered from their first communion and exactly ONE - out of probably 60-70 parents (I did the meetings in small groups) remembered anything at all spiritual about the occasion. Memories had to do with clothes, parties, gifts, relatives visiting, being scared, etc. My own husband remembers getting kicked out of the rehearsal for messing around! I asked my oldest son and he remembered, not receiving communion, but singing "Here I Am Lord" as part of the celebration, and messing it up in some way. I was REALLY disappointed, because I KNOW that he was very serious about religion at that age, and he has remained so, but that "special celebration" at age 7 certainly meant more to me than to him - and all those years of graces he missed! Annie (onemothersday)

  12. my sister and I were raised (and still are) in the Orthodox church while my cousins were raised in Western-Rite Roman Churches. I don't really remember being particularly bothered by my cousins' getting extra parties and white dresses although I do remember when I graduated high school my parents threw a big cook-out (more than I felt was warranted) becuase according to my father they wanted to make up for the fact that we missed out on 1st communion and confirmation parties. I always found this more amusing than anything else...

  13. My first confession was like 5 mins on a Saturday afternoon; we had assigned times and everything, like parent-teacher conferences! It wasn't really done as a group, so I am baffled by this getting dressed up. I think I wore jeans and I had a friend over, who came with us and waited in the pew with my mom. What happens in a Byz Cath first confession?

  14. I think it's sad that the semi-permanent parishioners are no longer attending your church. One can only assume they were there in the first place because they were being spiritually fed. I know from my own experience that sometimes well meaning devout Roman Catholic friends (due to misinformation, misplaced priorities or maybe even bias - I have experienced all three) can say things to discourage fellow RC faithful from heading "East" (spiritually speaking).

    After falling in love with the Divine Liturgy a number of years ago, my husband and I canonically transferred from the Roman Catholic Church to the Ukrainian Catholic Church. In our Catholic homeschooling group several of my children's RC friends made their First Holy Communion recently and my kids didn't feel left out at all. As a matter of fact, they wondered why their friends had to wait so long to receive Jesus.

    BTW, I thoroughly enjoy your blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.


  15. Now that we have (near) universal literacy, I would give infants the sacraments and then at sometime between 7 and 16, profess all of them as Lectors in an appropriate ritual and with proper instruction for the office. It might be the way of taking the best of all worlds.



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