Second grade, age eight.
This is the year I would:
Rise from the kneeler,
Crawl down the pew,
Walk up the aisle,
And enter into the secret society of Eucharist eaters.
We practiced for this moment all year.
The teachers, using un-transubstantiated wafers,
taught several lessons,
on how to receive the Host.
The mini-lessons included:
How to walk down the aisle (prayer hands),
How to hold out your hands (right hand, under left),
How to touch the Eucharist (a simple pinch of the thumb and forefinger),
How to eat the Eucharist (let it dissolve, never chew),
How to give thanks (sign of the cross, facing the alter),
How to walk back to the pew (solemnly, quietly),
How to reflect (kneel, pray).
Perhaps the scariest lesson was this one,
Taught by a ferocious nun,
who, in a thick Malta accent, declared:
"If you drop the Eucharist on the ground, you are not to pick it up off the ground. You are to get on your hands and knees, bend down, and EAT IT OFF THE FLOOR!!!"
Practicing Communion was a homework assignment that needn't be assigned.
We practiced every day,
at lunch time, after school,
with Cheez-Its, Wheat Thins, Triskets,
and Cheetoes that stained our fingers.
One friend was the priest,
The other the Eucharist receiver.
We held up the mighty Wheat Thin and declared,
"The Body of Christ."
Followed by an "Amen".
One friend, Rachel, was scolded for sacrilege
When a Catholic neighbor caught her practicing with a friend
using Vanilla Wafers.
Then the moment came when I would perform this sacred ceremony,
before mom, dad, sister, brother, grandma, grandpa, aunt, and uncle.
I wore my finest plaid, checkered sports coat.
And I sat through three-fourths of the Mass with sweaty palms,
Worried that the Host would dissolve right into my hands.
I walked down the aisle, towards the alter.
I held out my hands, looking down at the ground.
I felt the wafer placed firmly into my hands by Fr. Patrick Henry.
My shaky right hand separated from the left,
and I pinched the Host with my thumb and forefinger,
bringing it to my mouth, to rest on my tongue,
and to wait for the unleavened bread to melt.
I faced the alter,
made the sign of the cross,
walked back to my pew,
and prayed a sigh of relief.
I entered into the Communion community.
About the Author
Brian Kissel is an Associate Professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His focus is writing instruction. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hattie and three kiddos: Charlie, Ben, and Harriet.