Marc is a troublemaker, his grandmother says. And he is part of a legion of troublemakers, along with his other four siblings. He’s the oldest, having just turned 10 years old, and the youngest is 2. The five of them are always making mischief. They keep their parents in a constant dance: bandaging scraped knees, cleaning the scribbles on the wall. Their house is always full of surprises!
This year Marc made his First Communion. The family is Catholic and practices the faith, and Marc goes to a charter school where the subject of religion is taught. Besides this, he’s attended catechesis at his parish for two years to prepare well for this step.
In the region of Spain where the family lives, religious practice is becoming scarce. In the case of First Communion, there are still some families who bring their children to this sacrament, although not all of the children will continue to go to church afterwards.
In this case, Marc’s parents are practicing and take their children to church on Sundays. The children witness parish activities, Caritas campaigns, and attention being provided to needy families.
It’s not that Marc’s family has money to spare, but they’ve experienced very difficult times in the past, so they know how important it is to save money and be compassionate towards others in need.
First Communion gifts
When the day of Marc’s First Communion approached, some relatives gave him gifts. “My husband,” the grandmother tells me, “gave him a children’s fountain pen, because Marc is fascinated to see his grandfather writing with a nice pen and always wants to imitate him.”
He also received a scapular and a watch. But one relative decided to give him a cash gift, with the message, “Buy yourself whatever you want, Marc.” Marc opened the envelope and his eyes sparkled when he saw the big bill. His parents thought it was great, expecting that Marc could now demonstrate his independence by deciding what he was going to spend the money on.
His mother wondered that night: What would Marc want to do with these euros? Buy a video game? Buy a pair of sneakers? Put it in the piggy bank? Invite his friends somewhere?
The next day, Marc arrived at breakfast in a hurry as usual, but his mother had time to ask him if he’d already thought about what he would do with the money.
“I’m going to give it to the parish,” he replied as he stuffed the sandwich into his backpack. His mother was surprised and asked him, “Are you talking about the gift money?”
“Yes,” said Marc. But the boy was forced to give his mother an explanation. “At the parish,” he said, “they teach me many things and they help people in need. With this money they’ll be able to help someone else.”
The example of those around him
“His parents hadn’t said anything to him; they didn’t even suggest that he do it,” the grandmother explains. “But it’s clear that the example of what he sees has taken hold. What’s explained to him in catechesis, at school, and at home is accompanied by acts, big and small, that daily teach him how a Christian lives.”
His grandmother tells me that Marc’s parents always prepare the money at home that they’re planning to give as alms at Sunday Mass. Also when the boy returns home after catechesis, whoever has gone to pick him up discusses with him what he’s learned that day.
His mother has participated in charity raffles, baked cakes for parish celebrations, helped distribute food to the poor, sewed costumes for the Christmas pageant. Marc has seen her encouraging her friends to help her with volunteering—and a thousand other things.
In addition, the parish hands out magazines from the missions and the Sunday bulletin. Marc’s parents always take some of this reading home with them.
As for catechesis, it seems that in spite of being a “troublemaker” and the fact that more than once the catechist has been on the verge of kicking Marc out for stirring up the group, this boy has learned what is important.
Parents of troublemakers everywhere can take heart: Even mischievous little ones can have hearts of gold. Meanwhile, Marc’s grandmother is understandably overjoyed with her grandson’s decision.
Promoting gifts that are out of the ordinary
Marc’s money won’t fix the world, but it will make it better. And his story is a reminder that it can be very helpful to talk to children about what they can ask for as a First Communion gift beyond the conventional gifts.
A few years ago, some friends of mine, Inma and Miguel Angel, proposed to their daughter that she talk about it with all her relatives and people close to her. She told them that, instead of gifts, she would prefer to collect donations for apostolic work in Africa.
She gathered everyone together for a picnic on the day of her First Communion and everyone was happy. It’s worthwhile to give ideas that are “outside the box” and that make us all better and happier.