One of the more successful ideas I have employed over the years is the scheduling of special events during the Great Vigil of Easter. The idea isn't really my own: as early as the Fourth Century the catechumenate was presented for Baptism at the Vigil. So I have sought to follow suit, employing the third of the four parts of the Vigil ceremony not only for Baptisms, but more notably, for confirmations. It's kind of scary doing this at first, since people are more inclined to expect confirmations on a Sunday, whether it be Palm Sunday or some Sunday after Easter, and this forces them to come out for another service. It might even be unmanageable in some parishes. But in my case it worked pretty well, and people have grown accustomed to thinking of the Vigil as the Big Day for such things. Admittedly my parish is small, which sometimes works in one's favor.
This year I have no confirmations, though I do have one (pre-confirmation) first communion. In the past, first communions have taken place on Maundy Thursday as a rule. But this year it will be at the Vigil, and that works out just fine, in keeping with my desire to give people more reason for coming to the Vigil.
And this first communion will be a special occasion for me as well: it will be for the youngest communicant I have ever had. Several years ago I began to commune this little four-year-old's big brother, at age five. But she won't be five until summer. A communicant this young is sometimes shy about answering catechetical questions in class, simple as they must be, but her answers ring true.
What do people get when they come up for communion? "A chip," she says. Hm, a chip? What is that chip? A potato chip? "No." A piece of bread? Her head nods. And what is that piece of bread? Silence. What did Jesus say that it is? Silence. He said, This is ____. She finishes: "My Body." So is it Jesus' Body? Head nods. So, tell me, what did Jesus say? Now she answers: "This is my Body." Yes, and what's it for? And so on. This child knows the ten commandments, she knows how to say the Creed, and she knows that the Sacrament is Jesus' Body, for the forgiveness of sins. And she knows it's something she wants. Who am I to forbid this? In our parish I abide by the rule that while confirmation remains at the conclusion of eighth grade, first communion will happen whenever the child is ready, whether early or not.