My newsfeed on Facebook has been swamped lately with pictures of kids making their communion/ confirmations; My oldest sons should be next week but we made the decision to opt out. I was raised Catholic and my husband Muslim but we have both been atheists since our teenage years; we married in a registry office and are raising our kids accordingly.
When Conall was almost a year old I started ringing local schools to put his name on the waiting lists but was told that I would need a baptism cert and after much deliberation we decided to combine his first birthday with a christening. It was torture sitting through the talk of original sin but we did it for the sake of his education. I dressed him in jeans and a shirt on the day and the photos are hilarious as the priest is looking disgusted at our unwillingness/ fit of giggles to mumble shit about rejecting Satan; My husband just looks bewildered by the event and in need of a pint.
An Educate Together was set up in the area the year my son started school and this is the route I would have taken if it were not for the fact that we were having all sorts of behavioural issues with Conall (he was to be diagnosed with ASD/ Aspergers later that year). The Educate Together school was to be housed in prefabs for the first few years and I was dubious about their facilities. In the meantime we had found a fantastic school, not too far away with many amenities, a playground and state of the art facilities; it was however Catholic. We debated this and I figured that surely the ethos would not be that strong in 2012 and we could live with a few hail marys for the sake of an excellent education. I approached the principal about the importance of Christening my younger boys and he said it was not mandatory but they wouldn’t be able to make their communion or confirmation.
The last thing I want is for my children to feel excluded or left out but I also have to stand by my own non-beliefs and refuse to be hypocritical for the sake of an outfit or envelope of money. Conall is fine and is actually delighted not to have all the extra homework. That homework can be interesting and would be dangerous put in my hands… one of the recent assignments was to list 5 things a priest does!
Possibly things would be more difficult if I had girls and they had to forgo the dress, who knows? I loved my communion and confirmation and felt like a princess but my Mam and Dad practised their faith so it was a no-brainer (they don’t anymore… I can be very persuasive).
I do remember being terrified at my first confession and find it hard to believe that this is still a thing; I would be incandescent if someone made my innocent(ish) 8 year old confess to “sins”.
I would love to see a time when these religious activities are done outside school hours making it fair on everyone. Any time this topic arises people will ask “but why a Catholic school?” 90% of Irish schools are still under the patronage of the Catholic church so there isn’t much choice for people of different/ no faith and you can be sure that many, many teachers would love not to use up valuable class time with communion and confirmation preparation.
As my mother says “to each their own” but I would urge people to be true to their own belief system and values and act accordingly; I’m surprised by how many parents are unaware that they have a choice in the matter. An outfit can still be bought and the child celebrated without all the god stuff, I may have more difficulty persuading family and friends to hand over brown envelopes, but I’m working on it!