The thing is, she's three years old. And she's not baptized.
A Roman Catholic child must be baptized and receive the sacrament of penance, usually around age eight, in order to receive first communion. I remember being six or seven years old when I visited my Godmother's church, and when I went up in the communion line behind her, my Godmother told the priest that I "wasn't old enough" yet to receive, even though I desperately wanted to. Right around that time in my life, my parents distributed communion wafers to the sick, and I remember sneaking into their room, opening the sacred case, and eating many of those wafers long before I received my "first" communion. (Sorry, Mom and Dad!)
At my new parish, my toddler's age and catechetical development are a moot point when it comes to receiving communion. It is enough that she has seen me receive bread and wine during liturgy and said explicitly, without any prompting, "Can I have some of that?"
That's what she said to me last Sunday after she had received a blessing from the deaconess and she saw me and others receive the bread and wine. And as I carried her back to our pew, I whispered to her, "Yes, honey--next week you can have some of that."
Last night we took part in an evening liturgy with the St. Brigid community, a gathering of young families that meets for Eucharist and dinner afterward at St. Augustine's. The dozen of us present there sat in a circle on mismatched sofas. A couple of people chose to sit on pillows on the rug-laden floor. My daughter started out cuddling close to me on the sofa and gradually worked her way down to a pillow of her own. Readings were proclaimed by almost everyone in the circle, and as I read, my daughter sat in my lap and repeated after me. We sang a chant together after each reading, and she sang along with us after I read. When it came time to share of the bread, I received first, and then she did. The bread was soft, recently baked, and tasted of honey. I drank from the cup of wine and then helped my daughter dip a piece of bread in the cup. She tasted the soaked bread tentatively. I kept my hand at the ready in case she spit it out--she has pretty particular tastes. By the time the liturgy had concluded, her morsel was gone.
I want to shout to the world that my daughter's first communion took place on November 14, 2013 in the presence of a few marvelously warm companions (literally, bread-sharers). She didn't have to jump through sacramental or catechetical hoops first. She didn't have to dress up as a miniature bride or have posed pictures taken afterward. Eating of the bread of life and drinking of the cup of salvation were for her the most commonplace thing in the world--and in the ordinary-ness, divine encounter took place. My baby met God in those people, that bread, and that community's stance of radical hospitality.
When she was a couple of months old, I asked for my daughter to be enrolled in the child catechumenate at my Roman Catholic parish. She became a catechumen, which meant that I was promising, along with my hubby and our church community, to prepare her for the opportunity to be baptized later in life, when she would be old enough to remember her baptism. Her journey into the Christian life has continued ever since. I don't mean that I've taught her piety (I'm pretty sure that's a long way off) or "how to be a good Catholic." If anything, I've taught her that to be religious is to learn rituals that teach her how to live in the world. What I want her to learn, and what I think she will know in her bones by the time she's ready to choose baptism, is that she doesn't have to wait or accomplish something in order to be fed. Jesus the Christ fed everyone who hungered, period. If she learns what I hope she learns about the Golden Rule, then perhaps she will also decide that to be Christian, to act as Christ acted, is what she wants for her life.
At St. Augustine's, receiving the sacred bread and wine is allowed to be one's path toward baptism, rather than baptism being a necessary prerequisite for communion. I have rarely witnessed such a tangible expression of God's abundant, overflowing grace as I did last night, when my daughter was welcomed at the table, just as she was. Whether she chooses baptism later in life or not, I hope that that lesson of radical hospitality always remains with her. If it does, baptized or not, she will be a living icon of Christ's love.