Don't get me wrong. I do understand how parents today, especially following the events of September 11, want to get more in tune with religion and family. Some argue that it's a way of showing kids this is important, that it is more than just a birthday. And, when done with all the hoopla and frills, in the end the kids still do look so angelic, in a chic sort of way. But are tenderloin and chicken marsala served up at a ritzy hotel the ways to focus on faith, or a bit much? I think, a bit much.

And then what happens for Confirmation? Do we rent out Six Flags Great America?

I think not. I think we should strive for a simpler way of celebrating these Catholic rites of passage. I think they should be events focused on the meaning, and the takeaway should be small lessons that will carry through with us our whole lives.

After all, I had only to look at my little white book, now clasped in Emily's hands, to know the reason my First Communion survived in memory is that it was a day that captured the essence of the experience. It was a simple day, albeit I got to wear a fancy dress and a veil, but a day where I was going to go meet Jesus. Afterwards, my cousins, parents, and little siblings and I would rally around the roast beef sandwiches and Hawaiian salad at home, sip a couple ginger ales, and head to the backyard for nine innings of softball. My presents: a couple crosses, Bibles, and holy cards. And, of course, my little white book.

So despite the pleas to be just like everyone else, i held firm in my preparation process for Emily's First Communion. The message I wanted to convey to Emily about her special day came softly, gently during our impromptu treks to the Botanical Gardens, trips enroute to soccer practice, and nighttime bedside chats. I wanted her to learn a simple lesson that Jesus was there always. That in a world that moves so fast, it is easy to forget that he is there. In our harriedness we take him for granted.

Today, as she races out the door with the little white book in hand, I feel that I did well. I did what was right, despite the consumer tugging. For Emily, as it did for me, the little white book remains, as always, a place to turn in times of questioning and a reminder that all of life is sacred. It is a visible sign to her that Jesus is a force that moves through all of us always. Despite all the material things we can buy, all our trials and tribulations, tests, worries, and attempts to make things into memories, our friendship with Jesus is a gift.

I am afraid if we deck ourselves and our children out in silk and satin, and stage elaborate events, we will miss the lesson. We will miss the gift, the gift of a simple guy who just wants to be our friend . . . even if we aren't wearing expensive jewels.

But maybe Emily says it better today, almost three years after her First Communion: "Mom, Samantha wanted to know how she could get a book, too. I told her she could borrow mine, because they don't make them anymore."