'Show me the child of seven and I'll show you the man', goes the Jesuit proverb. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Richard Alwyn observes the truth of the saying in this film about children becoming Catholic.
Filmed throughout Lent and into summer 2011, it focuses on the children of St Mary's Roman Catholic Primary School in Chipping, Lancashire. The tiny rural school has 33 pupils, six of whom are preparing to make their First Holy Communion.
Alwyn's lyrical, poignant film observes the essence of Catholicism being distilled into young children. Encouraged to celebrate the riches of the natural world and to remember those less fortunate than themselves, the children are also required to reflect on Christ's brutal death and resurrection. Occasionally, this graphic story of suffering might seem to threaten the children's infectious charm and innocence.
The local parish priest, Fr Anthony Grimshaw, now in his 70s, has a strong presence in the children's lives. To the younger ones he's the avuncular character who comes into school to read Winnie the Pooh. To the older ones, he is more 'on message', talking with them about faith and fielding questions about his belief in the existence of Satan in this world.
Around this observation of the Catholic life of the children and the school is the story of a handful of its pupils, aged seven and eight, preparing for their First Holy Communion. Here, the children are introduced to the bewildering mystery at the heart of the Catholic faith - when they believe bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
This beautiful film is full of the spirit of childhood and shows how being Catholic is a complex identity that can bring both agony and ecstasy.