First Holy Communion
The Sacrament of Eucharist is one of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation.
“Those who have been raised to the dignity of the most royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1322)
The Eucharist is the ritual, sacramental action of giving thanks and praise to the Father. It is the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his body, the Church, and is the continuing presence of Christ in his Word and in his Spirit. (National Directory for Catechesis, #36, A3)
Aims of the Sacramental Preparation Program
• To help children understand that participation in the Eucharist is to become a full member of the Body of Christ.
• To focus on the prayers and primary symbols of the liturgy as the starting point for sacramental catechesis.
• To introduce the idea and importance of mystagogy and lifelong reflection.
• To enable learners to become familiar with the Rites.
• To provide a process for parents and other adults to actively participate in the sacramental preparation of the children.
• To emphasize service to the community as a way of living out the call of Baptism
• To acknowledge the place of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.
Readiness for the reception of the Sacrament of Eucharist
“Parents and the parish catechetical leader, together with the pastor are responsible for determining when children have attained the age of reason and are ready to receive First Holy Communion. Parents also have the right and the duty to be involved in preparing their children for First Holy Communion.” (NDC #36, B2)
Along with preparation of the child for the celebration of the sacrament, parents should also be involved in discerning the child’s readiness for the Eucharist. In general, readiness for reception of this sacrament includes awareness of the Church’s belief about Jesus Christ, knowledge of the difference between the Eucharist and ordinary bread, and a desire to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.
The Church requires that the children receive the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation for the first time prior to First Holy Communion.
The following questions may be used to determine a child’s readiness for the Sacrament of Eucharist. Remember that actions speak louder than words. Look to a child’s behavior as well s the words they use.
Does the child have an understanding that:
• The Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and that what appears to be bread and wine are actually his living body?
• Does the child know the difference between the Eucharist and ordinary bread?
• Does the child participate actively and consciously at Mass?
• Does the child display an attitude of reverence at Mass?
• Does the child know the proper way to receive Holy Communion?
• Does the child desire to receive the Eucharist?
“We are the Body of Christ”
When we gather every Sunday as the Body of Christ we fulfill the Lord’s command to “do this as a memorial of me” (Lk 22:19).
Enriching your understanding:
Your family and the entire parish community are preparing a wonderful event: the celebration of First Holy Communion. This is a very special time for your family. It is also a very special time for the entire parish community. At baptism your child was welcomed with great joy by the parish community. From that moment on, the community offers all those baptized their love and support throughout their lives.
Preparing for First Holy communion is a continuation of the faith journey that begins with Baptism. First Communion is a very important celebration in the life of the Church. First Communion preparation is much more than learning “how” to receive communion. For the very first time your child will participate fully, consciously, and actively in the celebration of the Eucharist from beginning to end. Our participation in the Mass culminates in our eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ.
Eating and drinking of the body and Blood of Christ is the fullest way we participate in the Mass. It is the culmination of our participation that starts when Mass begins. Thus preparation for First Communion is a special time for us to examine how we participate at Mass from beginning to end.
Activities for Parents
What can you do in the home?
The best way to form your children is by example. Make sure you and your family celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday.
“The Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life. Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2177)
• Make Sunday a special day in your home. Establish a routine for Sunday that always begins with celebrating the Eucharist and includes special family activities and meals.
• Teach your children to make the Sign of the Cross with reverence. Make sure they know the words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy spirit.” Remind them how they were marked with the Sign of the Cross at their baptism. Sign your children on their foreheads each night before they go to bed. Make the Sign of the Cross as you pray before you eat or at other prayer times in the house.
• Talk to your children about their baptism. Explain that on this day they became members of the Body of Christ; they became part of the larger family called the Church.
What can you do at Mass?
• Make sure you always arrive on time. The Introductory Rites of the Mass are a very sacred time. Sit in the section of the Church where children can see the entire action of the Mass.
• Open the hymnal to the opening song for your child. Encourage him or her to sing this prayer with everyone.
• Make sure your child knows how to make the Sign of the Cross with the whole community.
• Help your child to know the responses and prayers during the Mass, and help them pray them with meaning.
• Children learn by doing and seeing. You are the best model for enabling your child to participate fully in the Mass by your own active participation in sung prayer, gestures, and responses.