Catholics believe that in Holy Communion they are united in a special way with Jesus Christ, that they are sharing in the body and blood of Christ the Saviour. The celebration of First Eucharist is a sacred and important moment on a long journey of faith development. Together with Baptism and Confirmation, it opens the door to full membership of the Christian community.
To receive Communion the recipient should be without sin and in a state of grace. Therefore, young Catholic children will make their First Confession, i.e. the Sacrament of Reconciliation some weeks before receiving their First Holy Communion. The Sacrament of Baptism must also have been received before receiving the First Communion. First Communion for children who have been baptised into the Catholic Church is celebrated no earlier than when a child is in Second Class of Primary School.
The single most significant ritual and gathering together of the Christian family is the celebration of the Eucharist. It is the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. It is a call to conversion. It is a sign of unity. Catholics believe that in a mysterious way through Holy Communion we are sharing in the Body and Blood, the life of Christ. It is a response in our day as it was in days past when we were commanded by Christ: Do This in Memory of Me! Luke 22:19
Preparing your child to receive Holy Communion:
Make use of short, simple moments to talk to your children about the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament. For example:
- When you begin your fast before receiving Communion, announce to your child what you are doing and invite them to fast with you. Explain to them why we stop eating before going to Mass, and that you are preparing yourself spiritually and physically to receive Jesus into your body.
- Draw your child more deeply into Eucharistic reverence by praying with them before and after you receive Holy Communion. The Anima Christi (Soul of Christ) is a beautiful and simple Eucharistic prayer that you and your child can practice memorizing together. Arrive to Mass a few minutes early and pray this prayer together. Saying a special prayer in this way will teach your child to reverence the holy moment of receiving Communion.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, inebriate me;
Water from the side of Christ, wash me;
Passion of Christ, strengthen me;
O good Jesus, hear me;
within Your wounds, hide me;
separated from You let me never be;
from the evil one, protect me;
at the hour of my death, call me;
and close to You bid me;
that with Your saints, I may be
praising You forever and ever. Amen.
The Anima Christi
As you leave the pews when Mass ends, instead of genuflecting in the aisle and walking out, walk with your child up to the Tabernacle and genuflect with them there instead, or kneel with them for a few moments at the foot of the altar in quiet prayer. This will teach your child that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, and His resting place until the next Mass is in the Tabernacle.
It’s tempting to rely on your child’s religious educators to teach them the importance of receiving the Eucharist, especially when you have so much to do to prepare for the occasion. However, the truth of the matter is that your child’s preparation for this Sacrament begins and ends with you, the parent. You are the most influential person in your child’s life, and the reverence you model for the Holy Eucharist is the reverence they will learn to imitate.
Not only is it an important year in the life of your child, it is also an important year for their class, their teachers, and for you the parents/guardians. It is also a special time too for the parish community. Your child’s faith journey began the day you brought your child to the Church to be baptised. And what a special day that was for you and the family. Now, that child has grown, they are about to take another step in their faith journey, as they prepare for First Holy Communion.
As a parent it is worthwhile finding out how you can help your child. Very often schools will invite you along to one or more meetings before the First Communion day. Though the basic Catholic belief in the Eucharist hasn’t changed over the years, how it is put over to children today may well be very different from the way it was put over to you or your parents so attending such a meeting can be very informative and supportive in helping you prepare your child.
Ideally the best preparation for the Eucharist is taking your child to Mass regularly and helping your child understand what it is all about. If there is a children’s Mass, you can take your child to that and encourage them to participate. Our parish runs a preparatory programme for children preparing for First Communion. This programme is called “Do This in Memory”.
This programme takes place during Mass where the children preparing for First Communion are invited to sit together and the priest explains the readings to the children.
What is ‘Do This in Memory’?
Do This in Memory is a parish-based programme of preparation for First Communion centred in the parish celebration of the Sunday Eucharist and in the home. The programme resources are designed to facilitate parents, families and the parishes’ active involvement in the preparation for the sacrament. The programme takes place well in advance of the First Eucharist and concludes by the end of April.
The ‘Do This in Memory’ Programme shares the preparation of children for First Confession and Holy Communion between school, parish and home. Parents/Guardians are invited, encouraged and challenged to be actively involved in their child’s sacramental journey. It is hoped that as we work together as parish, school and home the faith life of all involved will be enriched.
The ‘Do this in Memory’ programme is a continuous programme, connecting the classroom with the home and the parish. As part of the programme, there is an Information Night, (where we meet the parents), an Enrolment Ceremony for you and your child, and there are seven Sundays set aside where you and your child will have some participation in the Sunday Mass. It is also hoped that you and your child will frequent Mass regularly as your child prepares for this special day.