First Communion preparation
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is one of three sacraments of initiation, the other two being Baptism and Confirmation. Preparation for the Sacrament of the Eucharist at Sacred Heart Church is accomplished through a two-year program which also includes the Sacrament of Penance. Students are required to attend classes and take periodic age appropriate quizzes on prayers and formation foundations to indicate their readiness for receiving their First Holy Communion in the spring of their second year Holy Communion class preparation.
What should parents keep in mind as they guide their children toward first holy Communion? Here are five key things that parents can do to help their child prepare to receive the Eucharist for the first time.
1. Go to Sunday Mass.
We tell the children it is important to go to Sunday Mass, and to please ask their parents to take them. We teach the children how beautiful, important and special it is to receive Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. If receiving Jesus in holy Communion is wonderful and special, then we would want to at least receive the Eucharist every Sunday. Please don’t let “being too busy,” sports or anything keep you from going to Mass; trying to live a Catholic life without Mass is like trying to grow a plant without water. It will wither and die.
2. Talk about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist with your child.
The real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is our belief that the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Jesus. The Eucharist is not a symbol or a sign, but Jesus truly present. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reminds Catholics Jesus’ “presence is not momentary nor simply signified, but wholly and permanently real under each of the consecrated species of bread and wine.” The Council of Trent affirmed that “the true body and blood of our Lord, together with his soul and divinity, exist under the species of bread and wine. His body exists under the species of bread and his blood under the species of wine, according to the import of his words.” In the first year of class, the children learn the most important thing all year: it is that the Eucharist is “really, really, really Jesus.” We revisit it constantly both years. Talk with your child and make sure they understand the real presence. Try not to say “getting bread and wine.” Instead talk about “receiving the precious body and precious blood.” If Catholics truly believed they were receiving Jesus Christ — body, blood, soul and divinity — wouldn’t we be at Mass every Sunday and receiving the Eucharist reverently?
3. Model reverence and focus on the sacrament when celebrating first holy Communion.
First holy communion is an exciting time. There are special outfits, relatives and friends gathering and making a fuss, parties being planned, presents and the pageantry of the day. But please be careful for your child to be too caught up in the clothes, the party and the presents. It would be normal and natural for any child to focus on these happy things. Remind your child why all these wonderful and fun things are happening because they will be receiving Jesus in holy Communion for the first time.
4. Receive Communion with reverence and practice receiving Holy Communion at home with your child.
We practice with the students using crackers and unconsecrated hosts, so they can be more comfortable and less nervous on the day of first Communion. Also, kids think it is fun to practice! You can certainly practice at home as well, here is an easy-to-follow guide:
- Use any sort of small cracker, like an oyster cracker, to help them become comfortable with the sequence of how to receive.
- Process with hands folded in prayer, singing the Communion hymn.
- When it is his or her turn, he or she should make a slight bow of the head — this is our sign of reverence. No need to bow from the waist.
- Everyone has the personal choice to receive on the tongue or in the hand. When teaching about how to receive in the hand, children should make a throne with their hands as if they are receiving a king. Children will receive on the tongue for their first Holy Communion, but we will teach children how to receive on the tongue or in the hand. At home, you can practice how to receive on the hand – children should make a throne with their hands as if they are receiving a king with left hand on top and right hand underneath it.
- When the priest says “The body of Christ,” look at the host and respond “Amen” firmly like you believe it!
- If receiving on the tongue, gently extend your tongue after saying “Amen.”
- If receiving in the hand, use the underneath hand to pick up the host and consume it immediately.
- Fold hands in prayer and process back to your seat to make a prayer of thanksgiving.
- There is no need to make the sign of the cross after receiving. The bow before receiving is the sign of reverence.
And have your child watch carefully every week during the Communion procession, they will see some adults who are good examples and some not very good examples, so the children need to be the extra good examples for the grown-ups.
5. Praise and thank God for the great gift of Communion.
St. Pius X called holy Communion “the shortest and surest way to heaven.” So not only on the day of first holy Communion, but after every Communion, we all should praise and thank God the great gift of our Lord received in the Eucharist. Prayer after Communion Lord Jesus, I love and adore you. You’re a special friend to me. Welcome, Lord Jesus, O welcome. Thank you for coming to me. Thank you, Lord Jesus, O thank you for giving yourself to me. Make me strong to show your love wherever I may be. Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay, close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all of us children in your loving care and bring us to heaven to live with you there.