Children read about first Communion during a preparation class. CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec

First Communion requires team effort

By  Fr. Yaw Acheampong
  • September 21, 2018

What is your memory of the time you received your first Holy Communion? 

Do you remember being given a gift — a cross, a rosary or a prayer book? Do you still have them? Perhaps you may even remember what you learned about the sacrament, what you were told to do and say when you received Holy Communion on this special day. 

According to the laws of the sacraments, a proper sacramental preparation program is required to ensure a child can receive the sacrament with “great reverence and due care.”

At the beginning of every academic year parishes begin registering children for the sacramental preparation prior to their first Confession and first Holy Communion. Parents and guardians are especially important in this process. They may use the program to reflect on their own understanding of the sacraments and on their spiritual responsibilities. 

In terms of spirituality, we can describe the sacramental preparation as the beginning of a new chapter in the journey of faith for children. In his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), Pope Francis reminds us that every Christian is called to holiness — a practical life-long process of constant spiritual relationship with God and with neighbour. 

According to the Holy Father, this holiness to which the Lord calls us “will grow through small gestures” and it is “a journey in community, side by side with others.” Pope Francis’ exhortation is relevant to parents and guardians, who become stewards by helping children with their workbook on the sacraments, attending the required classes, workshops and bringing the children to Mass.

On the practical side, parents and guardians looking ahead to the day of the celebration of the sacrament in the spring may be concerned with things like the clothes their children will wear, the relatives and friends to be invited, and the parties. We all plan for special occasions but these things are not meant to be the focus of the sacramental preparation.  

The day of first Holy Communion can be described as the end of the child’s spiritual journey that includes the celebration of first Confession. As a community of faith, we hope the spiritual preparation has helped both children and adults to journey faithfully towards that celebration of the sacrament. 

The first Holy Communion Mass is special for the whole community. Seeing the children in their beautiful clothes, coming forward to receive the Eucharist, they look like angels. With their parents and guardians smiling, and a wonderfully large attendance at Mass to support the children, the atmosphere is full of spirit and life. 

The celebration of first Holy Communion brings joy to us all. With renewed hearts we joyfully welcome our new communicants in our parishes.

(Fr. Yaw is pastor at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Toronto.)

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