First Holy Communion
Bringing your child to baptism is such an important decision. You have made the decision to pass faith onto the next generation; you have made the decision and chosen to bring your child up as a Catholic Christian walking the path of the Gospel; you have made the decision to let Christ encounter you child and for your child to encounter him. It is the journey of faith that begins in baptism that is nourished and strengthened in the gift of the Eucharist. Christ feeds us in the Eucharist as we live out our baptism day by day.
We belong to a community in baptism and that relationship with Christ and with the community is lived out in the way we celebrate the Eucharist. We are the Body of Christ, his people, his Church, and it is by encountering him in the Eucharist that we grow in communion with him and his Church. We receive the Eucharist so that we might become what we receive and in the Eucharist we are given everything we need to live out the call to be disciples of Christ and to live out the mission of Christ we share in flowing from our baptism.
The Eucharist reminds us that Christ is near. The Eucharist reminds us of a love that is shown in his death on the cross. The Eucharist reminds us that we share in his life and in his love, that we receive his abundant mercy and forgiveness, and that we are sharers in his risen life.
What age should my child be?
It is custom for children to be around the age of seven (at least in their eighth year) but the important thing is that you, as a parent, feel that they are ready. If you want them to wait a year then wait a year; that won’t do any harm. They should be mature enough to want to learn, to want to pray, to want to meet the Lord. It doesn’t have to be an automatic thing that just because they are seven and in Year 3 at school they have to do it.
How can I prepare my child?
Quite simply, bring them to Mass. The Eucharist is the way, as a Church, we gather as a community of faith to remember the death and the resurrection of Christ. It is the way we meet him and the way we gather in prayer. By bringing your children to Mass you begin to hand onto them that inherited way we pray together and you begin to allow them to grow in comfort with the community that they are part of. Bringing them to Mass allows them to be touched by the Lord and to be drawn closer to him. They see you coming to Mass and you become a real witness that this is something important to feed their lives of faith and their relationship with the Lord.
Preparation for First Communion is a preparation for that first encounter with the risen Christ in the gift of the Eucharist. Across a number of months catechists will journey with those children wanting to meet the Lord in Holy Communion and walk with them into a deeper understanding of Jesus and his love for us. The Eucharist, like all the sacraments, is not a thing – it is a personal encounter with the person of Jesus Christ who is calling us to be like him in the way we live our lives. That preparation is a help to enabling our children to grow in their faith, to grow in their love for the Lord and to grow in their understanding of Christ’s presence with us his Church and we gather together in prayer.
When does First Holy Communion take place and when does preparation start?
First Communion is celebrated around the feast of Corpus Christi and so that means that we come together around the end of May or the beginning of June. Preparation for First Confession is tied in with preparation for First Communion and so in Advent (December) the children’s preparation will start. Dates and details are usually given out in the early part of the autumn to allow families to think about whether they want to be part of the preparation.
Who is leading the preparation?
There are catechists, those who are trained to accompany people as they explore their faith. These people are commissioned by the parish and entrusted to hand on faith to those who are preparing for the sacraments. The parish is involved in the preparation by virtue of the fact that your child belongs to this parish family. Naturally they would want to walk with the children of the parish and support them through their prayer and witness.
Our priest is part of the preparation and it’s good to have him as part of the sessions across the months. He will be part of the celebration masses that punctuate the preparation and it is good for the children to get to know him as much as for him to get to know them. But the family is such an important part of the preparation. It’s not just a case of dropping off the children and then coming back an hour later with everything done and dusted. At baptism you promised to be a witness and an example to your child; you promised to be their first teacher in the ways of faith. The parish is here to support you in that task – it cannot take it from you or replace you; all it can do is encourage you and affirm you.
How do I enrol my child?
Keep an eye out for the details of the parents’ meeting which usually takes place in the autumn. This is a kind of ‘come and see’ gathering allowing you to find out what is expected and what is taking place so that you can make a decision about your child taking place.
We will usually meet in the parish hall and it is chance for you to hear about the preparation, to find out about dates, to meet those who will be preparing your children and, of course, to meet other parents and other families.