The Sacraments: First Holy Communion
The second sacrament of initiation is First Holy Communion. First Holy Communion is considered one of the holiest and most important occasions in our lives because it is the first time that we receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist refers to Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity – truly present in the consecrated bread and wine. Holy Communion unites us to Jesus – which is the entire purpose of our lives!
As Catholics, we know that the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith: Pope Francis has called it the “Sacrament of Love”. For children who are preparing to receive their First Holy Communion, this is a big deal. And for all of us, every single time we receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, it should always be a big deal. What makes it so special the first time is the same thing that makes it special every time!
What makes it so special? Holy Communion is necessary for a healthy spiritual life; without it we are not fully united to Christ and cannot live a life fully immersed in His love. Jesus comes to us in a very unique way in the Eucharist – we physically receive him into our body and our soul. This sacrament is very beautiful, personal, and intimate and we should never take it for granted. Additionally, Holy Eucharist is the only sacrament of initiation that we can, and are encouraged to, receive daily.
There are special graces that God gives us whenever we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist.
Holy Communion deepens our union with Christ.
- When we receive Communion, we are saying to Jesus Christ, “Here I am. Here is my life. Do with it what You will.” We surrender our entire selves to Him, and He surrenders Himself to us. Receiving Holy Communion can transform us so that we become more and more like Christ.
Holy Communion separates us from sin.
- The Eucharist cleanses us of venial sin and strengthens us against temptation. If we are united to Christ, He will heal us of past sins and guard us in His love.
Holy Communion strengthens our charity.
- Holy Communion strengthens the bonds of charity within us—and by “charity,” the Church means the complete, self-emptying love of Christ. When we are united to Christ, we are also united to one another. By receiving Communion, we allow God to work His will into our hearts and lives and we become better brothers and sisters to one another.
Most children receive their First Holy Communion when they are 7 or 8 years old, or in second grade. Preparation for this sacrament is a two-year process that begins in first grade and culminates at the end of second grade. This preparation also includes First Reconciliation which takes place prior to First Holy Communion. There is not a separate rite for First Holy Communion, rather it takes place within the liturgy.
First Holy Communion is, without question, a time of great joy. The saints in heaven, who are delighted to intercede for us, are celebrating along with your family. The boy or girl preparing for this sacrament is going to be profoundly united with Jesus in a way that they never have before!
St. Mother Teresa said the following: “Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist…”
Here are some commonly asked questions about First Holy Communion…
What if my child is older and has not yet received this sacrament?
- Older children who are Baptized Catholic can prepare for their First Holy Communion by completing the same catechesis. Our Director of Lifelong Faith Formation will work with these children to complete the required preparation. Adults that wish to receive this sacrament would complete their catechesis through our RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process.
Why can’t non-Catholics receive communion in the Catholic Church?
- The Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. We must be properly prepared to receive it (1 Cor. 11:26-29). A non-Catholic who does not believe in the Real Presence would not be properly prepared to receive the Eucharist.
Why do some people ask for a blessing rather than receive communion?
- Anyone aware of having committed a grave sin should refrain from receiving Communion without first obtaining absolution in the sacrament of Reconciliation. They can, however, ask the Priest or Eucharistic Minister for a blessing.
This is the third installment in a series of articles about the Seven Sacraments, contributed by Deacon Peter LeTourneau, Director of Parish Ministry and Evangelization at Our Lady of the Wayside Parish. Please feel free to reach out to Deacon Peter with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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