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Preparation for First Communion & the Sacrament of Eucharist

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What is Eucharist?

The Sacrament of Eucharist is one of the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” In the Sacrament of Eucharist, we receive the bread and wine that through the power of the Holy Spirit has become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Eucharist is one of the three Sacraments of Christian Initiation, which initiate Catholics into the Church. The other two are Baptism and Confirmation. The Sacrament of Eucharist is central to Catholic life, and, unlike the other Sacraments of Initiation, Catholics are called to celebrate the Sacrament of Eucharist again and again.

Sacraments are effective signs given to us by Jesus Christ through which we share in God’s life. Sacraments truly effect, or bring about, what they represent, and they are therefore the most important celebrations of the Catholic Church.

What is the
Eucharistic Revival?

The National Eucharistic Revival is a grassroots movement of Catholics sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The revival began in response to a growing decline of Eucharistic faith and devotion; a recent Pew research report has revealed that only one third of Catholics say they believe in transubstantiation, the core teaching and belief that, during Mass, the bread and wine used for Holy Communion become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The three-year revival is an opportunity for renewal. Catholics are invited to respond to the gift of the Eucharist in their own ways. The revival is propelled by individual people's witness of faith and their stories about the Eucharist as a source of healing.

A Year of Diocesan Revival

The revival is a multiyear initiative, beginning on the Feast of Corpus Christi in June 2022. The first year, between June 19, 2022, and June 11, 2023, focuses on diocesan revival, inviting diocesan staff, bishops, and priests to respond and support them as they outreach at the diocesan level with congresses and events.

A Year of Parish Revival

The second year of the Revival, between June 11, 2023, and July 17, 2024, focuses on parish revival, including celebration of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, missions, and through resources and preaching, at the parish level. It culminates with a National Eucharistic Congress between July 17 and 21, 2024.

A Year of Going Out on Mission

The third year of the Revival is a national year of mission, an opportunity to go out and share with others, inspired by the Holy Spirit. This mission-focused year begins on July 21, 2024, and ends on the feast of Pentecost, 2025.

Eucharist as Mass

Sundays

The celebration of the Eucharist is also called the Mass. Catholics gather in community as members of the Church to worship and to celebrate Eucharist on the Lord’s Day. Each Sunday of the liturgical year is a great celebration of the Church, or a solemnity. At Mass, Jesus Christ is present in the person of the priest, in the assembly, in God’s Word, and most especially under the appearances of bread and wine. Mass is at the heart of the Catholic life.

Holy Days of Obligation

In addition to celebrating Mass each week on Sunday or Saturday evening, Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation to give special honor to Jesus Christ. In the United States, these days include Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, Ascension (when celebrated on Thursday during the Easter Season), Assumption of Mary, All Saints’ Day, Immaculate Conception, and Christmas.

Parts of the Eucharist

During Mass, Catholics worship together and pray. Each celebration of the Eucharist has four main parts: Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, and Concluding Rites.

Introductory Rites

During the Introductory Rites, the assembly is united as a community and prepared to hear God’s Word and celebrate the Eucharist. During this part of the Mass, Catholics enter into prayer.

Liturgy of the Word

During the Liturgy of the Word, the gathered assembly listens and responds to God’s Word through a series of Scripture readings. In this part of the Mass, Catholics glorify God and listen to the readings of the Gospel from the New Testament. The priest or deacon explains what the Scripture readings mean for Catholics today during his homily. Those gathered for Mass pray as the Body of Christ, in assembly with the priest, for the community, the Catholic Church, and all of God’s people in the world.

Liturgy of the Eucharist

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the gifts of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, which are received in Holy Communion. During this part of the Mass, the priest does and says what Jesus did and said at the Last Supper. By the power of the Holy Spirit and through the words and actions of the priest, the gifts of bread and wine that are offered become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Transubstantiation is the name for the change that the bread and wine undergo. What looks and tastes like bread and wine has become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Christ truly becomes present in the Eucharist under the appearances of the bread and wine. The true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is called the Real Presence.

Concluding Rites

During the Concluding Rites, at the end of the Mass, the priest blesses those gathered and the priest or deacon dismisses them and sends them forth to be Christ’s servants in the world, strengthened by the Word of God and having received Christ in Holy Communion. The priest commissions the assembly to carry on the work of Jesus as the Body of Christ.

Prayers
During the Celebration
of the Eucharist

Catholics pray certain prayers during the celebration of the Eucharist.

As part of the Introductory Rites, the Penitential Act is prayed. In this prayer, the assembly acknowledges it's sinfulness and proclaims the mystery of God’s love. The assembly asks for God’s mercy. On some Sundays, the Gloria—an ancient hymn—is sung. The Collect is a prayer that presses the theme of the celebration and the needs and hopes of the assembly.

During the Liturgy of the Word, the Alleluia is sung in anticipation of the Gospel reading. The entire assembly prays together a Profession of Faith, which may be the Nicene Creed or the Apostles’ Creed. In these prayers, Catholics state what they believe as members of the Church and what God reveals to them. In the Prayer of the Faithful, the assembly prays for the needs of all God’s people.

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the most important prayer of the Mass is prayed. This is the Eucharistic Prayer, the Church’s greatest prayer of praise and thanksgiving, joining Catholics to Jesus Christ and to each other. The beginning of the prayer, called the Preface, offers God thanksgiving and praise through the words “Holy, Holy, Holy.” The remainder of the prayer includes calling on the Holy Spirit to bless the gifts of bread and wine, the Consecration of the bread and wine, recalling what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper, recalling the Paschal Mystery, praising God, and concluding with “Amen” in love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Catholics also pray the Lord’s Prayer during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which Jesus taught his disciples to pray. The Communion Rite follows the Eucharistic Prayer.

Members of the Church can also pray before the Most Blessed Sacrament, the consecrated bread and wine that is reserved in the tabernacle. This prayer is called Eucharistic Adoration.

Liturgical Seasons
and the Mass

For Catholics, the Church year is the Liturgical Year, a sequence of seasons and feasts that are celebrated in the liturgy—the official public prayer of the Church—during a year’s time. Liturgies celebrated during the different seasons of the liturgical year have distinctive music and specific readings, prayers, and rituals. All of these work together to reflect the spirit of the particular season. The colors of the vestments that the priest wears during the Mass also help express the character of the mysteries being celebrated. The readings during the Liturgy of the Word reflect the liturgical season in which the Mass falls.

What is
First Holy Communion?

First Holy Communion, or First Communion, is the first reception of the Eucharist. First Communion is a very special event in the life of a Catholic, and is often celebrated with families, friends, and parish communities. Those individuals who are taking part in preparation for First Holy Communion must complete a period of preparation for this reception.

After preparation for and first reception of the sacrament, Catholics are called to celebrate Eucharist again and again.

Preparation for
First Communion

Immediate preparation for the sacrament can happen at any age after a baptized individual has reached an age of reason and is usually at least seven years old. Typically, immediate preparation programs for children occur in second grade, but First Holy Communion can take place at any age after individuals reach this age of reason. Many children prepare to celebrate First Communion in second grade, and some in the intermediate elementary grades. As in first Penance, children celebrating First Eucharist have prepared with their families, catechists, and peers. They will celebrate the first reception of the sacrament with their parish communities and with the entire Church, joining Catholics all over the world with Jesus and with one another, uniting them with the Body of Christ. Individuals who will receive First Communion as adults typically enroll in a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program or RCIA program as their preparation for the sacrament.

How Long Does it
Take to Prepare for
First Communion?

Preparation begins in the family before an official immediate preparation program. The immediate preparation program used by the parish will determine the length of time it takes to prepare for First Communion.

What Happens Before
First Communion?

Usually, individuals will take part in an immediate preparation program that consists of about six sessions with a catechist. Before being eligible for First Communion, there are certain requirements that children or individuals must complete. These are communicated by the parish at which the first reception of the sacrament will be celebrated. In addition to Baptism, the individual must also have first celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation, often called First Reconciliation or First Penance. First communicants need to be able to determine the difference between right and wrong, understand sin and understand the difference between the Eucharist and bread and wine (doctrine of transubstantiation).

Steps in Preparation
for First Communion

To be ready to celebrate First Holy Communion, all individuals must complete a series of steps. The family plays an essential role in this preparation in partnership with the parish. First Holy Communion is an opportunity for family faith sharing and celebration.

Preparing for First Holy Communion at Home

Preparing children for first reception of the sacraments starts at home with the family, where Catholic children first learn Catholic values and build faith. The parents are a child’s primary educators in faith, and the family is the domestic Church. Immediate preparation for First Holy Communion is a partnership between parents and the parish.

Attending Sunday Mass Every Week

Catholics are called to attend Mass each week, actively participating in the celebration of the liturgy even before First Holy Communion. This helps those preparing to celebrate the Sacrament of Eucharist to understand, recognize, and appreciate the true miracle of the liturgy. Even families with young children can worship well together at Mass.

Understanding the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

One of the important aspects of immediate preparation for First Holy Communion is the doctrine of transubstantiation—the teaching that the bread and wine used at Mass are transformed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ and Jesus’s Real Presence among us and not just symbols.

Exercising Reverence and Focusing on the Sacrament

Listening well, reverence, and actively participating in the Mass are steps that are important before First Communion.

Practicing Receiving the Eucharist

Those preparing for the first reception of the sacrament can review the steps to receiving Jesus in Holy Communion.

First, the person receiving Holy Communion will process to the altar.

  • Process to the altar with hands joined in prayer.
  • Sing the communion hymn or chant with the assembly.

When the person has approached the priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, it is his or her turn to receive the raised Host.

  • Bow head.
  • When the priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion says, “the Body of Christ,” respond, “Amen.”
  • Receive the Host in the hand by placing the left hand on top of the right hand (or the opposite if left-handed), or receive the Host on the tongue by holding up the head and gently putting the tongue out.
  • Swallow the Host right away.

If the person will receive the Blood of Christ after receiving the Host, proceed to the priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion holding the chalice.

  • Bow before the raised chalice.
  • When the priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion says, “the Blood of Christ,” respond, “Amen.”
  • Take a sip from the chalice.

After receiving the Host, return to the pew.

  • Fold hands in prayer.
  • Return prayerfully to the seat.
  • Sing the communion hymn or chant.
  • Spend quiet time in prayer.

Preparing the Heart, Mind, and Soul

When receiving Holy Communion, Catholics must be in a state of grace and free from mortal sin through absolution in the Sacrament of Penance. Leading a sacramental life and following the laws of the Church are ways to prepare for the Sacrament of Eucharist. A Eucharistic fast is also required an hour before receiving Holy Communion, meaning that no food or drink (excepting water and medicine) should be taken in this timeframe.

Praising and Thanking God for the Great Gift of Communion

The Eucharist is a memorial, a meal, and a sacrifice. Every time we participate in the Eucharist, we receive the gift of Jesus himself. With joy in our hearts, we give thanks to God for the gift of his Son, Jesus. Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” Knowing and praying the prayers of the assembly during Mass is a way to praise and thank God for the great gift of Communion. In addition, serving the Lord and others as part of a parish community continues Jesus’s work after Mass has ended.

Religious Education
Requirements for
First Communion

Baptism

Baptism is the first sacrament that Catholics receive and the gateway to all others. Those receiving First Communion must first be baptized.

Age of Reason

A requirement for First Communion is that a child has reached the “age of reason,” which is generally considered between 7 and 9 years of age. This means that the child can reason and is beginning to have moral responsibility.

First Confession

Another requirement for First Communion is that children have celebrated the Sacrament of Penance for the first time, or First Reconciliation. To receive Communion, Catholics must be in a state of grace. This process is different for adults celebrating the Sacraments of Initiation through RCIA. The RCIA ritual encourages the candidate to go to confession before the Mass at which they celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.

First
Communion Resources

Sadlier’s sacrament programs are designed for immediate preparation for the sacraments and intended for use in the parish, school, or home. The immediate preparation in Sadlier’s Believe • Celebrate • Live Eucharist unfolds as six lessons and are available in a print or eBook edition.

The program supports children and families as they learn about and prepare to celebrate the Sacrament of Eucharist for the first time and offers editions for candidates in either the primary grades or the intermediate grades. The program also integrates Scripture through Lectio and Visio Divina and engaging, interactive support resources including audio stories, music, and video clips.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. Celebrating the Sacrament of the Eucharist and actively participating at Mass are essential aspects of living the Catholic faith. The first reception of Eucharist is an important and joyful milestone for Catholics of every age as well as their families, parish community, and the Church.