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Why Your Child's First Holy Communion Is a Big Deal

Why a Child's First Holy Communion is a Big Deal

Apr 22, 2017 By Whitney Hetzel

As Catholics, we know that the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith: it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pope Francis has called it the "Sacrament of Love":

"The Eucharist is at the heart of 'Christian initiation', together with Baptism and Confirmation, and it constitutes the source of the Church’s life itself. From this Sacrament of love, in fact, flows every authentic journey of faith, of communion, and of witness."

 

For children who are preparing to receive their First Holy Communion, this is a big deal. And for all of us, no matter how many times we have received 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!

Why a Child's First Communion is a Big DealJesus comes to us in a unique way in the Eucharist. When He comes, we receive Him into our body and our soul. This is very beautiful, personal, and intimate. We should not take it for granted!

This is why the first time a family member makes their Holy Communion, it is and exciting event for the whole 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!

It is such a holy, joyful occasion. Our souls become the bride of Christ. That is why girls wear white dresses and boys wear suits. Relatives are invited. Parents take pictures.  We celebrate. And the very act of celebrating reveals our belief in the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Why a Child's First Communion is a Big Deal

Father Roger Landry of the Diocese of Fall River in New England says,

"...what makes one's first Communion a truly blessed event is not the adjective but the substantive: not the 'first' but the 'communion.' Because of whom we receive, the second, third, next, and last Communion should always be as special."

Unfortunately, for many of us Catholics, First Holy Communion has become simply a right of passage. The essence of the celebration is lost among the parties and gifts. "Parties and gifts are fine," says one priest,  "as long as the focus never strays from what the celebration is truly about."

Why a Child's First Communion is a Big DealFirst 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.

"You come to me," says Saint Maximilian Kolbe to Jesus, speaking for all of us, "and unite Yourself intimately to me under the form of nourishment. . . . What miracles! Who would have ever imagined such!"

St. Mother Teresa also has words for you and your family: "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..."

Yes, the celebration of a child's First Holy Communion IS a big deal. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Read next 3 Ways to Spiritually Prepare Your Child for Their First Communion

Is your son or daughter about to receive Jesus for the first time?

What tips do you have for other parents who are doing their best to prepare their child for this special day?

Share with us in the comments below! We want to hear from you!

Yes, Your Child's First Holy Communions IS a big deal!

This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2016. © The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.

Comments

@Debbie. I think you should really try to find out why and ask your son. I personally don't believe in forcing someone to do something they don't want to do. You know, it could be that he understands that First Communion is a huge commitment and may not understand it. I know I'm personally just here researching my belief because it's sort of just forced on you when you're a minor. Where, things don't really stick. Like, if GrammaFleury said about taking Communion superficially, then I'm screwed. I know have taken superficially before because I didn't realize exactly what Communion really meant.

Essentially, you don't want to make a huge decision for your child with your child not understanding what is expected of them.

(PS, am I the only one who thinks it's creepy that the idea of the first Communion is marrying our children off spiritually to Jesus. I can see the part of becoming one with Jesus by consuming the body and blood of Christ. However, I've never seen marriage that isn't romantic. I am totally open for someone to explain to me why "marrying off children to Jesus" isn't creepy and that I'm looking at it at the wrong angle)
Hello Ash! You ask a good question here, about "marrying Jesus".

Firstly, many saints and mystical writers speak of the soul as being "espoused to Christ" in the spiritual sense and of "mystical marriage," so this terminology is not new or uncommon, though perhaps not encountered as often as if we were all avid readers of theology and the writings of the saints. (I wish I had time to read much, much more from those categories!)

Every sacrament is an outward, tangible sign of an inner grace, an invisible reality. The sacrament of marriage is meant to be a deep symbol of what every soul will experience spiritually in Heaven: an incredibly personal and intimate love with God that is unitive and fruitful. Priests and religious brothers and sisters also take this on in a very real way when the consecrate their whole lives to God, and are called to live as signs of these heavenly realities while still in the world.

The sacrament of Holy Communion also presents this outward and inward reality of spiritual love: When we receive Christ in the Eucharist, we believe he is truly present - body, blood, soul and divinity. That being said, receiving Christ is an act of love, and a profound call to live a life of union with God as well as a life where that love bursts forth in fruitful service.

A side note - you speak of the connection between marriage and romance. Yes, they are connected, but the sacrament part of marriage is much more than that: it is the commitment to love each other, through God's grace, both in health, riches, the better as well as in sickness, poverty, and the worse periods of life (where honestly, many times romance in very absent). Here we speak of a love and union that transcends feelings of the moment. This love that transcends feelings also applies to the Eucharist.

Hope that helps!
Debbie says
Nov 22 2018 5:01AM
My child is due to receive his first Communion early next year but he keeps telling me that he doesn’t want to go for Communion classes and doesn’t want a party. I’m worried. He knows all his prayers and goes for class very reluctantly. He enjoys singing in the children’s choir during mass. But I just cannot understand why he is so against receiving communion and the celebration after. When I try speaking to him about it, he just shuts down.
Debbie,
It seems appropriate ask your priest to speak to your son regarding his First Holy Communion. Perhaps you might consider explaining that your role as his parent is to bring him up in the faith and to prepare him to receive the sacraments of the Church. You love him very much and it is your desire that he receive Jesus in the Eucharist because you know that it is Christ's Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity that he will receive. It is not essential that children understand the mystery of the Eucharist...truly none of us can truly comprehend this most beautiful of sacraments in its entirety. God Bless you and your son!
arlette says
Aug 17 2018 6:53PM
It's my first year this year catechism get to First Holy Communicants. Their celebration will be taking place on 4 November.

I am myself still learning and what I find is that I would go over certain things and then when they are questioned about it, they don't seem to know anything.

It is stressing me out as I don't think it's right for them to receive the Eucharist if they do not fully understand its significance.

Does anyone have ANY ideas on how I could perhaps conduct the lesson to make it register and stick with them. I do tr to make my classes interesting and different.
Alberto says
Jul 25 2018 10:02PM
We wanted to know, our daughter’s godmother from baptism cut ties with us and our daughter and since we have spiritually appointed our friend to be her godmother. When it’s time for her first communion do we have to contact her godmother that cut ties or can we have our friend who we spiritually have appointed as godmother be there with her?
Hello Alberto - That's very thoughtful of you. There's no need to contact the godmother whom you don't communicate with any more. I'm not sure what the custom is where you're from, but for the most part there's not an official role the godparents play at a First Communion in any case, except to join the celebration of this special moment!
Oliver says
May 6 2018 12:49PM
Shouldn’t the children wait until they are older so that they can understand what it is that they are doing? I’m pretty sure a 7 or 8 year old has no idea what they are doing. They should understand the whole meaning of the first communion and why they are doing it.
Hi Oliver, historically the age for receiving First Holy Communion in the Latin Church was at an older age (closer to the age of adolescence). It was moved to the age of reason, which is about the age of seven, by Pope St. Pius X. One of the events that encouraged him to move the age younger was the story of Blessed Imelda of Lambertini, which you can read about here: https://www.catholiccompany.com/getfed/blessed-imelda-patroness-of-first-communicants/. Children are indeed capable of understanding that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, provided they are well catechized by their parents and the parish priest. And there is also the grace of the Holy Spirit who helps the child to understand according to their own level. The purity and simplicity of a child's heart is precious to Jesus. In this day and age, when young children are often exposed to a multitude of impurities, it is important that they begin receiving the sacraments at an early age as a defense for maintaining the purity of their souls.
GrammaFleury says
Apr 18 2018 11:22PM
To Ralph Carnes -- I have read the Bible, and it led me to the Catholic Church. Granted, I received the graces from the Church at baptism as an infant, and through First Holy Communion and Confirmation. God allowed me to stray away from the Church, where I discovered all sorts of philosophies, including yours, and it eventually led me to atheism. Kind of funny how that worked, actually. It only makes sense that if you can talk to the air to ask for forgiveness and receive the Holy Spirit into your heart and get warm fuzzies, well, you don't really need God. I looked at the Sacraments of the Church with suspicion. However, I never had the view you do of time as a linear event that drops off at the beginning and end -- I'm too scientific for that (infinity really means no end, and eternity is outside of time, even for atheists). Even as an atheist, I recognized that if a time machine were available, we could step into and out of any point in time. So Jesus' death on the Cross wasn't a singular event that can never be revisited. It happened only at a single point in time, but from eternity, that point can be visited many times. Everything that has ever happened, or will ever happen, in a temporal sense, is happening now in an eternal sense. You should recognize this because the Bible says God is already in our future. He is the Eternal One. But the words that Jesus spoke to the disciples at the Last Supper were the ones God spoke to Moses when He told him to command the Israelites to remember, to commemorate, the Passover every year. The word means "make it live again." It's a command to become a participant in the actual event. When Jewish people celebrate the Passover, they aren't just remembering an event that took place thousands of years in the past -- they are participating in the very night of the Passover. They are transported through time, but on another plane, invisible to the Hebrews in Egypt, and conversely, the landscape and people of Egypt are invisible to the Jews of the present day who celebrate the night they were spared through God's mercy. The words that God spoke to Moses are repeated in a Liturgy of the Word. The words that Jesus spoke to the disciples at the Last Supper are words they recognized as a new commandment. The disciples recognized that the word we translate as "remembrance" is a liturgical word. I understood that eternity makes it possible to commemorate by participating in the Last Supper, and the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection all at once in the space and time of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Be that as it may, it could all be considered imagination. And if it's imaginative, then the Holy Spirit could be an invention of the imagination, too, and so could God. So I became a nonbeliever, and I began reading the Bible to support my disbelief. What I found, instead, is that the Catholic Church is right about everything. Read the discourse on the Bread of Life again -- take special note of John 6:66. The only reason people left Him is because they couldn't believe in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. And He didn't make His teaching easier, more palatable, to suit them. The scales fell from my eyes and I saw, again, that the Blessed Host truly is His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. After many years away, I returned to the Sacrament of Confession, and was blessed to have been guided to go at a time when a discerning priest was available to hear my Confession -- it can only have been the Holy Spirit's direction that led me there at that time. He prayed the exorcism to relieve me of the demons that attach to the heresy you follow. I didn't expect this, because I was brought up in a time when priests were saying that Biblical references to demons were describing psychological effects of our fallen nature, and I was utterly shocked to find that those demons are real. I had no idea, no concept whatsoever of demonic attachment. Yet when the priest prayed the prayers against the demons of the heresy you follow, and had me repeat after him (which I did with some perplexity), I physically felt those things leave my body. They are some of the same demons that lure people into atheism. They were probably able to lure you away from the Church by making you doubt the Real Presence. The devil loves to make people doubt because it's a sure way to lure souls into his dominion. If you were to die without confessing your doubt with sincere contrition and resolve of repentance, your soul would be in grave danger. I pray for God to have mercy on you and grant you the graces necessary for salvation. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for the conversion of sinners and of the world! Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of death!
GrammaFleury says
Apr 18 2018 10:32PM
To EstherofGod -- It's truly a shame if people don't live out their faith, especially if they teach their children that receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time is all about worldly pleasures. It's immature to use their example as inspiration for church shopping. I say that because you claim to have grown more deeply in your relationship with God, yet that's just between you and God, not between you, God, and the people you fellowship with. In other words, a relationship with God doesn't deepen because we like the people at whichever church we go to. That feeling could be attributed to oxytocin -- the bonding hormone that's excreted when we interact with people we like. God wants us to love Him even without the consolation of hormones flowing through our bodies. Besides, remember: Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. If sin abounded in the church you went to in Northern Ireland, then the grace was available to you to pray for conversions, and to set the example for others. If we don't cooperate with grace, then we have to ask ourselves if we are contributing to the sin. If you truly believed that we receive Christ in the Eucharist, you wouldn't be able to leave Him under any circumstance. He who eats and drinks without discerning the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior eats and drinks death (condemnation) onto himself. Holy Communion is not about frivolous "fellowshipping" with people we get along with. Holy Communion is uniting body and soul with the very one who created us, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. There is no deeper relationship with God than that.
Rebecca Brown says
Apr 18 2018 2:42PM
I have heard other churches , it’s not like that, God will ask of us. We don’t have a God that won’t ask anything of us.

Others have a bread box for the bread, novel thought. I have never heard preachers of churches that will belittle a faiith the way they do in the non denominationals.
Rebecca Brown says
Apr 18 2018 2:25PM
I have heard other churches , it’s not like that, God will ask of us. We don’t have a God that won’t ask anything of us.

Others have a bread box for the bread, novel thought. I have never heard preachers of churches that will belittle a faiith the way they do in the non denominationals.
Ralph Carnes says
Apr 15 2018 2:20PM
Well not to take anything away from the rite of First Holy Communion, but didn’t the Lord promise, as He ascended into heaven, that He leaves us The Holy Spirit? Isn’t the Holy Spirit part of the wonderful mistery of the Blessed Trinity as God. So we have God within us from before our birth. The act of communion is, I think, a remberance of the Lords body and blood that He gave up for us for the forgiveness of sin....one time and past, present and future sins and as such we can partake of at any age. We don’t have to pass “go” in order to partake in communion. Therefore, Holy Communion May better serve as an acknowkegenent or affirmation that we are all sinners and need the saving grace of the Lord which He gave us free and clear from the cross.
So, I douth this post will actually get published but as a Catholic for 68 years and now, 7 years just a non denominational Christian I would say to those who choose to denounce me as a Protestant or some other name... read the Bible! Study the Bible. Thank you and I hope no offense is taken. In fact I’m attending my granddaughters First Holy communion next month and wil embrace her and encourage her that she has the free undeserved gift of salvation any time or place...just pray to the Lord directly. He knows our heart and is delighted when we come to Him. No intermediaries needed. It’s all about a direct relationship with the Lord....That’s the significance of the temple vail that was torn apart upon the Lords Death at Calvary.
.
Of course feel free to politely discuss this issue with me. God Bless.
Christine Loughery says
Apr 14 2018 2:05AM
Faith and Family Traditions, stay strong in both nothing is guaranteed except GOD?
I have long thought I would like to teach First Communion classes but I haven't found my parish which I have searching for for years. I was born in a Catholic hospital, went to Catholic school through graduate school. I had always hoped to teach in a Catholic college but try as I might, could never get such job. So I've dropped out. But teaching First Communion classes, when our children are on the threshold of their Catholic journey, to me, would be the greatest task I would have ever taken up. Thanks for listening.
Mary says
Apr 10 2018 4:54AM
A child’s First Holy Communion is a big deal. My son who is 7 years 8 months received Our Lord on Easter Sunday. How delighted I am that he received his God. There is nothing more important to me than the grace of Holy Communion and I wish all humanity knew that when it comes to gifts, there is none more special than leading your child to Jesus. For my son, I went to great lengths to get him a white suit and matching shoes. I wanted him to feel special because this is like he was being born for the first time! So to those who know, First Holy Communion is THE GREATEST DEAL ever!!!!

I did the same for my daughter who received her First Holy Communion last July. And guess what? Because of her desire to receive Jesus, her love for him has grown. She seeks to receive him daily and this is great for a nine year old child.

My prayer is that Jesus continues to live in their hearts always!
Sylvia Kelly says
Apr 9 2018 2:08PM
The parents and extended family/ friends are the first teachers of children. It is their responsibility to "train up achild in the way he should go". Leading by example let's kids know what is important. We have raised our four children in the Catholic church and I teach RCIC. My kids understand the miracles that occur in the Eucharist. As one girl put it in class, it is like magic! If parents do not reinforce the miracle (a.k.a magic) or live it, all goes by the wayside.
EstherofGod says
Feb 21 2018 2:04AM
My Catholic upbringing was so different to the one I’ve witnessed in Northern Ireland where the majority go through the motions because it’s what you do so first Holy Communion is a motion where if you ask the children what it’s about will more than likely tell you about the tonnes of money they’ll be getting or the fancy clothes they’ll be wearing or which restaurant they’ll be going to. It’s all just show and motion just like attending mass on births, deaths, marriages, Christmas and Easter is for show and motion. And if you ask them anything about God, there’s ver little that they know. Christ’s birth and death mainly. In between that there’s no relationship with God and the majority don’t care to have one particularly after the priest scandal and if you ask them do they believe in God, they’ll tell you yes, do they go to church gets all kinds of negative responses and that’s their prerogative but I don’t understand why the hypocrisy of putting your child through communion when you despise the church or attend mass at Christmas and Easter. When we moved here and I saw the huge lack of understanding, teaching and hypocrisy, I and my family withdrew from the church and I found my relationship with God nurtured more in a lovely Baptist church in London and when I moved back home in a non denomination church...these two have provided me and my family the soul food I need. At the end of the day it’s up to people what they do but it disheartens me when I see how short of the mark the church here is especially in getting people especially children to have that relationship with Christ through study and learning of the bible, through fellowship just like I did growing up in Africa.
Seers777 says
Feb 2 2018 1:57AM
Catholic Mothers and Fathers make sure that child has their Holy Communion.
Lucille says
Jan 4 2018 3:45AM
The comment about the cloth diaper and rubber pants sounds patently false to me and the person who wrote it should be ashamed of trying to stir up nonsense like that.

The comment about 'serving alcohol to minors' made me laugh. You do realize that taking the wine at Communion equates to a SIP. No one is passing out goblets of wine to minors.

The post about children cursing in the schoolyard despite having received their First Communion and equating that without a lack of being "impressed" by the "whole ordeal" is unfortunate, given this person, though not Catholic, works in a Catholic school. I hope you don't make derisive remarks like that in your classroom. That said, receiving First Communion doesn't make one "perfect'. We are all failed human beings, and sin accordingly. One would hope that your school yard isn't full of cursing youngsters and I doubt it is. It's too bad you can't understand what the Sacraments are about and have a better outlook. I hope you aren't responsible for teaching religion in your school.

I'm a cradle Catholic; I know there are things that the Church does that seems strange and out-there, but the things people post on these websites never cease to amaze me.
Mary Joanne says
Dec 4 2017 11:28AM
I work at a catholic school, and some of my kids celebrated on the weekend. It wasn't about the "spiritual" experience, just the dress, veil, fur shawl, shoes, hair makeup, and a party afterwards, parents held. My kids were out in the yard today, cursing at each other just as they always do and disrespecting everyone. Such a huge lack of respect for others, and themselves, in a very materialistic world, parents do nothing. I am not a catholic, and truly not impressed by the entire ordeal! Sorry, I grew up with Catholic friends, and their families were very active in the church, it was about the spirit of God/Jesus..! Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Men/Women/ Everyone!!!!
Corrine J. says
Sep 27 2017 10:16AM
Our 9 year old niece made her First Holy Communion this past may and her parish is very strict! All the girls had to wear a poofy,knee length communion dress and veil with white tights and white shoes.The communion dress is considered an extension of the baptism outfit the girls were baptized in as babies,so they all had to wear a cloth diaper and plastic pants[aka-rubberpants] under the tights with an under shirt as their top.The niece wore the cloth diaper and had youth size rubberpants over it and the waist band of her tights were pinned to the waist band of the rubberpants,so the tights wouldnt slide down.There was three teen girls,ages 14 and 15,who were in her class and they had adult size rubberpants over their diaper.All the boys had to wear white suits and ties as their communion outfits.
Hi Corrine, white dresses with veils is traditional for girls receiving their First Holy Communion, and white suits and ties for boys, but the part you mentioned about the diapers and plastic pants seems quite strange to me! If this is happening at your Catholic parish, you might want to run this practice by the bishop? Just a helpful suggestion, I don't really know how to comment on that!
John says
Jul 17 2017 7:49PM
Debbie,

"Gluten free" hosts are not valid matter (wheat bread) and thus cannot be validly consecrated because they are not wheat bread. Low gluten hosts are still wheat bread so they can be validly consecrated.

As far as your concerns regarding serving alcohol to minors, after the consecration, it is no longer alcohol, but rather the Precious Blood, but even if the alcohol remained (which it doesn't happen, only the accidents of alcohol remain), exceptions are made in law for minors to receive alcohol in religious services.
Debbie says
May 6 2017 10:16AM
My great nephew has severe celiac disease. Even low gluten hosts are harmful for him. I found some gluten free hosts but the priest wouldn't,let him have them. Instead he said he could receive the wine! What about the law that says serving alcohol to minors is illegal! I guess it is o.k. for the church to ignore this. I also have celiac disease but it will be a long time before I go to communion again.
Hi Debbie, for those who have celiac disease, the best option is for them to receive the Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord under the species of wine. A priest ministering to a child Holy Communion is not the same thing as "serving alcohol to minors" ... Catholic belief is that this is the Body and Blood of Christ. We encourage you to return to Holy Communion so you can more fully understand this sacred mystery.
Karen Jones says
Apr 23 2017 6:50PM
I agree taking communion is a big deal and for this reason I believe that it shouldn't happen at a set age when some children only do it because it is what is expected of them and because all of their friends are doing it. I had a conversation with one of our year 8 boys the other day and he said he remembers his first communion it was the most boring thing he has ever done! Many of our students have had their first communion but don't even believe God exists! If communion was done at different ages for different children who all grow and develop in their faith at their own pace then it would mean more to the child and all involved.
Donna Koppy says
Apr 22 2017 4:51PM
I noticed some folks wondering about delaying the reception of First Reconciliation until after First Communion. As a Faith Formation Director of 37 years experience in parishes across the country, I have seen that done in some parishes. There are several reasons

that the church supports this catechetical practice.

It follows tradition of early church and RCIA model.

No known cases of a second grader being in a serious state of sin.

The penitential rite as part of the liturgy.

Deferring First Reconciliation allows children to better understand and receive the sacrament correctly. Lack of understanding contributes to invalid confessions.

Some parishes have adopted a model where children receive all the sacraments of initiation at the same time, as was traditionally done in the early church.

Which ever model a parish follows, it is all under the practice of the church, in conjunction with the Bishop and Rome. Parents are given the responsibility with bringing their children to the sacraments. In most churches in the U.S. , grandparents can only do so if parents give their consent to the priest.
Jbrigs says
Apr 14 2016 3:53PM
My youngest Son will have his 1st Communion this coming Sunday. But i already told our Priest that i would rather that my son take the body and blood of Jesus directly on his tongue and not with his hands. THIS IS WHAT MAKES THE HOLY COMMUNION A BIG DEAL...only the Priest is allowed to touch IT in the hand because its HOLY. I took IT myself kneeling and on my tongue. Amen. Alleluia.
Louise Fitzgerald says
Apr 12 2016 1:15AM
I remember my First Holy Communion as if it were yesterday instead of 57 years ago. I was United with Jesus fur the first time and I was so mesmerized the nun had to tap me on the shoulder to leave the pew with my fellow communicants. The waiting and the preparation were crucial to the dignity and seriousness of the occasion. I had committed my life too Jesus at the ripe age of 5. And I recall telling Jesus that I knew it wasn't "official" until I reached the "age of reason" which was two years in they offing. I love seeing the little ones receive their First Communion. I'm celebrating for them and for me :-)

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Commentary by

Whitney Hetzel Whitney Hetzel

Whitney Hetzel is a wife, mother of nine children, homeschooler, and catechist. Passionate about her Catholic faith and physical fitness, she trains for marathons and triathlons and blogs at 9kidfitness.com to help other women stay healthy and fit while juggling the demands and joys of domestic life.

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