First Holy Communion is one of the most holy and important occasions in the life of a Roman Catholic. This is the first time a child will receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which Catholics believe to be the body of Jesus Christ.
Although most people receiving this sacrament are around eight years of age, first Holy Communion can be received by anyone. Afterward, the person is then able to receive the Eucharist at mass every week.
To receive Communion, requirements of the church must be met:
• The person is baptized.
• The person is a living human being.
• The individual has proper, spiritual intent.
• The person has fasted for at least an hour prior to receiving the Eucharist.
• The person is in a state of grace and not having sinned mortally.
Generally the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance goes hand-in-hand with receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Children who are preparing for this event must confess any mortal sins so that they can receive the Eucharist in a state of grace. It has become canon law that all practicing Catholics go to confession at least once a year. Many do so more often, especially during the Lenten and Advent seasons.
Children may need some preparation and support for the penance process. All Catholic confessions must be done before an ordained priest or bishop. Being an authority figure, the priest may seem intimidating to a young child. Also, the thought of confessing deep secrets may inspire some trepidation. Reassuring the child that there is nothing to fear and that the priest is not there to judge can make the process go more smoothly. Knowing what to expect can also assuage fears.
1. The child will greet the priest.
2. He or she will say, “Forgive me Father for I have sinned.”
3. The priest may then ask if any sins have been committed. Children may have fibbed or said naughty words and should confess to this.
4. The priest may then ask for certain prayers to be said or a good deed to be done to make up for the sins.
5. The child may then recite the Act of Contrition, of which there are several variations. Here is one version:
My God, I am sorry for my sins, in choosing to sin and failing to do good. I have sinned against You and Your church. I firmly intend with the help of Your Son to make up for my sins and to love as I should. Amen.
6. The priest will then say words of absolution from God and bless the child.
It is important that children know what their particular parish requires in terms of receiving First Holy Communion, including whether they will need to confess their sins prior.