First Communion For Catholics (An Overview)

First Holy Communion is one of the 7 Sacraments of the Catholic church. While receiving the Eucharist is a Sacrament each time it is received in our lifetime, Catholics celebrate the first time this is done as a part of a special ceremony and a memorable, important part of our lives! Let’s take a look at what first communion is, how it is celebrated, and traditions surrounding the important Sacrament of First Communion for Catholics. 

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First Communion is when a person receives the body and blood of Jesus for the very first time. This is considered a very holy and significant event our lives. 

I will insert here that I am Roman Catholic, and I will be writing about the traditions and practices of Roman Catholic First Communions. 

First Communion Quick Facts

As always, it’s a lot easier to talk about and plan for something that we know the basics about. Here’s an overview of some things about First Holy Communion. 

  • 1 of the 7 Sacraments celebrated by Catholics
  • First Communion is the 3rd Sacrament received by Catholics, after Baptism and First Reconciliation 
  • It is given at the “age of reason”, which is age 7. So for this reason, First Communion class usually aligns with second grade
  • Children generally go through a year long class which also prepares them for an puts them through their First Reconciliation before receiving their First Communion
  • Catholics believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist
  • Communion is a Sacrament every time you receive it, us Catholics just like to make a really big deal out of the first time 😉
  • Catholics should be in a state of grace when receiving Communion, which is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is given to us first
  • Celebrations are thrown at the time of First Communion that can include photographs, cake, gifts, a gathering of friends and family, and many elements of any typical celebration
  • First Communion could be received as either bread, or both the bread and wine. The wine is not necessary when receiving the Eucharist. 
  • Children usually wear a white, symbolizing purity. This can be in the form of a dress or suit, although the suits are not always white. Veils are also traditionally worn for the girls, and arm bands for the boys. Clothing traditions can also differ from country to country or even from parish to parish. 

What The Catechism Says About First Communion

The Catechism is always a great place to start when learning about something in the Catholic faith! Here’s what the Catechism has to say about first communion:

“First Holy Communion. Having become a child of God clothed with the garment, the neophyte is admitted ‘to the marriage supper of the Lamb’ and receives the food of the new life, the body and blood of Christ. The Easter Churches maintain a lively awareness of the unity of Christian initiation by giving Holy Communion to all the newly baptized and confirmed, even little children, recalling the Lord’s words: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them.’ The Latin Church, which reserves admission to Holy Communion to those who have attained the age of reason, expresses the orientation of Baptism to the Eucharist by having the newly baptized child brought to the altar for the praying of the Our Father.” CCC 1244

So as you can see, the Eastern Church and the Latin Church administer First Holy Communion differently. 

First Communion As A Sacrament

I keep saying that First Communion is a Sacrament, but without understanding what a Sacrament is, you can’t really understand the significance of First Communion. 

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Definition of a sacrament: an outward sign instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church to give grace. 

First Holy Communion Preparation Classes

Typically, Catholics receive 1 year of First Communion preparatory classes for the school year leading up to their First Communion. This typically aligns with the child’s 2nd grade school year. Some parishes require 2 years of preparation, beginning in 1st grade. If your child has received the Sacrament of Baptism and is the age of reason (7), your child is ready to begin First Communion Prep class! Contact your local Catholic parish to talk about your options to enroll your child in First Communion prep class. 

First Communion Preparation At Home

Some parish’s will allow you to homeschool First Communion classes, and some parishes don’t permit this. Given what the Catechism says about the role of a parent in the religious instruction of children, I believe that parents should absolutely be allowed to prepare for this Sacrament at home. However, if you parish requires that you child attends the classes at the church, that doesn’t mean that you can’t (or that you shouldn’t) also help to prepare your child for this very important Sacrament at home as well! 

I have many resources to help you prepare the mind and heat of your child for the Sacrament of First Holy Communion here, so be sure to check that out. 

First Communion Requirements

There are a few things that are required before receiving communion, and this would actually apply to every time one receives the Eucharist, not just the first time:

  • Must be a baptized Catholic who has prepared for the sacrament of first holy communion. 
  • Must be in a state of grace. This mean you don’t currently have any mortal sins on your soul. If one has committed a mortal sin, you can be forgiven through the sacrament of reconciliation, and then you once again be in a state of grace. This is why children receive the sacrament of reconciliation prior to the sacrament of first communion. 
  • Must fast at least 1 hour before receiving communion. This means don’t eat anything else for at least an hour before communion. Again, this rule applies for every time one receives communion. 

First Communion Traditions

I have a post with 14 First Holy Communion traditions for families! Be sure to check those out to add meaning to your child’s special day.

First Communion Celebration Ideas

I love to celebrate Sacraments with a party because I want it to be known to my children that these days are very important and worth a celebration! I am way more willing to put my time, money, and energy into celebrating a Sacrament than something like a birthday because I think this communicates to the child and also the community what a big deal Sacraments are! 

Here are some more ideas that can be incorporated into your First Holy Communion party: