With the arrival of spring, First Communion season has arrived in many parishes throughout the Diocese of Raleigh. Young first communicants share the celebration with their parents, family, friends and schoolmates.
While festive family gatherings are planned in celebration, faith formation preparations have been underway much longer, as parishes offer programs that support parents raising children in the faith.
Children are instructed in the basic principles and doctrine of our faith, immersed in God’s holy Word, and given opportunities to encounter Christ through prayer and retreats. Receiving the sacrament of reconciliation is also part of preparing to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
Patrick S. Ginty, Associate Director of Faith Formation at the Diocese of Raleigh, says that children typically spend a minimum of two years in formal preparation for the reception of Jesus in Holy Communion.
“Parents should treat their child’s first communion as if it were their own,” said Ginty. “Jesus explains to us that unless we become like little children we will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. If we learned to love Jesus again with the simplicity of a child, not only would we give an excellent example to our children, but we would renew our own relationship with God and begin to live it with joy.” Ginty continued, “Parents can join their children in the same process of (re)discovery of the beauty of our faith, of the love that our good God has for us on an individual level, of the necessity for repentance of personal sin and reconciliation with God and of anticipation for meeting Christ in this most holy moment.”
While first Communion is indeed a cause for celebration, the true focus of that special day is the sacrament itself, receiving our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. As Catholics, we know that in the Holy Eucharist we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pope Francis has called it the "Sacrament of Love.”
As Reverend Marcos León, parish administrator of St. Bernadette Mission in Butner, says, “Parents many times get distracted trying to take the perfect picture and forget the real meaning of this day. Right before a child receives their first communion, parents should be giving a prayer for their children,” says Father Leon.