According to the website Schooldays.ie the best preparation for First Communion is taking your child to Mass regularly and helping your child understand what it is all about. If there is a children’s Mass you can take your child to that and encourage him or her to participate.
Many parishes now run a preparatory programme for children preparing for First Communion. This programme is called “Do This in Memory”. This usually takes place once a month at a particular Mass where the children preparing for First Communion are invited to sit together and the priest explains the readings to the children. Leaflets giving information and hints to parents on how to prepare their children are also available at these Masses. Many children now receive First Communion at a regular mass in their parish and preparation is parish rather than school based. Others are prepared both at school and in the parish.
It is important that what is being taught at school and at home are in harmony. As a parent it is worthwhile asking to see the school’s Communion programme and finding out how you can help your child. Very often schools will invite you along to one or more meetings before the First Communion day. Though the basic Catholic belief in the Eucharist hasn’t changed over the years, how it is explained to children today may well be very different from the way it was explained to you or your parents so attending such a meeting can be very informative and supportive in helping you prepare your child.
The word ‘communion’ means “to be united with. Catholics believe that in holy communion they are united in a special way with Jesus Christ, that they are “sharing in the body and blood of Christ the Saviour. Holy Communion, and the whole service (Mass) is also known as Eucharist, from a Greek word meaning thanksgiving. The Sacrament of the Eucharist (First Holy Communion) is a Roman Catholic ceremony. It is the colloquial name for a person’s first celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist. The celebration of First Eucharist is a sacred and important moment on a long journey of faith development. Together with Baptism and Confirmation, it opens the door to full membership of the Christian community. Most Catholic children receive their First Communion when they’re seven or eight years of age because this is considered the age of reason. This means that most children are usually in second class in school when they make their First Communion. In order to receive communion the recipient should be without sin and in a state of grace. Traditionally, therefore young Catholic children will make their first confession, i.e. the Sacrament of Reconciliation some weeks before receiving their First Holy Communion. The Sacrament of Baptism must also have been received before receiving the First Communion. First Communion is traditionally an important festive occasion for Roman Catholic families. Also, Holy Communion is the second sacrament of the seven. This is traditionally practiced by many Roman Catholic Italians, Latino, Scottish, and Irish families.
Traditions surrounding First Communion usually include large family gatherings and parties to celebrate the event and special clothing is usually worn. The clothing is often white to symbolize purity. Girls often wear fancy dresses and a veil attached to a headdress, as well as either long or short white gloves. In other communities girls commonly wear dresses passed down to them from sisters or mothers, or even simply their school uniforms plus the veiled headdress and gloves.
In Switzerland and Luxembourg, both boys and girls wear plain white robes with brown wooden crosses around their necks. In Scotland, boys traditionally wear kilts and other traditional Scottish dress which accompany the kilt.
Gifts of a religious nature are usually given, such as rosaries, prayer books, in addition to religious statues and icons.
First Communion is not practiced in most Eastern Catholic Churches, which practice Infant Communion. First Communion is also celebrated by some Anglicans and some Protestant denominations, particularly Lutherans. Celebration of this ceremony is typically less elaborate in Protestant churches that practice it. Roman Catholics and some protestant denominations, including Lutherans, believe Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, though they nuance this concept differently. Other denominations have varying understandings, ranging from the Eucharist being a “symbolic” meal to a meal of “remembering” Christ’s last supper. Roman Catholic adults who have not received their First Communion can go through a separate program called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA to receive this sacrament.