Preparing for First Holy Communion

Holy Communion

Every year, the number one question from my second graders as they prepare for First Holy Communion is, “Mrs. Coleman, what does it taste like? My brother said it tastes like paper.” My typical response to this concern is, “Does your brother often eat paper?”

My concerns as a catechist are a bit different than the children’s. The closer we get to First Eucharist, the more I worry: Are they ready? Do they truly understand?

The one thing any First Communicant needs to know is that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. At the beginning of our year together, I tell the class that the most important thing they will learn this year is that the Eucharist really is Jesus Christ. I repeat this throughout the year. Several years ago I emphasized this by closing the classroom door and shouting, “It’s really Jesus!”

I am fairly sure it more shocked the kids than impressed them about the truth of the Real Presence. To help them understand that truth, I’ve realized that I have to help them know who Jesus is. The ultimate goal of my time with them is to help them come to know Jesus. I always try to keep in mind that I am not there just to help them learn about Jesus but to help them know Jesus himself. I do that by focusing on prayer and Scripture.

I teach the children the traditional prayers of the Church, but I also invite them to share their personal prayer intentions when we gather at our prayer table at the close of our class time. Another fruitful way to pray with them has been guided meditations. I use the guided meditations that come with our Eucharist textbook and add others drawn from Praying with Scripture or Praying My Faith. Guided meditations are a great opportunity for children to experience quiet and listening in prayer. There is nothing more heartening after finishing a guided meditation than to hear a child ask, “Can we do this again next week?”

In addition to prayer, we read and discuss the Scripture stories included in our text, and we reflect on the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday, using resources such as Sunday Connection. I also lead lessons about Jesus’ life that correspond to the seasons of the liturgical year. During the Christmas season I lead a lesson on Jesus’ birth, starting with the Annunciation. In January, I offer a separate lesson on the Epiphany and Flight to Egypt. During Lent I teach a lesson on the Stations of the Cross and another on the events of Holy Week to explore as much as possible the core of our faith. This culminates in lessons on the story of the Resurrection and Pentecost. These lessons help the children meet Jesus throughout the year.

We celebrate First Holy Communion at my parish at a specific regular Sunday Mass or at the more typical large Saturday Mass. Last year, one of my students was very clear about which Mass she wanted to make her First Communion. “I want to receive Jesus on Good Friday and Easter,” she told me. I had no doubt—she knew the Real Presence.

What are your experiences preparing children for First Holy Communion?

About Cindy Coleman 24 Articles
Cindy Coleman is a second-grade catechist and VBS leader at both her home parish of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer in Montgomeryville, PA, and at St. Jude Parish in Chalfont, PA. She has been a catechist for over 25 years. Cindy is also the co-coordinator of her parish’s Liturgy of the Word with Children. Among her other parish activities, she is excited about the new WINE (Women in the New Evangelization) group she just started at her home parish. She is married to Ron and the proud mother of Matt, who just graduated from the University of Notre Dame.

8 Comments on Preparing for First Holy Communion

  1. I stumbled across this site (more likely, the Holy Spirit guided me here), and am so happy I did! I was asked to give a 40 minute presentation at my parish’s First Holy Communion retreat. The topic is the true presence. I think I know what direction to take but was wondering whether you had any topic related games and/or movement break ideas which I can incorporate. Want to keep things engaging! Any thought/ideas/suggestions you could offer would be very helpful and much appreciated! Also how do you address the question, “ is it real flesh/blood?”

    • I think John 6 The bread of life discourse along with examples of the Eucharistic miracles, so many from the 1st century to the present. I taught 5th grade Catholic school for one year. Day 1 I told my students about the Miracle at Offida, Italy. They got so excited that they wanted a new story of the miracles every day! I believe many Catholics don’t even know of them. And they have been approved through the Vatican. I believe it is a must to receive on the tongue as has been tradition. Lots of practice. What a blessing you are!

  2. Hi.. I was asked by my parish to take on the catechism class leading to holy communion… I accepted wholeheartedly but I am terrified… I do not know were to start!!! Can anyone help me out please?

    • Hi Dawn! Thanks for your honesty about your trepidation of teaching First Holy Communion class! You are not alone…many people experience such fears. I’ll be happy to offer help. Send me an email at paprocki@loyolapress.com and tell me specifically where you’d like to begin and what you need most and I’ll be happy to converse with you.

      • Hi Joe, I am also going to be preparing children for their 1st Holy Communion. I have not taught CCD classes before so I am wondering why they gave me such an important class. I have prayed to the Holy Spirit to guide me as I volunteered, and I also asked Him to help me be assigned the right class. So, I feel this must be right, but I’m still scared like Dawn is. There must be books and guidance for us… I’ll find out soon as we are having a meeting soon. Classes start next Wednesday Sept 7. I don’t even know what to ask you yet. But, the Holy Spirit must have led me here so I’ll write again when I know what to ask! Thanks for offering your help.

        • Hi Marilyn! It is indeed exciting and intimidating to be “tossed into the deep end of the pool” as you begin your ministry as a catechist. Have no doubt, however, that the Holy Spirit you received in Baptism if eager to assist you and equip you with the inspiration you need to excel in this ministry. Let me know when you identify the questions you need to ask and I’ll do my best to help answer!

  3. Thank you so much for the information given here. This will be my first year teaching a first communion class. Is there a guide to follow for teaching this class? I want to better serve my students by providing them with what’s most needed, but I do not know where to begin. For example, is there an order to teach prayers? or Is there a monthly theme I should focus on other than the ones we know for Christmas and Easter? Thank you in advance

    • Hi Mirna! What an honor to teach First Communion! It is natural to feel intimidated as a “newbie” and to be entrusted with sacramental preparation. Be sure to ask your questions of your catechetical leader who should provide you with the guidance you need. If not, check with your diocesan catechetical office or the publisher of your textbook/catechetical resources. If you’re unable to find assistance and guidance from those sources, check back with us here at Catechist’s Journey and we’ll see how we might be able to help. Blessings!

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