Catholics believe that the seven sacraments are the heart of our faith. We are initiated into the Church as infants in the sacrament of baptism. Then when we reach the age of reason, around age 7, the Church extends an invitation for us to receive the Body of Christ in the sacrament of Eucharist. At the same time we are reconciled with the Church community through penance in the sacrament of reconciliation.
Parents often forget the many questions we had as children during this challenging period – about the sacraments and the preparations we needed to make, about what it was like to confess our sins for the first time and about receiving the Eucharist in our first Holy Communion.
Parish schools work hard to include parents in sacramental preparation. As children get ready to receive penance and first Holy Communion, parents are encouraged to join them in studying texts and materials and discuss what the sacraments mean.
Preparing for penance
Going to confession is similar to apologizing to Mom and Dad. To prepare, children must think about the ways they have displeased God. It sounds simple, but the process is difficult, especially for kids. Some questions that might help them prepare include:
- Have I denied my faith?
- Have I used God’s name in vain?
- Have I broken a promise?
- Have I honored every Sunday by celebrating the Mass?
- Have I shown respect to parents, teachers and family members?
- Was I impatient, angry, envious, proud, jealous, revengeful, or lazy?
- Have I forgiven others?
- Have I been chaste in thought and word?
- Have I spoken ill of any other person?
- Have I always told the truth?
Getting ready to receive the Eucharist
Catholic Parent magazine says parents can help their kids understand and prepare for First Communion by relating the experience to their lives.
Since one of children’s main interests in life is food, food is a natural starter for conversations about the Eucharist. “The Eucharist is a meal. On the table of the altar, Jesus feeds us with His Body and Blood, under the appearances of bread and wine.”
Friends are a high priority for kids. Their friendships can be a way to discuss the Eucharist. “We like to be around friends, and our love for them grows. Jesus called us friends, and in the Eucharist He made it possible for us to be with Him.”
The concept of gift-giving can help children understand the sacrificial element of the Eucharist. “We give gifts as a sign of our giving ourselves to people we love.”
We celebrate events like birthdays – and the Eucharist is a celebration of the most important event ever. “The Eucharist is a celebration. We gather with friends to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.”
Reassure kids by preparing together
Preparation for the sacraments is a challenge. Still, parents can help their kids be excited and confident when they first receive the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. Their reassurance helps kids understand how the sacraments are central to our faith. Their help preparing for confession will ease kids’ anxiety, and their emphasis on the miraculous meaning of the Eucharist will help kids welcome and appreciate their first Holy Communion.