First Reconciliation and Eucharist

Preparation for the Sacrament of  Reconciliation and First Eucharist

This class is typically offered to children in the second grade.  The class is delivered in to parts with the first focus on the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the second on the Sacrament of Eucharist.   The class is offered beginning in October and through May.  Depending on the need we will offer classes for older children in age appropriate categories.

PREPARATION FOR THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE FOR CHILDREN

  1. Every baptized child has the right to approach the Sacrament of Penance at the "age of discretion," (Quam Singulari, 1910).  Each parish community has the responsibility of providing a program to prepare children for the first reception of this sacrament (Canon 777).  Because any person is required to celebrate this sacrament only when she/he is in the condition of serious sin (Canon 988), the right of the child and his/her freedom not to confess, must be scrupulously respected.
  2. Catechesis should respect the age and ability of each individual child.  The parish First Penance Program should provide the children with texts, approved by the Bishop, which present the current teaching of the Church concerning Penance.  Catechesis for First Penance should:
    1. Teach the relationship of the sacrament to the child’s own life.  This would include an understanding of sin and oneself as a sinner, an understanding of personal free will, choice and responsibility, and an understanding of the infinite love of God, with an emphasis on God's merciful love and forgiveness.  This sacrament is to be presented as a graced moment to celebrate that love and forgiveness.
    2. Teach the difference between right and wrong.
    3. Teach the presence of good and evil in the world and their potential within each person’s life.
    4. Teach the importance of repentance of wrongdoing by turning to the forgiveness of Christ and the Church.
    5. Teach that faith is demonstrated in this sacrament by accepting forgiveness and forgiving others.
    6. Teach the child to approach the sacrament freely. 
    7. Teach the meaning of the various parts and how to celebrate the Rite of Penance (NDC 135-136).
  3. “…Young children and persons with mental disabilities often are conscious of committing acts that are sinful to some degree and may experience a sense of guilt and sorrow.  As long as the individual is capable of having a sense of contrition for having committed sin, even if he or she cannot describe the sin precisely in words, the person may receive sacramental absolution.  Those with profound mental disabilities, who cannot experience even minimal contrition, may be invited to participate in penitential services with the rest of the community to the extent of their ability”  (Guidelines for the
    Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities 15).
  4. Parents are the primary educators of their children (Christian Education, paragraph 3, Vatican II document).  As such, they are responsible, together with parish priests, parish catechetical leaders, and catechists, for preparing their children for the Sacrament of Penance, and for determining the readiness of their children to celebrate the sacrament.  Parents are expected to participate in the preparation program of their respective parish.  Specifics of this preparation can be found in APPENDIX 406.
  5. Catechesis for the preparation for this sacrament is to remain clearly separate from introductory catechesis for the Sacrament of Eucharist, (NDC 135).  To emphasize this distinction, the programs of specific sacramental catechesis for each sacrament and the first celebration of each should be separated by a significant interval of time.  This will help avoid the misconception that Penance is always a prerequisite for Eucharist.
  6. It is recommended that simple communal celebrations of sorrow and forgiveness to the needs and understanding of the young child be employed in this catechesis (cf. Rite of Penance, Appendix II, Section VI, vi).  Catechists and parents may not only help plan these services but also preside at them.  This catechesis is to be considered only the beginning of a developmental education process intended to continue into adult life.
  7. The first celebration of Penance should be within the context of a communal penance service as found in the Rite of Penance, Form II.  It is recommended that such communal celebrations include adult participation in addition to the participation of children.  Every effort should be made by the pastor, other involved priests, coordinators, catechists, and parents to provide a positive experience for these children.

 How do I know when my child is ready to receive the Eucharist?

First, listen to your child.  It is important that your child not receive the Eucharist until s/he has expressed a desire to do so.  In their own words children should be able to tell us why they want to receive Communion.  This ability to express their desire and to give the reasons behind that desire proves that they “have reached the use of reason” as required by Church Law (Cannon 914).

Second, ask some gentle questions of your child.  Church law (Cannon 913) also states: “It is required that they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so as to understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity, and can receive the Body of the Lord with faith and devotion.”  In practical terms this means that children are expected to know something about God the Father, Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit who guides us in following what Jesus and the Church teach us.  They must know, and be able to tell you, “Who” they are receiving in Communion.

Finally, watch your child.  The “careful preparation” required by Cannon 913 (quoted above) is more than intellectual preparation.  It includes formative experiences in faith such as regular prayer, participation in Sunday Mass each week, and service to others through acts of charity and works of mercy.  As you see your child regularly and willingly increase her involvement in these activities, you will know she is ready to celebrate her First Communion.

Which prayers should my child be able to say by heart?

Before receiving the Eucharist for the first time your child should be able to join the assembly in all the responses during the Mass.  These responses are easily learned through regular participation in the Mass.  A missal might prove to be a useful tool for your child as she learns these responses.

 
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