In the simplest terms, First Holy Communion is a religious ceremony performed in church by Catholics when a child reaches the age of around 7-8 years and celebrates the first time receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist, when during Mass the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. After this special occasion, the child is able to receive Holy Communion regularly and is more deeply initiated into the Catholic Church. It is necessary for the child to have been Baptised (Christened) prior to their First Holy Communion.
The First Holy Communion is held in church within a special ‘First Holy Communion Mass’ and involves several children receiving the Sacrament, in a service that is open to the whole community. The children and their parents have been preparing for their special day by attending a series of meetings at the church and home based catechesis. They also have been regularly attending Mass.
Family, Godparents and friends of the family will be invited to celebrate, along with the church-going community that gathers together each week. The child will be dressed up – girls in a pretty white dress and veil, and boys in a suit or suit jacket. Anyone attending should dress appropriately for church – modestly and smartly but not over-the-top. Sports jackets for men or smart shirt and trousers are perfect, and a pretty dress or a top and skirt for ladies is ideal.
The Mass will last for approximately an hour though this will vary. It will consist of prayers, hymns, readings, bidding prayers and the actual Communion. Children will receive their Holy Communion first, then any other worshippers will be invited to receive Communion too. If you are not Catholic you can just stay seated at this point or come forward to he Priest and ask for the blessing (with your hands crossed over your chest).
If you’ve been invited to a First Holy Communion, enjoy sharing this special day with family or friends. You won’t be able to take photos in the Church but make sure you get plenty outside after the service for the Communion photo album. The family may even have a professional photographer in attendance. It is a lovely idea to give a card and a Communion gift that the child can keep to remember their special day forever. Great ideas for gifts for a First Holy Communion are bibles, Communion photo albums, rosaries or other religious items.