Definition: The initial reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist (the body and blood of Jesus). This is an important milestone in the life of the young Catholic, and is usually celebrated by at age seven or eight. It is the culmination of an extended period of instruction, and is preceded by the reception of the sacrament of Penance. In Catholic teaching, a child receives sanctifying grace when they are baptized as an infant. They are “born again” with water. When a child reaches the age of reason, they can commit serious sins and can lose their salvation. They must receive the sacrament of Penance (the “second plank of salvation) in order to be restored to a state of grace. The sacrament of Holy Communion strengthens the child to resist the temptation to commit sin. Church law requires that the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist be received at least once a year. For Catholics, salvation is achieved through the Church on the installment plan. It is a lifelong activity punctuated by the reception of sacraments.
Discussion: Many Catholic couples drift away from the Catholic faith and neglect mandatory church attendance. But when their first child approaches the age to receive communion these parents often return to the Church for the sake of their child. Thus, First Communion acts as a strong lure to return wayward Catholics to the fold. Due to the “once a year” requirement (and family and cultural pressure), Catholics swarm to mass on Christmas and Easter. Additional masses must be scheduled on those days to accommodate the crowds.
Articles & Viewpoints:
- Article from U.S. Catholic – You can go home again: Catholics return to the church