|Guidelines for First Eucharist and Reconciliation|
For the administration of the Most Holy Eucharist to children, 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 devotion1.
Children who have attained the use of reason, who can offer proof of baptism and who have been deemed ready through a suitable process of discernment and immediate catechesis may receive the sacrament, after being prepared according to their capacity by penance.
For the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, immediate catechesis consists of a two (2) year sacramental preparation program, the norm being reception of First Eucharist in grade 2 with a previous year in grade 1. However, since the readiness level will vary from student to student, it cannot be considered automatic when an individual reaches a specific grade level. In the case of home schoolers, evidence of this preparation must be provided to the pastor. The final decision for the reception of First Eucharist in this situation will be made jointly by the student, pastor and parents.
First Eucharist may be celebrated in parishes as a communal celebration or on an individual basis as a family celebration. If First Eucharist is celebrated individually, it is suggested that a communal celebration follows at the close of the academic year.
1. The discernment and catechesis prior to First Eucharist involves the child as well as the pastor, parents and/or sponsors, and catechists. If there is a dispute about the readiness of the child the final decision is between the pastor and the child’s parents. The catechesis for First Eucharist should be supported by prayer and ritual with the parish community. The role of the community in both the ongoing and immediate catechesis for First Eucharist deserves special note. During their preparation, candidates not only learn the truths of faith regarding the Eucharist, but also how to participate actively. The worshiping community, gathered at Sunday Eucharist, is the primary role model for these candidates.
2. The immediate family of each child should model a pattern of hospitality, celebration, sharing meals, mutual forgiveness, and gratitude to a child’s understanding of Eucharist. To support the family in all of this, the parish provides a preparation program for parents and/or sponsors during the time of immediate catechesis for the child.
3. Church law states that sacramental confession is to precede reception of communion. However, one is to confess serious sin prior to receiving communion only if one is conscious of such sin. 4. Parents may decide that their child is not ready for the sacrament of reconciliation before first Eucharist. Before reaching such a conclusion, parents are first to be informed of the church’s norm and the reasons for it. They are also to have participated in the parent preparation preceding discernment for the sacrament of reconciliation.
4. Parents are then to consult with the pastor, catechist, or where appropriate, the parish director of religious education. With the above steps taken, the ultimate decision belongs to the parents. Their decision is to be respected and an exception to the norm of the church is to be allowed so that a child can be admitted to first Eucharist without a prior sacramental confession. To do otherwise and require absolutely that all children celebrate first penance before First Eucharist without any possible exception would be beyond the church’s law and counter to sound theology.
5. No child should be denied reception of first Eucharist because the child has not first approached the sacrament of penance.
Because the Sacrament of Reconciliation involves the internal forum, according to Canon Law no information about the reception of the Sacrament should be recorded or registered. Giving a certificate with the date of first reception and the signature of the pastor is a violation of Church law.
1. Code of Canon Law. Canon Law Society of America, Washington, D.C. 20064. 1983. Canon #913.
2. Canon #914
3. Code of Canon Law. Canon Law Society of America, Washington, D.C. 20064. Canon #914.
4. Canon #988
5. Canon #989
6. Canon #91-100