Preparing for the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist
A child’s sacramental preparation provides the entire family with the opportunity to deepen their faith commitment and understanding of the sacraments. In addition, the parish community is renewed in its faith and commitment when it helps to prepare a child for the sacraments. For this reason, there is no totally “home study” program for sacramental preparation at St. Mark Catholic Church. Instead, sacramental preparation is done “in community,” in that the children and their parents gather periodically to reflect on the sacraments and on being the Body of Christ.
St. Mark parents play an active role in the preparation of their child for the sacraments. At each child’s baptism, parents are reminded that they are their child’s first and primary teachers of the faith. As such, they are the ones most capable of helping their child develop a relationship with God and an understanding of the sacraments they are preparing to receive.
So what can you, as parents, be doing to assist your child in sacramental preparation? First, be sure to pray, both for you child and with your child. Let your child see you communicating with and engaging in a relationship with God.
Children imitate what they see; let your children see you as parents who turn to God in prayer.
Second, be diligent about attending Mass with your child each Sunday and make sure that your child can see what is going on.
Ask your child questions about the liturgy: Did he see how father blessed the bread? What did she understand from the readings? What was the most memorable thing that took place at Mass that morning? Use the question of the week to discuss with your child how to live the gospel in the coming week. Make sure your child understands that at Mass we are very visibly united as the Body of Christ. Encourage your child to bring a notebook and write down any questions he or she has while Mass is going on. Then answer the questions while you are traveling home from Mass so that your child may understand what is going on and become a full participant. We encourage the parent(s) to let the child walk up with you when you receive the Eucharist. Your child should cross his or her hands over the chest with hands on the opposite shoulders, to receive a blessing.
Third, make certain that your child develops a comfortable relationship with the priests so that they will not feel they are meeting with a stranger at the time of their First Reconciliation and First Communion. At the very least, parents should invite their child to shake hands and talk with the priests after Mass.
Finally, spend time with your child going over their books and materials from class. Help them memorize their prayers and encourage them as they grapple with the concepts being taught.
Be open to seeing the sacraments through your child’s eyes; their vision is unclouded and their faith is sure and true. Share your experiences with the sacraments with your child and encourage other family members and Catholic friends to do the same.
First Reconciliation Preparation
Please keep in mind that there is no hard and fast “deadline” for your child’s reception of the sacraments; each child will come to an understanding of Reconciliation and the Eucharist at his or her own pace. The goal is for your child to grasp the significance of these sacraments and what they mean in the context of your child’s relationship with God.
to ensure that the child knows that God loves him/her unconditionally and will forgive all sins
to help the child develop a healthy understanding of sin and its ability to destroy relationships with others and with God;
to provide the child tools for an examination of conscience;
to encourage the child toward admission of sorrow for doing wrong.
to ensure that the child learns the prayers that will be part of the Reconciliation experience—the Act of Contrition, the Hail Mary and the Our Father
You can help your child prepare for his/her first reconciliation by:
It has been our experience that the children who are most comfortable with the sacrament of Reconciliation are those who have observed that their parents are comfortable with the sacrament. Therefore, we encourage parents to take advantage of the many opportunities our parish provides for reception of the sacrament and to bring their child with them when they receive it. Talk to your child beforehand about the examination of conscience. Encourage your child to pray with you as you prepare to receive the sacrament, and for you while you are in with the priest (naturally, you will not bring your child into the Reconciliation room with you). Discuss the need for doing penance with your child, and talk with them about how good it feels to know that your sins have been forgiven. Encourage older siblings and other relatives to share their experiences of Reconciliation with the child and how much forgiveness means to us all. Children learn best by observing the people they trust; they will learn the most about the sacrament of Reconciliation from observing your participation in the sacrament.
• Helping your child practice the examination of conscience by lead him/her through an examination of the day each evening when prayers are said;
• Practicing the Act of Contrition with your child (it could be incorporated into evening so that it is memorized before your child’s first Reconciliation.
• Praying the rosary with your child to help commit the typical penance prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be) to memory.
First Communion Preparation
Materials to help you impart this information to your child are available from the Faith Formation Office and in the Parish Library.
to make certain the child knows that the Eucharist is the Real Presence, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ
to give the child an understanding that Catholics are made one in the Body of Christ through our reception of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist—we are what we eat
to ensure that each child knows and recognizes the order of the Mass, and is a confident participant in the Mass
to encourage each child to approach the Eucharist with reverence, joy, awe and wonder
The Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our lives as Christians (Lumen Gentium 11). It is the source, because it is the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is God and without whom there would be no life, no salvation, no Church. It is the summit because it joins us to him in a real, physical and intimate way. What experience could possibly be bigger than becoming one with our Lord and Savior! We should approach the sacrament with wonder, awe, and joy. This is what needs to be imparted to every child who receives first Eucharist.
In the early Church, Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation were administered together when a person entered the Catholic Church. There was no need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at that time; the catechumen’s sins were washed away in the Sacrament of Baptism.
When the Church began baptizing infants, it became the custom in the western Church to separate the reception of first Eucharist from Baptism. The Church eventually settled on preparing children for the sacrament of Eucharist at around the age of seven, when the child is able to understand abstract concepts, such as the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ. Since a child may commit some small sins in the time between being baptized and receiving first Eucharist, reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation needs to occur before a child receives first Eucharist.
You can help your child prepare for First Communion by:
Reflecting upon your personal experiences and share with your child how the Eucharist has deepened your relationship with Christ. Tell your child about your first Eucharist and invite other family members and Catholic friends to do the same.
Impress upon your child that Jesus is physically present in the bread and wine and that we become one with Him when we partake of the sacrament.
Read your child the gospel stories of the Last Supper so that he/she understands that the words of consecration, “This is my Body…this is my Blood,” are Jesus’s words that are repeated in the Mass.
Model reverence for the blessed sacrament in your daily lives
Do a family service project such as visiting a nursing home or helping at a soup kitchen to help your child understand that the Eucharist binds us to other people as members of Christ’s body