So you’ve been invited to a first communion. Where do you go from here? A First Communion is a sacred and serious ceremony, but it’s also a special celebration! All you need are some guidelines on how to prepare and what to expect. Keep reading for our detailed yet as-simple-as-possible guide.
What is a First Communion anyways?
A First Communion is a rite of passage also known as the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and is a celebration of a child’s decision to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church. He/She will eat the Bread of Life (or a “host” – a round white wafer made of wheat) and drink wine from the Cup of Life. Typically, the service will be part of the normal Sunday Mass, but could include a procession of the first communicants, or a gathering of the communicants prior to their participation in the Eucharist.
A brief background:
According to the Bible, Jesus’ last meal with His disciples took place during the celebration of Passover. Giving them bread, Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Next, offering wine from a shared cup, He told them, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” Believers today observe the Lord’s Supper as a symbol of cleansing, consecration, and communion. These elements of bread and wine, along with the communication between God and His believers, formed the basis of the ceremony.
Please keep in mind that while visitors are welcome to be in the fellowship with church believers, most churches ask that only worshipers take part in Holy Communion. This is because taking in the Lord’s Supper is considered to be a conscious act that requires belief. To learn more about Catholic Mass proceedings, click here to jump to the bottom of this guide.
What to wear
Children participating in First Communion are expected to dress appropriately. For girls, this means white closed-toes shoes and a modest, sleeved, white dress. The white dress symbolizes purity and typically, the dress can be as ornate or simple as the girl wishes. Girls can also choose to wear white stockings or knee socks and a white veil, headband, barrette, flower crown, or small tiara in their hair. Boys typically wear a dark suit, dark colored dress shoes, a dark solid colored tie, and a white armband on the left arm.
When attending a First Communion, keep in mind that you will be in a church. Therefore, you should wear attire that is “church appropriate.” Think modest.
Do wear: Collared shirts, button-up shirts, ties, dress pants, dress shoes or loafers are appropriate for men and young boys. Skirts/dresses at or below the knee, sleeved blouses. dress pants, and closed-toe dress shoes are appropriate for women and young girls.
Don’t wear: Strapless or thin strapped tops, low cut tops, t-shirts, jeans, shorts or short skirts, flip flops or tennis shoes. Women should also be conscious about how much makeup they wear. Young girls should not wear makeup.
It’s customary to give children meaningful gifts such as bibles and religious jewelry at their First Communion, but non-Catholics may find it more appropriate and comfortable to give the child money. Close family members may also give the child money in addition to or instead of a religious gift . The best way to present money as a gift is with a card. Typically amounts between $20 and $200 are appropriate. If you are uncomfortable with only giving money, a small token gift such as a stuffed animal or picture frame is a good addition.
Traditional Catholic Mass Proceedings
- Holy water – the community dips their fingers into the holy water which resembles blessing ourselves to remember that before receiving Jesus, our souls should be cleansed of sins.
- The Penitential Rite – the opening greeting during mass where the community asks for God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of one another for our sins. Also known as Confession or Absolution.
- Gloria – a joyful response to the forgiveness received in the Penitential Act. It is also called the “Angelic Hymn” because it begins with the song of the angels that was heard at the birth of Jesus Christ.
- Lectionary Readings – a book of readings taken from the Bible. Also known as the Scriptures.
- The community sings the Responsorial Psalm followed by singing the Alleluia.
- Liturgy of the Word – the priest will proclaim the Gospel from Book of Gospels.
- Homily – the priest will give an explanation of the Scriptures that were proclaimed.
- The Profession of Faith – everyone will say the Profession of Faith, which are the main beliefs of Catholic Christians.
- Liturgy of the Eucharist – the second part of mass, which begins with the Preparation of the Altar and the Gifts. This is when the priest prepares the altar and accepts the gifts of bread and wine from the community. during the preparation, the priest will begin the Eucharistic Prayer, during which the community will say or sing the Holy, Holy, Holy.
- Consecration – a toast or tribute. in which the community recognizes that the bread and wine become Jesus’ Body and Blood.
- Memorial Acclamation – an important mass prayer where the community expresses the heart of their faith.
- The Communion Rite – the community says or sings the Lord’s Prayer.
- Sign of Peace – the community expresses to Jesus that they want to love one another as He loved His people.
- The Lamb of God – the final step in which the community invites Jesus to make us holy by saying or singing, “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.” (The community now has the privilege of truly receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, Jesus’ Body and Blood).
- During the reception of Jesus in Communion, the community will share songs, which will be followed by a period of silence.
- Concluding Rite – the priest will say a prayer and a blessing.
- Dismissal – the priest will invite everyone to go in peace.
The family of the child may choose to host a celebration at home following the ceremony. Depending on the family’s preference, it may be a small gathering or a larger more intricate celebration with First Communion favors, decorations, and all.
(Sources: First Holy Communion Etiquette, What is Holy Communion, Why Should We Take Part In Communion, First Communion Parent Handbook, The Proper Attire for a Girl’s First Holy Communion, First Holy Communion Dress Requirements, First Communion Money Giving Etiquette)