The Sun continues its series on the seven sacraments. The Eucharist is a sacrament that many young Catholics across the diocese celebrated for the first time this month. To help explain the importance of this sacrament, the Sun interviewed members of the First Communion Class of St. Patrick’s-St. Anthony’s Parish in Chadwicks, as they prepared to receive the Eucharist for the first time.
What does First Holy Communion mean?
“It’s the first time you get to eat the body and drink the blood.”
— Leah DeCarr, 8
According to the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Holy Communion is the sharing of the Eucharist in which Christ is considered present. The word “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving” and the word “Communion” means to share and exchange intimate thoughts and feelings of a mental or spiritual level. During Holy Communion, the priest recalls the words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper. The priest
consecrates or blesses the bread and wine, as Jesus did for the disciples. Once blessed, the bread and wine are then changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This process is known as “transubstantiation.” Although the bread and wine appear to be physically unchanged, both have been spiritually changed and the Risen Lord is actually present in the bread and wine. When Catholics celebrate First Eucharist, it is the first time they receive the bread and wine that has been changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Why do we want to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ?
“Because we become part of God and Jesus.” —Samantha Dawes, 8
According to Pope Francis, Jesus is the living bread that can satisfy a person’s deepest yearnings. By taking part in the celebration of the Eucharist, the USCCB states that Catholics can then share Jesus’ divine life and are “nourished by the living bread and the cup of salvation. The Risen Lord Jesus comes to share in his friendship and life. He gives Himself completely and entirely to us so we are then called to give ourselves completely and entirely to Him. We are fortified against sin and healed of our weaknesses and empowered to live a holy life of sacrificial love for one another.”
Who can receive Holy Communion and what do they need to learn before receiving the Eucharist?
“They need to love God a lot, and be like Jesus.” —Madison Polarolo, 8
Catholics who are baptized and participate in the faith by attending Mass regularly can receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
“In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916)” (USCCB, Guidelines For The Reception Of Communion). Catholics should regularly receive the Sacrament of Penance, or forgiveness for their sins.
Communion is distributed by a priest or Eucharistic minister and can be received by the recipient either on the tongue or in the hand. The priest or Eucharistic minister states to the recipient, “The Body of Christ,” and the recipient responds saying, “Amen,” the Hebrew word for “So be it.”
How do you feel to be receiving the Eucharist for the first time?
“Excited and nervous. But mostly excited.” —Emma DeSanctis, 8
The next sacrament featured will be Confirmation. The Sun thanks the children of the First Communion class of St. Patrick’s-St. Anthony’s and their parents, Beth Evans, and Father Abraham Esper for their help with this article. To view First Communion photos and video from a variety of parishes in the diocese, visit thecatholicsun.com.