Preparing Young People For Confirmation And First Communion

Preparing Young People For Confirmation And First Communion

Many parishes will celebrate confirmation and first communion during the Easter season. Unfortunately, Confirmation and First Communion Masses are sometimes used as an opportunity to showcase the abilities of the children and a lot of time is spent ensuring that every child has an “up-front” part to play in the liturgy. After all these attempts to give children a special role, the central aspects of the sacraments – the laying on of hands and anointing with chrism and the act of sharing at the Lord’s table with the whole assembly – become anti-climactic and almost overlooked.

The preparation of the children should be centred on their full, conscious and active participation in these key gestures. The parish’s usual ministers (musicians, readers, collectors, etc.) should carry out their normal roles. The special role of those to be initiated is to share in the body and blood of the Lord for the first time. Other parish members minister to them as they are confirmed and welcomed to the table.

Sacramental preparation is the responsibility of both the family and the parish community. It is the duty of parents and parish catechists to offer the children prayerful and practical help to celebrate the sacraments with proper devotion and to “coach” them in the rituals of receiving the sacraments.

It is vital that the children know how to respond confidently to the words spoken to them by the bishop. They will need to practice replying to the proclamation “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” with a firm “Amen”, and to “Peace be with you” with a gracious “And also with you”. Making these statements is an act of faith. They need to be said with conscious conviction if the children are to enter fully into the ritual.

Before their first reception of communion, the children need to be told how to answer “Amen” and shown how to take their place in the communion procession, how to hold out their hands, how to consume the host, as well as how to hold the chalice and drink from it.

Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem in the middle of the fourth century gave such instruction to those adults who were about to be received into the church:

”When you come forward, do not draw near with your hands wide open or with fingers spread apart; instead, with you left hand make a throne for the right hand, which will receive the King. Receive the body of Christ in the hollow of you hand and give the response: Amen.”

The liturgy is indeed “the work of the people”. We all make the liturgy happen by acting as the Body of Christ at worship, by standing, singing, responding, praying, and keeping silent together. This is our right and duty by reason of our baptism (CSL 14).

Preparing young people for Confirmation and First Communion is not about rehearsing them for a one-off performance, but rather helping them to take their rightful place in the Sunday assembly week after week.

Elizabeth Harrington