The Eucharist: The heart of the Church
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
What is Holy Communion?
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. In the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. Christ is truly present – body, blood, soul, and divinity – under the appearances of bread and wine. The term “Eucharist” originates from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving.
In this sacrament, a baptized Catholic participates in the celebration of the Eucharistic feast – receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion. Typically, the first reception of Holy Communion is celebrated with special solemnity.
Those interested in receiving this sacrament must first be baptized in the Catholic faith or received into full communion, and have made his or her first confession in the sacrament of penance. Comprehensive education is also required. General diocesan guidelines can be found below. Contact a parish near you for details.
Usually the sacrament of Holy Eucharist is first given when a child reaches the age of reason (usually around age 7 – first or second grade for most children). For older children and adults, contact your local parish to discuss the options.
No, a sponsor is not required. However, godparents who were present at baptism should help the child prepare for first Holy Communion if this is an option.
Yes. It is important that the person who receives Holy Communion fully understands the commitment and the miracle taking place in the Eucharistic celebration. Each parish typically has its own curriculum, requirements and timeline for preparing people (children or adults) to receive this sacrament for the first time. Contact your local parish for more information.
Yes. People with special needs are not excluded from the sacraments. Reception of Holy Communion is the same for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities as for all people: they should be able to “distinguish the body of Christ from ordinary food,” even if this recognition is evidenced through manner, gesture, or reverential silence rather than verbally. Click here for more information.
The Lord Jesus, on the night before He suffered on the cross, shared one last meal with His disciples. During this meal our Savior instituted the sacrament of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages and to entrust to the Church a memorial of His death and resurrection. The Institution of the Eucharist is written down in the four Gospels below:
The transformed bread and wine are truly the Body and Blood of Christ – not merely symbols. When Christ said “This is my body” and “This is my blood,” the bread and wine are transubstantiated. Though the bread and wine appear the same to our human senses, they are actually the body and blood of Jesus.
Catholics who have been baptized and reached the age of reason (usually around the age of 7) may receive Holy Communion. They should be properly prepared to receive the wondrous gift of the Eucharist: Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Before receiving the sacrament, they should fast (except for medicines) for at least one hour and should not be conscious of having committed serious sin.
Because sharing at the Eucharistic Table is a sign of unity in the Body of Christ and public affirmation of one’s belief in the Real Presence, only those in communion with the Catholic Church may receive Holy Communion. To invite others present to receive Holy Communion implies a unity which does not exist. Those who do not receive Holy Communion can still participate by praying for unity with Christ and with each other, and approaching the altar with arms crossed to receive a blessing from the minister.
— Source: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops