Get a head start on preparing your child for receiving the sacrament.
How can we tell if a child is ready for First Communion? (Actually, are we ever truly ready to receive Christ?) Laurel, mother of two, says, “It seems to me that the first thing to take into account is the child’s desire. It is like a call that cannot quite be put into words. I think that, in the case of my own children, there was a true desire for Jesus in the Eucharist, a readiness to be filled with the mystery of God.” Later she adds, with a radiant smile: “It’s a desire that infinitely overwhelms us!”
It can be expressed in many different ways, but keep in mind that some children feel quite shy about explaining what they’re experiencing within. “My son told me he wanted to know Jesus better and do the ‘whole’ Mass, and that’s when I gave the green light for him to make his First Communion,” shares Emily.
But what about those who are not so clearly motivated? “It’s not necessarily a serious problem,” comments one mother. “Often, a child who doesn’t seem interested in making his First Communion becomes interested during his preparation for the sacrament. He will be evangelized by the others and, of course, by his Catechism classes.”
St. John Paul II pointed out: “[Christ always showed] an extraordinary affection for children. He told the Apostles: ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them’ (Mark 10:14).” Also remember that, if they’re on the road to this great sacrament, it is because at one time or another there was a spark, a desire, a thirst.
The essential criteria: Faith in the Real Presence
Nevertheless, there are other clues to help you know if your child is ready. It is crucial that he or she can distinguish between good and evil—which is also why it is necessary to make First Confession before First Communion—and to show a desire to respond more fully to what Jesus asks.
“When he was taking his First Communion classes, I noticed that my son was more helpful and doing more around the house,” comments Laurel. “And when we prayed together, he was more demanding, more concentrated.”
Being familiar with Sunday Mass is also a necessary condition. “I think that my four children were ready for Communion from the moment they became aware of the death of Jesus on the cross, and of his resurrection as a great message of hope. They may not have completely understood, but they interiorized it at that moment,” recalls Amy.
Without a doubt, the most important criterion is, and always has been, faith in the real Presence: “When the child distinguishes between ordinary bread and the Eucharistic bread and is conscious that there is a real change between before and after the blessing—even though visibly nothing happens—then, the child is ready to receive their First Communion,” Father Remi tells us.
Thus, the key is not a question of knowledge, but of faith—a child’s faith, which sometimes is greater than adult faith, even though it’s still developing. It may be difficult to admit, and easier to present things in a different way, as if children were not capable of understanding this, of believing this. But don’t underestimate the grace of God!