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First Holy Communion Preparation

Celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the First Time

Your child’s celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time usually happens during the season of Lent. Preparation in school is through the Grow in Love programme. The context in which the child prepares to celebrate this sacrament for the first time is always rooted in a sure knowledge that they are always loved by God and that God always forgives us. 
There are many ways in which the children are helped to do this, not least by experiencing the unconditional love of their parents and guardians. Your child knows that you will always love and forgive them and so they are helped to see God as one who loves and forgives us in a way that we can only begin to imagine.

In FIRST CLASS children are helped to understand that sometimes they lose their way, they don’t show love, and that when they do this it has an impact on themselves and on others. 
They learn the importance of saying sorry and begin to become aware of the steps involved in the process of reconciliation. They memorise and pray The Act of Sorrow
They listen to the story of Shauna, a little girl who made a bad choice when she lied to her mother, her teacher and her friends in school and how she came to say sorry. 
The word ‘sin’ is introduced to the children to describe doing something that we know is wrong. The experience of losing their way, of being lost is linked with the scripture story of the Lost Sheep. 
The children are helped to see God as the one who will always look for us, will always be waiting for us and will always want us to come back.
Take a moment during these days of preparation to consider your own attitude to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It may be some time since you experienced the sacrament. How would you respond if you were invited to celebrate the sacrament with your child? What would it mean to your child if their parents were also experiencing God’s love and forgiveness? 

PRAYERS TO PRACTICE AND PRAY 

ACT OF SORROW 
O my God, I thank you for loving me.I am sorry for all my sins,
for not loving others and not loving you.
Help me to live like Jesus 
and not sin again. Amen 

THE CONFITEOR
I confess to almighty Godand to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,through my most grievous fault;
therefore, I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
Amen.

In SECOND CLASS the children continue to deepen their understanding of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 
Together with the Act of Sorrow they learn to pray the Confiteor.
They consider what happens when we behave in ways that are not loving towards others and towards God. 
They continue to explore what ‘sin‘ is and come to realise that even when we sin God still loves us.
God will always forgive us and we should forgive others when they say sorry to us. 
They hear the story of Zacchaeus which helps them to see how we are always loved and forgiven by God.
The children are taught that there are five steps in celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 
When they come to celebrate the sacrament for the first time it will follow the format of these five steps. 

The following outline will help you to talk to your child about what will happen at the celebration.

1: I REALISE I HAVE DONE WRONG AND FEEL SORRY. 

This first step of the Reconciliation Celebration will include praying the Confiteor, listening to a scripture reading, singing a psalm and listening to a Gospel story, usually the story of Zacchaeus. 
This will be followed by a short Examination of Conscience when the children and adults present reflect on areas of their lives where they need forgiveness and want to say sorry to God.

2: I SAY SORRY TO GOD 

Parents are then invited to present their child to the priest and then step back to allow their child to celebrate the sacrament.
The child begins by making the Sign of the Cross
They tell the priest why they are there by saying ‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned….. 
They tell the priest what they are sorry for. 
This is what we call ‘confession.’ 
This is not a list of ‘sins’ but an opportunity to acknowledge one or two times when 
the child has not shown love or not lived as Jesus would like them to. 

3: I ACCEPT MY PENANCE AND PRAY THE ACT OF SORROW 

The priest gives the child something to do show that they are sorry, ‘penance,’ and asks them to say the Act of Sorrow.

4: I AM FORGIVEN 

The priest says the prayer of Absolution. In this prayer the child is assured of God’s love and forgiveness. 
The priest may say some words of encouragement and support to the child and they then return to their parent/s. 

5: I TRY AGAIN 

The child, having celebrated God’s love and forgiveness, knows that they must now try to make better choices. 
The gospel story that helps the children understand God’s love and forgiveness is that of Zacchaeus. 
In school they will talk about how Jesus met, had dinner with, and forgave Zacchaeus who was a cheat. 
They will consider how Zacchaeus came to realise the bad choices that he had made, how he knew he had sinned and how he decided that he would change and make better choices by following Jesus’ way. 
You can find the story of Zacchaeus in Luke, chapter 19, verses 1-10. 
As you help your child prepare to celebrate this sacrament for the first time you can talk to them about how we all need to say sorry for the bad choices that we make.
Take time at the end of the day, before they go to bed, to acknowledge a bad choice made by each member of the family. 
Say sorry to one another. Pray the Act of Sorrow together and give each other a hug with a promise to try our best to make better choices in the future. 

Do This in Memory –
A Parish Based Preparation Programme for First Eucharist

What is ‘Do This in Memory’?

Do This in Memory is a parish-based programme of preparation for First Communion centred in the parish celebration of the Sunday Eucharist and in the home. The programme resources are designed to facilitate parents, families and the parishes’ active involvement in the preparation for the sacrament. The programme takes place once a month for nine months before First Eucharist and concludes during the parish celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Programme Resources:

The Coordinator’s Manual 
This includes:

  • Liturgical guidelines for each Sunday of the programme
  • Homily notes
  • Text of Sunday readings
  • Post-Communion reflections
  • Liturgical guidelines for the celebration of First Eucharist
  • PowerPoint presentation and notes for the initial meeting with parents.
The following elements can also be found in the Coordinator’s Manual Fr Simon’s Top Ten THUMB Tips for Priests
These tips can be found in the Coordinator’s Manual. It is hoped that they will prove a useful resource for priests as they engage with Do This in Memory during the year.

Inserts for Parish Newsletters

As a way of connecting the wider parish community, and particularly other children, to the First Eucharist preparation there are a series of short inserts for Parish Newsletters entitled ‘Learning about the Mass with Kath and Qumen’. There are 36 of these short inserts which can be placed in the Parish Bulletin beginning on the weekend of Enrolment Sunday and continuing on a weekly basis until the programme is finished. The text of these can be found in Appendix 4 of the Coordinator’s Manual. This text is also on the CD-ROM that accompanies the manual. The files on the CD-ROM can be copied and pasted by the person who is responsible for producing the Parish Newsletter.
THUMB: That’s His/Her Useful Mass BookThis book provides material which helps parents and children engage with the programme before, during and after Mass.
THUMB contains the following:
An Introduction 
to Do This in Memory including a Guide for Parents that suggests ways they might use the programme most effectively 

What Happens at Mass?

• This exploration of the Mass is led by two cartoon characters, Kath and Qumen, who are also preparing for their First Eucharist. Through questions, observations and comments they help the children and their parents learn more about the Sunday Celebration.

The Rite of Mass:

• This section contains all the prayers and responses of the Mass. It will help parents and children to participate more fully in the celebration of the Eucharist. This year the responses and prayers have changed to reflect the introduction of the New Roman Missal in September 2011.

KidStuff:

• The final section of THUMB contains nine activity sheets to be completed at home after each Sunday of the program.

GRAPEVINE NEWSLETTERS

There are nine Grapevine Newsletters which are distributed to the families preparing for First Eucharist after each Do This in Memory Mass. Together with THUMB; the Grapevine helps parents to engage more fully with the programme at home. It includes the text for the Gospel of the next Sunday of the programme, suggestions for family prayer and the creation of a Family Prayer Space.

Do This in Memory is published by Veritas and is available from www.veritas.ie 
or by contacting Christine at fds@kandle.ie  or 059 9164084.