A Homily for Children Receiving First Holy Communion


Many years ago, there was a holy nun that went to the great Saint Teresa and was telling her how she wished that she had been alive at the same time that Jesus was walking around on the earth.  She kept thinking what a joy it would have been to see his face, to hear his voice and just to be near Him.  “Imagine what it would have been like to even talk with Jesus!” she exclaimed.  “Oh, I would be a saint if only I could have been with Jesus!”

Saint Teresa looked at her with love and said, “My dear sister, have you forgotten that Jesus is still on earth , and that He lives near you — yes, in the house with you (for there was a church in the convent where the nuns lived that had a tabernacle), and often in your very soul.  Have you also forgotten that you can see Him and can speak to Him as often as you like?  Is not Jesus with us in the Most Holy Sacrament?  Why then do you wish to have lived long ago, since that same Jesus who lived with Mary and Joseph lives also with you?

Today, you will come close to Jesus in a way like never before?  Although you do not see Him like the boys and girls 2000 years ago, through your faith and knowing what you have been taught about Jesus and Holy Communion, you believe in Him and know Him.  We are not missing out on anything living at this time.  We remember what Jesus said to Saint Thomas after He rose from the dead: “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have come to believe.” (John 20.29)

Long ago Martha and Mary received Jesus into their house as a guest.  Today Jesus is coming into the house of your soul.  To get ready, just before Holy Communion time we say “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”  You will say these words today with a joy and a love like never before.

To receive so great a guest as Jesus, how do we prepare?  You have studied hard about Jesus in Holy Communion.  You have learnt and said your prayers.  You have made your First Confession.  But how do we get ready just before receiving Jesus?  Notice that receiving Holy Communion takes place during the Mass.  All that we do at Mass prepares us.  It is important to pay attention to all that goes on at the altar, to sing along, to answer the prayers along with everyone, to listen, and during the silence, to pray.

Your heart has to be full of love and desire for Jesus.  Our behaviour and actions at Mass show our love and desire.  We cannot go and get Jesus a drink, or share our lunch with Him, or invite Him to play, or give Him a hug and a kiss like we can with our family and friends.  We show Jesus our love and desire in church by our reverence in how we act — when we genuflect with care,when we  make the sign of cross thinking about what we are saying and doing, when we show respect for God’s house by not running and chatting.

How fortunate we are at Saint Jude’s because we have a communion rail.  We can receive Holy Communion kneeling, which is a sign of our respect and adoration of Jesus.  Saint Augustine tells us that no one eats the Body and Blood of Jesus, unless he has first adored it.

Even the way we receive Jesus in Holy Communion is important.  In Canada we may receive both on the tongue and in the hand.  For your first time, you will receive on the tongue.  Why?  Because receiving Jesus in Holy Communion on the tongue shows more reverence.  How so?  First of all, we remember that we are not receiving a thing, but Jesus Himself.  Because of who Holy Communion is, we need to get ready.  The priest gets ready by washing his hands before Mass and just before the Eucharistic prayer during which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus.  After having given Holy Communion, he also washes his fingers which touched the consecrated hosts.  Why all this washing?  It is done out of  reverence for Jesus, whom the priest has touched with his hands.  Even the water that was used for this last washing is not thrown down the drain, but the priest drinks it, because it may have in it small pieces of the hosts.

We know that when we touch some things, very small pieces of those things can stay on our hands.  The host of Holy Communion acts just like bread, even after it becomes Jesus.  We know that where there is bread, very often there are crumbs.  Most of the time, we do not worry much about them, but in Holy Communion, the entire piece of bread has become Jesus.  When crumbs fall away from that the host, those crumbs are also Jesus.  Each and every crumb after the consecration is the entire Jesus.  Because of the crumbs, the altar servers help with Holy Communion by carrying the communion paten, the round metal plates with a handle, to catch any crumbs that may come off the hosts.  We do not want the crumbs to fall on the ground and then be treated like dirt.

Communion in the hand can make for many crumbs.  Sometimes when the priest places the host in the hand of someone, it breaks in pieces.  What happens to those crumbs?  They may fall on the ground and get treated like dirt.  Also, the people receiving the Host in the hand do not wash their hands after Holy Communion like the priest has to do to take care of any small pieces which may be sticking to his fingers.

When we receive on the tongue, there is far less chance of  there being many crumbs which can fall on the ground because the host is handled less.  In some parts of the world, the bishop does not allow communion in the hand.  This is out of reverence for the presence of Jesus in Holy Communion.

After we have received Jesus, we go back to our seats.  What should we do then?  We do not talk to other people.  We now talk to Jesus.  In the Bible we read how Martha and Mary welcomed Jesus into their house.  We are more blessed because we have received Him right into our own body and soul.  What do I say to Him?  First of all, thank Jesus for coming to you in this special way.  Praise and adore Him.  Tell Jesus how much you love Him.  You can also talk about how sorry you are for ever having offended Him.  With Jesus so close to you, talk to Him about those for whom you pray, like your family, relatives, and friends.  During this special time, your parents will help you to this by making you be quiet and prayerful.

I pray that this day will be the beginning of a new and deeper friendship with Jesus.  May you be filled with the joy that Saint Peter talks about in his letter when he says: “Although you have not seen Him, you love Him and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.” (1 Peter 1.8)

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About Didobonaparte

A Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, I am the parish priest of Saint Joseph's Catholic Church, Langley.
This entry was posted in sacraments, The Main Blog and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A Homily for Children Receiving First Holy Communion

  1. Jan says:

    Beautiful!

  2. Sergio says:

    Exactly what truly stimulated u to publish “A Homily for Children Receiving First Holy
    Communion | A Son of Saint Philip”? I actuallytruly enjoyed reading
    it! Thank you ,Bettie

    • Didobonaparte says:

      Glad you liked it. I just hoped that I could help the children in my parish deepen their love and devotion towards Jesus.

  3. Jack Daniels says:

    A Son of St. Philip – Homily for First Holy Communion. Why would you discourage young people from receiving Jesus on the hand? It basically is not your choice, it is up to the individual communicant to decide. To say you all will receive on the tongue for the first time is wrong. Additionally, to extol the existence of an altar rail —the General Instruction on the New Roman Missal does not extol nor decry the existence of an altar rail —this is your personal view. To the best of my knowledge, not even St. Peter’s in Rome, has a communion rail – especially for Solemn Pontifical Masses. Perhaps a bit of Pope Francis needs to visit and spruce up St. Jude’s in Vancouver!!!

    • Dear Jack,thanks for your reaction to my post. My promotion of communion on the tongue and the communion rail is based upon my experience over the years as a priest and pastor of young people. Of course one has the freedom to receive either on the tongue or on the hand. I have never refused to administer Holy Communion on the hand to anyone, unlike priests who have refused to administer Holy Communion on the tongue or while kneeling to those who would like to receive that way. Over the years, I could not help but notice that in most cases, children receiving on the tongue tend to be more focused and still when receiving. So, so often, when the children are lined up one behind each other, the priest puts the Sacred Host in their hand, and they are immediately turned to the side walking back to their seats when they actually consume the host. This, in spite of the fact you train them to receive in front of the priest. The communion rail has the great advantage for children that they arrive at the place before they actually receive Jesus and have a few moments to prepare and concentrate on this encounter with Our Lord. Once they have received him, there is not the urgency to “get out of the way” for the next person. Once they have received the host, they can consume the host and calmly return to their seat. Also, as a pastor of souls I think that everyone should experience receiving communion on the tongue at least once so that they can make an informed choice. As a layman, I had received Holy Communion in both ways, and found that receiving on the tongue helped me communicate more devoutly. My promoting the use of the communion rail and reception on the tongue is not fueled by ideology, but from reflection on my experience of priestly ministry. The fact that at the Pope’s Masses there is no communion rail is not a condemnation of the use of communion rails. By the same token, at the Solemn Pontifical Masses at St Peter’s they sing lots of Gregorian chant. Is that what you are experiencing in your situation? If what is being done at St Peter’s is the norm for you, then you should also be promoting the use of Gregorian chant, don’t you think? (Btw, as you know, the General Instruction encourages its use.) Have an nice day!

  4. Rene says:

    St Cyril of Jerusalem catechetical teaching on how to communicate in the hand is cited in the Norms for Distribution under both kinds in the USA, now printed in every Roman Missal. I really wish that those whose bishop allows the indult to receive in the hand knew the teaching of the Church and practiced it by not allowing Jesus to fall from their hands. It is in the Faith; it is in the Roman Missal, it is in the history to take care of Jesus first. Otherwise, if there is danger of profanation, then Holy Communion is to be given in the tongue alone. This is the norm approved for the universal Church. On the hand, if the bishop approves it, it has Rome’s indult. But that is all it is. It can go and for the sake of doctrine and liturgy, I pray it does! It is not necessary for salvation to receive in the hand.
    By the way, Pope Emeritus only gives Holy Communion in the tongue and to those kneeling. Pope Francis is respecting that. What about the metal fences outside the basilica where people gather? They hold people together and guess what. They communicate behind them.
    The documents read the altar rail should not be removed if it is of great artistic value. It is not therefore, an absolute.

  5. Fr. Lourdu Showry Madanu says:

    Very beautiful and meaningful

  6. Tony Oostendarp says:

    Wow, I love Communion rails. I’ll keep it on the light side.
    One day a priest calls me and ask if I could cut out some steel post in the floor.of the sanctuary.
    I did and said to the priest I was’t happy doing this and he said to me it’s an act of charity.
    A pastor called me and asked me to put up some communion rails.He used them. He died and as far as I know they them occasionally.
    Another pastor called me to do the same.I did, and shortly after the pastor moved on.The next pastor removed them quickly and he became a bishop.
    So if you want to become a bishop, remove altar rails ?
    My trade was a steel fabricator,welder etc.
    Praise be to Jesus.

  7. Saint Teresa looked at her with love and said, “My dear sister, have you forgotten that Jesus is still on earth , and that He lives near you — yes, in the house with you- Which St Teresa said these words? Is she St.Teresa – The Little Flower of Jesus or St.Teresa of Avila?

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