Occasions 365

First Communion and Confirmation

Honor the confirmation rite of passage

First communion and confirmation are Catholic sacraments that are received during childhood and early adolescence. They are an important part of a Catholic's spiritual life and are seen as rites of passage as a person grows through their childhood years. It is common for parents to host first communion and confirmation parties for their children after the church services are over, but it's important that the significance of these events does not get lost in the gift-giving and celebration.

Holy Communion

Holy communion is usually the second sacrament a Catholic receives, after baptism. In the New Testament, Jesus leaves his disciples with a ritual to perform in his memory: the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine. In Catholicism, bread stands as a symbol for Christ's body and wine stands as a symbol for his blood, which were sacrificed so that sins could be forgiven and people could enter into Heaven. Thus, first holy communion marks a Catholic's initiation into full participation in the religious celebration of Christ's life.

In most cases, first holy communion takes place when children are between about 8 and 11 years of age. Specifics vary from parish to parish, but it usually takes place in May; if you want to prepare your first holy communion invitation cards early, check with the church to confirm the date.

Confirmation

Because baptism occurs during infancy, Catholics give young people an opportunity to reaffirm their vows and commitment to the church. That's what the sacrament of confirmation is all about.

As they are preparing for confirmation, young people will go on spiritual retreats and examine the key beliefs of Catholics in deeper detail. They'll select a sponsor -- typically a godparent or close family member -- to accompany them during the ceremony and choose a confirmation name. Usually, this is the name of a saint the candidate particularly admires.

During the ceremony, the candidate approaches the priest or bishop and indicates that he or she would like to be confirmed under his or her chosen name. The clergyman then grants the candidate's wish to be confirmed through a ceremonial rite, and the newly confirmed Catholic retreats into prayer.

Afterwards, the church community usually comes together to congratulate the group of newly confirmed young people. Private parties may also be held in individual homes following any reception in the church or parish hall.

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