First Communion -- The Beginning of a Soul’s Journey


The children are wiggling their hands and feet. The girls giggle at the boys who are dressed in suits for the first time ever! People in the pews are craning their necks to see. The pageantry of First Communion is about to begin!

This is a precious and meaningful time. Yet, it is only a beginning. It is like taking the first step up a ladder. Why would anyone stay there or step back down?

God Sending Down His Love by Judith Costello

God Sending Down His Love by Judith Costello

As a teacher preparing students for this day, I tell them they are becoming tabernacles for Jesus. They will receive Jesus in a way unlike any other. But Jesus doesn’t want to be ignored immediately after this special day.

First Communion is just the beginning. Our understanding of the Eucharist and desire for it should grow over time. We are called to “know, love and serve Him.” It is a relationship that must be developed by constant attention.

Jesus is always with us and we receive His grace in the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation. We can hear His words in the Gospels and we can talk to Him in prayer. But there is nothing like receiving Him as the Bread of Life. There is nothing like becoming a tabernacle.

Yet, too many families see First Communion as the beginning and the end of their obligation for faith formation.

Judith's daughter Brigit, at her First Communion in 2008

Judith’s daughter Brigit, at her First Communion in 2008

The young people, who are so excited on this day, and feel the glow of love for Jesus, are like delicate new buds pushing up out of the ground of the secular world. Their experience is fragile and tentative. It needs to be nourished by weekly reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist. When parents make a big deal out of First Communion, yet make excuses for not going to Mass on Sundays after that, they send a mixed message.

The message seems to be that “only the first time is important. Then, if you receive Jesus again once a year, that’s enough.” The bud doesn’t open. The flower wilts in the time that lapses between receptions.

Since the Eucharist is necessary for our souls, why would we want to deprive ourselves of this soul food? The longer we go without, the more the soul dries up.

It is so important that our children see a love, respect and hunger for the Eucharist in their parents. Then their curiosity leads them to desire. And desire leads to deeper prayer and understanding.

Tabernacle literally means “temporary dwelling place.” If we are to keep Jesus close to us, we need to invite Him into the tabernacle of our bodies on a weekly basis. And inviting Him into our tabernacle on a daily basis is even better.

Then, the tabernacle will glow with His presence. And the flower of love and purity unfolds in His glorious presence!

Copyright 2014 Judith Costello


About Author

Judith Costello is the artist/author of Sacred Images: A Coloring Book for Prayer which includes 40 illustrations, 3 pages of ideas for adding color, design and borders, and a worksheet on designs. The full-color cover is one of Judith’s paintings. The book and her work can be found at and on Facebook under Unwind Studio:Where Art Relieves Stress.

1 Comment

  1. In truth, many families see this time as a proleptic gap until Confirmation. Their child is already, but not yet, done this “getting/doing” a sacrament thing.
    While I deal with slightly older kids for Confirmation (and sometimes Confirmation with First Eucharist), I also deal with adults and children in RCIA. There, we spend some time looking at the order of sacraments of initiation: baptism/confirmation, communion.
    It is unfortunate that the compliment once paid to children by Pope Pius X who lowered the age of reception of Communion, now leaves us with putting into the mouths of babes the experiential source and summit of our intimate union with Christ.
    It places such an event into a parent-child moment so ready for cute, and nostalgic reverie, but not necessarily the kind of faith circumstances akin to those who broke bread with him and then witnessed his arrest. Or those that followed at a distance or were close enough to enter into the inner sanctum of betrayal and deceit, or be close enough to see blood and water flow when his side was pierced.
    Is this equally nostalgic or memorable a first communion?
    My daughter will join the elect at this Easter Vigil. And I am glad that for her, and for me, as her father, I never had to bring her to the Church for some kind of parent-child activity to acclimate her to sacraments and worship. (Not that I mean to demean those who do. I myself was baptized as an infant, celebrated Communion in Grade 1 on my own, then postponed part of it to celebrated it with the rest of my class. And then later celebrated Confirmation before high school).
    But what I am most grateful for in the faith formation of my daughter is that as a matter of Liturgy and Worship, we stood side by side as witnesses to what the community professed, believed, and put into practice. And it was she who acted upon her call to be drawn in to choir, to join the catechumenate, to try to worship as we do, not just as Daddy tried to emulate for her.
    Any way, it is indeed a big church with many ways to come into Communion. And indeed, the emphasis is always more on Communion than on First.

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