First Holy Communion
My wife Joanna Rieken (6 years old)
The Eucharist is the sacrament that preserves the soul's union with God and fosters that union by making a person more holy especially in the practice of the supernatural virtue of charity. As a sacrament of the living, to obtain the graces intended, a person must be in the state of God's friendship when receiving, otherwise the reception becomes a sacrilege (I Corinthians 11:27-29).
The union of the communicant with Christ in the Eucharist is effective in the moral order. Though physically present in the communicant, Christ is not physically united with him. Only the consecrated species, since they alone can come in contact with material things, are physically united with the communicant.
Communion aims specifically at producing a likeness to Christ in the communicants. Their acts of mind and will, as a result of Communion, are to become more comformable to the acts of Christ's mind and will. Their body, too, is to become more like Christ's sacred body.
This is the primary purpose of the sacrament, a special union of the soul with Christ. What is special about this union is that the Eucharist is extraordinarily powerful in conferring actual graces that prompt a person to make acts of love for God and one's neighbor. Moreover, these graces inspire one to live for Christ habitually, even under great difficulties, as shown by the readiness to love the unlovable, and to promote loving community in spite of great natural diversity.
The secondary purpose of Communion is to assimilate the body of the communicant to the body of Christ in two ways: it curbs or mitigates all disordered passions, especially those against chastity, and it confers a new title to the final resurrection of the body in heavenly glory.
A final effect of Communion is to remove the personal guilt of venial sins, and the temporal punishment due to forgiven sins, whether venial or mortal.
The precept of the Church that requires children to receive Holy Communion, along with the sacrament of penance, on reaching the age of reason. First issued by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the practice was all but discontinued for centuries, due to the inroads of Jansenism. Pope St. Pius X restored the practice and restated the precept, while he also explained how necessarily related are the two sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. "The age of discretion," he said, "both for confession and for Holy Communion is the time when a child begins to reason." This means that "a full and perfect knowledge of Christian doctrine is not necessary either for first confession or first Communion." Moreover, "the obligation of the percept of confession and Communion which binds the child particularly affects those who have charge of him, namely, parents, confessor, teachers, and the pastor" (Quam Singulari, August 8, 1910).
The precept of the Church to receive the sacrament of penance on reaching the age of reason. First decreed by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, the law was confirmed by the Council of Trent, which condemned anyone who "denies that each and every one of Christ's faithful of both sexes is bound to confess once a year" (Denzinger 1708). The prescription was repeated and clarified by Pope St. Pius X in 1910 and again restated by the Holy See in 1973, ordering an end to experiments that postponed the sacrament of penance until after First Communion: "This precept, accepted into practice throughout the universal Church, brought and continues to bring much fruit for the Christian life and perfection of the spirit."
Prayer after Communion
Stay with me Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You.
You know how easily I abandon You.
Stay with me Lord, because I am so weak
and I need Your strength, so that I may not fall so often.
Stay with me Lord, for You are my life,
and without You, I am without fervour.
Stay with me Lord, for You are my light,
and without You, I am in darkness.
Stay with me Lord, to show me Your Will.
Stay with me Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You.
Stay with me Lord, for I desire to love You very much,
and always be in Your company.
Stay with me Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You.
Stay with me Lord, for as poor as my soul is,
I want it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of love.
(Adapted, Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)