In discussing Initiation, the ecclesial community and the family, Pope Benedict highlights the importance of First Eucharist for children. That importance is of concern and impact to the family as well as the parish community.
19. It should be kept in mind that the whole of Christian initiation is a process of conversion undertaken with God’s help and with constant reference to the ecclesial community, both when an adult is seeking entry into the Church, as happens in places of first evangelization and in many secularized regions, and when parents request the sacraments for their children. In this regard, I would like to call particular attention to the relationship between Christian initiation and the family.
Attention here not only for parents and siblings of children, but also spouses and children of a candidate for adult initiation.
In pastoral work it is always important to make Christian families part of the process of initiation. Receiving Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion are key moments not only for the individual receiving them but also for the entire family, which should be supported in its educational role by the various elements of the ecclesial community. (Cf. Propositio 15)
“Education” is often a limiting word. One implication is that sacraments are administered after a personal intellectual assent. Formation is a more appropriate term for the expectation: that a candidate is not only taught, but also mentored and apprenticed in Christian action–not only charity and justice, but also prayer. When relying on classroom teaching alone, these aspects may never take deep root in the life of the Christian. These areas are where the personal encounter with Jesus often takes place.
Here I would emphasize the importance of First Holy Communion. For many of the faithful, this day continues to be memorable as the moment when, even if in a rudimentary way, they first came to understand the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus. Parish pastoral programs should make the most of this highly significant moment.
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