Question: Do children need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before their First Communion?
Answer: For centuries the Catholic Church has taught that a person needs to be in a state of grace (free from mortal sins) in order to worthily receive the Eucharist. To that end, Catholics should make an effort to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation any time they recognize the need for the sacrament (and in keeping with the precept of the Church that asks that we celebrate this sacrament at least once each year).
In the case of children preparing for their First Communion, the Code of Canon Law is very clear that they should also celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving the Eucharist for the first time: “It is the responsibility, in the first place, of parents and those who take the place of parents as well as of the pastor to see that children who have reached the use of reason are correctly prepared and are nourished by the divine food as early as possible, preceded by sacramental confession” (Canon 914).
While some might question the significance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation — especially in the case of children who might not fully understand the reality of sin or the meaning of the sacrament itself — a child’s “First Confession” can be a wonderful time for families to reflect together on the quality of their relationships, how they put their faith into practice, and, when it is possible, to celebrate the sacrament as a family. In the end, the celebration of these two sacraments marks important moments in the spiritual journeys of children and we hope their “First Confession” and “First Communion” help instill in them a love of the sacraments of the Church.