“The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1322
Like all sacraments, catechetical preparation is required for those desiring to receive the Most Holy Eucharist. Communal and personal preparation are overseen by the senior Catholic priest who serves as the Director of Religious Education at the local installation.
The Proper Time to Celebrate First Eucharist
The proper time to celebrate the sacrament of First Eucharist depends on when one is baptized.
Those Baptized Catholic as Infants
In the Latin Church, those who are baptized Catholic as infants, i.e., until they reach age seven, properly receive Eucharist in the dioceses of the United Sates at the age of reason, (age 7) as provided for by the diocesan bishop. In the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, children who are baptized, practicing their faith, and attending religious education formation are to receive First Eucharist at age seven.
Those Baptized as Adults
Those who are baptized Catholic or received into full communion of the Catholic Church as adults—i.e., a person over the age of seven with the use of reason (Code of Canon Law, c. 852 §1)—celebrate confirmation immediately following their baptism or reception into full communion in the same Mass. Their First Eucharist is received at the same Mass. For this reason, their preparation for Eucharist is included in their preparation for baptism and confirmation. This preparation process is outlined in the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults.
It is not uncommon that adults, baptized Catholic as infants yet never received Eucharist as children, now desire to receive the sacrament of Eucharist. Please contact the priest or Coordinator of Religious Education at the military chapel to inquire about preparation to receive Eucharist.
General Process for Preparing to Receive Holy Eucharist in the AMS
- Meet first with the AMS priest or Coordinator of Religious Education
- Request a copy of Baptism certificate
- Process of Preparation
- Receive Holy Eucharist
- Fruits of Holy Communion
This outline contains the basic elements and steps that form the period of Catholic preparation for receiving Eucharist. The AMS priest or Coordinator of Religious Education can provide more details.
Who Can Prepare to Receive the Most Holy Eucharist in the AMS?
Subjects of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, are encouraged to begin preparation for receiving First Eucharist by contacting the AMS priest or Coordinator for Religious Education at the military installation where they serve/live. In most situations the parent(s) of the child contacts the AMS priest or Coordinator for Religious Education. Adults desiring to receive the Most Holy Eucharist may inquire about the process of the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Those who are not subjects of the AMS, even if they have regular access to military chapels, require the written permission of the civilian pastor of the parish where they reside to participate in the preparation process at the installation. Agreement of the priest at the installation must also be sought before the preparation process commences.
Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion (Code of Canon Law, c. 912).
Parents and priest-chaplains have the duty to see that children who have reached the age of reason (age 7) are duly prepared to receive Holy Communion as soon as possible after having made their first Penance.
Note that access to military installations is restricted. Some connection with the military is required for non-AMS Christian faithful to receive the Eucharist in the installation chapel.
Meet first with your AMS priest or Coordinator of Religious Education
To learn about the process for preparing to receive Holy Eucharist the young person and their parent, or the adult seeking to receive, meets with the Catholic priest, Coordinator of Religious education, or OCIA coordinator. At this initial meeting the priest or coordinator will:
- Give an overview of the process of receiving Eucharist in the AMS.
- Ensure that the young person has been baptized. Ensure that the adult seeking to receive the Eucharist has either been baptized or needs to complete all three initiation sacraments – baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. (In the instance of the adult, the coordinator also ensures that the individual completed the proper ecclesiastical process if married, or was married before.)
- Explain the Church’s understanding of Eucharist.
- Explain the role of community support and prayer throughout the process.
Request Copy of Baptismal Record
For Catholics Baptized in a U.S. Military Chapel
If the baptism was celebrated in a military or VA chapel anywhere in the world, submit an online request for a recent copy of the baptism certificate through the AMS website. Note that this process can take time, so it is best to make the request at the beginning of the preparation process. Provide a copy of this certificate to the AMS priest or Coordinator of Religious Education.
For Catholics Baptized in a Civilian Parish
If the baptism was celebrated in a civilian parish, contact that parish to request a copy of the baptism certificate. Provide a copy of this certificate to the AMS priest or Coordinator of Religious Education.
Process of Preparation
Preparation to receive Holy Communion ensures sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that according to their capacity the individual understands the Mystery of Christ, and may receive Holy Communion with faith and devotion, as noted above in reference to (Code of Canon Law, c. 913 §1). The priest or coordinator will detail the process of preparation at that military setting.
“In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: ‘Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1327).
Special emphasis that helps those preparing to recognize the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is necessary. In the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. The whole Christ is truly present – body, blood, soul, and divinity – under the appearances of bread and wine, the glorified Christ who rose from the dead. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist. (USCCB, “What is the Eucharist.”)
The administration of the Most Holy Eucharist to children requires that they must have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity and are able to receive the body of Christ with faith and devotion (Code of Canon Law, c. 913 §1).
Receive the Most Holy Eucharist
“‘The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.’ ‘The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324).”
Familiarity with the many ways the Eucharist is reflected in the Bible and understanding the prayers of the Liturgy of the Eucharist will enhance the prayerful preparation to worthily received the Body and Blood of Christ.
Fruits of Holy Communion
The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Jesus Christ. The Eucharist:
- nourishes our spiritual life;
- separates us from sin;
- strengthens our charity;
- preserves us from future moral sins;
- unites us more closely to Christ and the faithful;
- commits us to the poor;
- seeks the unity of Christians… (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1391-1401)
Learn more about Eucharist on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.