Planning a liturgy for First Eucharist

Planning a liturgy for First Eucharist is a real challenge; there are so many things to consider! Yet each year, when I see the excitement in the eyes of our second graders, I find new energy and excitement myself. I think of the process as similar to building a house. If the foundation is firm, everything that follows will be solidly based. I would like to share with you some of the steps I consider essential for a successful and memorable First Communion liturgy.

1. Choose a Theme
The theme you choose is like the foundation I mentioned above. It gives you a starting point on which everything else is built. A theme that has worked well for me is “Following Jesus.” Having chosen it, I could then find songs, readings, and activities that built on it.

2. Involve Families Early
Early on in the preparation process, families need to be informed about what you will be covering with their children and how you want them to prepare at home. I usually inform families in the fall about what will be expected of them. With our “Following Jesus” theme, I asked each family to buy a large piece of poster board (any color) on which they could trace and cut out their child’s footprints (one footprint for each week of preparation).

As they worked through the home study booklet each week, families asked their children what they thought they could do the coming week to follow Jesus. This task was then written on the cut-out footprint. Each night, if the child had accomplished the particular task, they could put a star on the footprint. Ideally, but not always, they would have seven starts on each cut-out at the end of the preparation time. We laminated these footprints and displayed them on First Communion Day.

3. Choose the Music
I like to select one of the songs (based on our theme) that the children can sing during the liturgy. Finding and appropriate song for the “Following Jesus” theme was easy. We used “Come Follow Me,” by Barbara Bridge (OCP Publications).

The first communicants were seated with their families. Before Mass, a musically talented high school student dressed as Jesus processed up and down the aisles singing “Come Follow Me.” As you might guess, the children left the pews and followed “Jesus.” The refrain has one line which the children sang to Jesus: “Yes, we will follow you, Jesus.” The procession ended on the altar steps where the children sang the song again while facing the congregation.

Other songs you might use are “Yes Lord, yes,” by Carey Landry and “Jesus, You Are Bread for Us,” by Christopher Walker. Since we have a few Hispanic children in the First Eucharist class, I included the Spanish song “Cerca de Mi.”

4. Choose the First Two Readings
Since the children themselves do the readings, I try to pick age-appropriate ones. I use the Bible and a Bible concordance to make my choices. The concordance offers a number of possible readings for the word “follow”: for example, Mt 4:19-22; Mt 8:18-22; Mk 1:16-20; Mk 2:13-17; and so on.

5. Choose a Response to the Readings
I used the song “You Are My Shepherd” by Christopher Walker (OCP) because its refrain can be used as a response.

Reader One The Lord is my shepherd. He takes care of all my needs.

Response You are my shepherd.

Reader Two The Lord watches over me. He gives me a home to live in. He gives me water to drink. He gives meaning to my life.

Response You are my shepherd.

Reader Three he guides me along the right way. Even when I’m walking by myself in a strange place, I don’t have to be scared. I know the Lord is with me to help me and give me courage.

Response You are my shepherd.

Reader Four The Lord has blessed me with many things. I will never be able to repay him for his kindness.

Response You are my shepherd.

6. Choose the Gospel Reading
Because of the obvious emphasis on the Eucharist, I generally do not try to tie the gospel reading into the theme. I usually choose something from John’s Gospel because it has so many excellent references to the Eucharist; for example: Jn 6:1-14; 25:25-34; 35-40; 48-59.

7. Prepare the Intercessions
Again, because the children read these, I try to keep them simple as well as related to the theme. Here are samples of what I mean:

For all the boys and girls in the world who will be receiving Jesus for the first time this year, we pray to the lord.

Response Lord, hear our prayer

For our parents and teachers who have prepared us for this great day, we pray to the Lord.

Response Lord, hear our prayer.

For the poor and homeless children of the world, we pray to the Lord.

Response Lord, hear our prayer.

For all of us, that we will follow Jesus every day of our lives by trying to do what he would do, we pray to the Lord.

Response Lord, hear our prayer

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