Photo by Allison Girone.
Belief in the Eucharist, part II.
In part one of this article, I introduced readers to “Fr. John,” a local priest at a Novus Ordo parish and his good efforts to introduce traditional piety to animate faith in the Real Presence.
Many traditional Catholics do not think it matters what changes occur; if it is a Novus Ordo Mass it must go. To them, a return to the Latin Mass is the only satisfactory remedy to the current crisis of disbelief in the Real Prescence. I would argue that even small steps toward more reverence and acceptance of traditional customs in Catholic worship are laudable. Traditional Catholics should encourage these changes and pray fervently for the USCCB’s current “Eucharistic Revival” initiative and for clergymen like Fr. John.
Yet, we have an even bigger part than that in rebuilding a Eucharist culture. Traditional Catholics often talk like they think the Latin Mass itself is the antidote to problems of disbelief. Yet, attending Mass is not enough to build deep understanding and faith in the Eucharist. Sadly, I know several educated, traditional parents whose children have left the Faith. I have also heard stories about children in my traditional parish’s CCD classes who came to their first Holy Communion worried the Host will be “disgusting” and taste like flesh.
Deep love for the Eucharist must be grown in the family. Parents, godparents, and grandparents should embrace Our Lady of Good Help’s call to “teach the children what they should know for salvation.” Children are more likely to stay in the Faith when they experience it as a set of rituals that work as part of an intimate relationship with a Person, Jesus Christ. They learn that relationship through other relationships, most importantly the parent-child relationship.
There is only so much a child can learn from Mass attendance. (This applies equally to converts attracted to the Church by the TLM.) Attending the Mass does not answer a child’s questions about why the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ is necessary or how this miracle takes place. Being taught the answers to these questions can help protect a child from feeling doubt about the Real Presence, especially in the face of questions from non-Catholics. Additionally, simply attending the Mass is not enough by itself to teach our children the interior disposition with which one should approach the Eucharist. By this, I mean the definition and types of sin, danger of receiving in a state of sin, what a sacrifice is, or how to offer oneself to God at Mass. Lastly, Mass attendance does not inculcate the habits of daily life that are necessary as preparation for the Eucharist, such as examinations of conscience or daily acts of contrition.
We must never take for granted the treasury of teachings, prayers, and practices available for fostering love toward Christ in the Eucharist. As parents (and godparents, grandparents, etc.), we need to show children how to live Eucharistic lives outside of the sanctuary. Many of us are already doing a lot to build a Eucharistic culture, but below are some suggestions to help you ignite a Eucharistic Revival in your domestic church.
1) Treat Christ with respect always. Reverence for Christ in all things will make it more natural to show reverence for Christ in the Eucharist. Never allow your child to view or listen to media that uses the Lord’s name in vain. Should your child hear the Lord’s name in vain, make sure to call it out and say, “Praise be the Name of the Lord” or some other reparatory phrase. Treat images of Christ, even cheap prayer cards, with respect by never leaving them on the floor.
2) Read books to your children that explain the Mass or teach them about the Eucharist. Some options include: An Alphabet of the Altar, Participating at the Holy Mass: a Coloring Book Guide by Holy Heroes, A Missal for Little Ones by Dabadie, The Illustrated Mass: A Graphic Novel Explanation of the Traditional Latin Mass, or Heavenly Hosts: Eucharistic Miracles for Kids by Griffin Swegart. Read about saints who loved the Eucharist, such as Blessed Imelda, Little Nellie, or Saint Dominic Savio.
3) Go to Adoration. Even for five minutes. If it is not a habit, start by going once a month. Here is a section from the New Catechism (1373) that explains why Catholics go to Adoration:
Christ Jesus … is present in many ways in the Church: in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,” in the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present… most especially in the Eucharistic species.”
4) Look up the origin of the Feast of Corpus Christi and share it with your children. This story made a great skit at a recent Catholic summer camp. It includes a doubting priest, a Eucharistic miracle, a nun receiving visions, and St. Thomas Aquinas writing hymns!
5) There are times during the Mass when a child’s attention can be called to the Eucharist. Lean in to quietly point out the moment of consecration by the sounding of the bells or the raising of the host or chalice. You can also remind your older children to say a prayer of thanksgiving after reception.
6) Make sure you are genuflecting before the tabernacle upon entering and exiting the main area of the church. Pause after your own genuflection to remind or help your child do the same. Teach your child that Christ is present in the tabernacle whenever the red candle is glowing beside the altar. With younger children, it can be fun to ask them to tell you if Jesus is present. Expand your recognition of the Sacrament by nodding to churches or crossing yourself when you drive by them.
7) Some missals suggest saying the prayer “my Lord and my God” when the host is raised during the consecration. Share this with your child, explaining that it is what St. Thomas (Doubting Thomas) said to the risen Christ in John 20:25-28.
8) Read the scriptural verses that have formed the basis for the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. Then, share these stories with your children.
In John 6:22-69, Jesus gives the Bread of Life Discourse. These verses provide a strong argument against the belief that Holy Communion is only a symbol. Jesus lost many disciples because they could not accept that they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life in Him. Notice He does not call them back by saying He was only speaking symbolically.
The Last Supper, also called the Institution of the Eucharist, is in Luke 26:26, Mark 14:22, and Luke 22:14.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-32, St. Paul repeats the words of Christ at the Last Supper and admonishes anyone who receives Communion without “discerning the body,” that is recognizing it as the Body of Christ.
In Luke 24:13-35, a stranger joins two disciples on the road to Emmaus and teaches them about the Old Testament. When the stranger gives thanks and breaks bread with them, they finally recognize that He is Jesus, Who is revealed in “the breaking of the bread.”
For the ordinary layperson, Scott Hahn is a wonderful resource. On his website, he has talks, video series, and books that about the Eucharist in the Scriptures.
9) Make it a habit to say your Act of Contrition as a family each night. Urge your older children to do it alone. Explain that, unlike mortal sin, venial sins do not separate someone from God or from reception of the Eucharist, but that Catholics are called to repent of even small sins. “Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin” (CCC, 1863). Sinning “creates a proclivity to sin” (Ibid., 1865) and corrupts the right judgement of good and evil.
10) Repeatedly remind your children that the Catholic Church (and those churches in recognized apostolic continuity with it) is the only church that has always taught that Holy Communion is the real Body and Blood of Christ. It is also the only Christian Church that has unbroken apostolic succession, which gives Catholic clergy the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Both the Eucharist and the Catholic Church were instituted by Christ.
11) Pray as a family that friends and relatives would convert and receive the Eucharist to bring true peace and fullness to their lives now, and heaven after death.
12) Discuss abuses of the Eucharist with your children. For instance, when a tabernacle is stolen from a local church, pray that Our Lord’s Body would be protected from those who wish to harm Him. If a consecrated Host falls to the ground, and is left there, instruct your children to bring it to the priest or consume it. (According to footnote #219 on section #1388 in the New Catechism, a person may receive the Eucharist only twice in one day.)
13) Have an active role in your child’s First Holy Communion preparation, not leaving it solely teachers or priests. Study the catechisms regarding different types of sin. Practice the Sacrament of Confession at home. Discuss your own experiences in confession and how it prepares your soul to receive the Eucharist.
14) To show the rich history of our theological beliefs in Catholic culture, learn a traditional hymn about the Eucharist with your children. Square Note Gregorian Chant is an app that has the music and melody for dozens of hymns, along with the Latin text, and a playback speed control. “Adoro Te Devote,” “O Salutaris Hostia,” and “Tantum Ergo” are beautiful and easy Eucharistic hymns to learn. Reading the English translations as poetry would be edifying too.
15) Try to exude joy about your time spent with Jesus at Mass and Adoration. Let your love for Christ (even if you’re not feeling it) put a smile on your face. Tell the children you’re grateful for the chance to receive Jesus. Tell them you hope to be able to get into the confessional so you can receive. Tell them about the peace or mental clarity you find with Our Lord in the Eucharist. If you don’t experience these things, beg God to gift them to you and be patient. Let your older children know that having a relationship with Christ in the Eucharist isn’t always easy or something they can always experience with their emotions but it is always worth fighting for.
Theoni is the author of The Woman in the Trees (TAN Books), a novel based on a decade of her research on America’s first approved Marian apparition. She has an MA in International Journalism, and before having a family, she travelled to 10 countries, reporting on religion and culture. She homeschools and writes from Houston where she lives with her husband and three children (four in heaven). Theoni is currently finishing a picture book on baby loss for grieving families. Donate to her work here.