Source and Summit of Christian Life
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
-John 6: 53-58
The Eucharist (Communion) is the third of the three sacraments of initiation. Last Session we learned about Baptism and Confirmation. As for the order of receiving sacraments, Holy Communion is the third sacrament most people will get as active members of the Catholic Church. The Eucharist is the most sacred of all the seven Sacraments. The word ‘Eucharist‘ is derived from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning ‘thanksgiving.’ The best way to think about the Eucharist is that it is a WHO before it is a WHAT. The Eucharist is Jesus. It is the BODY, BLOOD, SOUL & DIVINITY of Jesus Christ. This is the fundamental miracle of the Catholic faith it is the Mystery of faith.
Why did Jesus choose a meal? And why did Jesus choose bread and wine? Sharing a meal with a person was considered an intimate sign of peace. Bread and wine are universal signs of sharing sustenance. They sustain, heal, and nourish bodies. Like a family we stand around God’s table and ask for our daily bread. The Eucharist is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Covenants that God made with His people. Jesus offered Himself as the new Passover lamb of sacrifice for us; leaving pieces of Himself for us to be spiritually nourished. The Eucharist is the new and everlasting covenant between God and man. The Eucharist is meant to be life changing and life giving. It makes us one family belonging to God and one another. “You are what you eat” could not be more true when it comes to the Eucharist! The priest takes ordinary bread and wine and changes them into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. Only a Catholic priest can perform this mysterious miracle during the sacrifice of Mass. Jesus gave this power to his holy priests on the night of the Last Supper. The priest uses the same words that Jesus used at the Last Supper to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. After those special words of the consecration, Jesus is truly present in every single Sacred Host on the altar and in every drop of Precious Blood in the chalice. This miracle is called Transubstantiation. Psalm 34:9 “Learn to savior how good the Lord is.”
Watch: The meaning of the term Transubstantiation
In each sacrament, there is something material (something we can see, touch, taste, hear) that is used to teach about a spiritual truth. This is called the “Matter.” There are special words that must be said. This is called the “Form.” In the sacrament of Holy Communion it requires the correct matter of unleavened bread and (grape) wine and the person, a priest, using the correct words to have a perfect and proper Transubstantiation.
When teaching this portion of the lesson I go back to my teaching roots and use the good ‘ol 5 W’s. Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How? These questions are perfect for asking children. Simply write them down and ask your children the questions as you discuss the process of communion with them.
- Who: The Catholic Priest as Jesus
- What (used): wine made from grapes and unleavened bread
- When: The Holy Mass during the Consecration (listen for the bells ringing)
- Where: At the altar in a church
- Why: Set forth by Jesus on the night of the Last Supper
- How: Through the use of sacred words to implement Transubstantiation: This is my Body…This is my Blood….
Communion has been on everyone’s minds lately and we are all anxiously waiting for our full return to Mass.* Just as food makes our bodies grow, Holy Communion makes our souls strong and beautiful. Jesus encourages the children to come to Him as can be read in Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17. Take a moment and read this passage with your child and talk to them about how Jesus wants all people to become as children in their faith, love, and humility.
While all are invited to Communion not all are ready. How do we have a good Communion? We prepare the children by teaching them that there are three things we need to do/be before every Communion. This is the same information that will be presented to them during next year’s sacrament class. When teaching in person we would spend a bit of time working on the steps below as well as a general instruction on how to enter the pews properly, how to walk up to the altar for Communion, and the ways you may receive the Holy Eucharist. Take a moment and discuss that with your child and answer any questions they have about the process.
To receive Holy Communion we must
1.) Be in the state of grace. (Have a healthy soul. We must have received the sacrament of Penance first and be without mortal sin on our souls.) This step will be accommodated during the sacrament year by having participated in the First Penance Ceremony typically held at the end of January and early February.
2.) Observe the Eucharistic Fast of 1 hour. (We refrain from eating or drinking for one hour as a sacrifice to show Jesus that we want to receive Him above all else.) Here is where I would discuss with the children how just like at home that they are not allowed to snack right before supper that this too is why we want to observe the Eucharistic Fast before every Mass we attend.
3.) Know and believe that you are about to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. (Receive reverently) This is where we discuss how the children should conduct themselves during Mass. When we come to Mass we are guests in Jesus’ house. He is there giving us His attention and so we too must make a good effort to actively participate in the Mass.
- Believe in Jesus
- Hope in Jesus
- Love Jesus
- Be sorry for offending Him
- Ask Him to come to you in the eucharist
- Thank Jesus
- Tell Him you love Him
- Tell Him you want to always be with you
- Ask Him to help you and others
The whole discussion of communion should include the internal prayerful preparations before receiving the holy eucharist and then the prayerful thanksgiving afterwards. Holy Communion is more than just a meal it is time for prayer and thanksgiving. These are the suggestions to recommend for the children to prayerfully do while they participate in Mass. Those children who have not received their first Holy Communion can begin this habit of prayer now by taking the time to talk to Jesus with these prompts. Guiding them through the process now will build a sturdy base of faith.
Another way the children can learn more fully about the importance of experiencing a First Holy Communion is by having them interview a family member about their own First Communion. I have included some of the questions below. It really is so much fun for them to hear these stories from the people in their lives. While I’ll miss having the children share their stories with the class I think you will find that the gift of the dialogue at home will be very endearing. Over the years hearing the answers from grandparents has been so beloved. It’s a great way to have the children learn more about their grandparents and have the opportunity for the grandparents to discuss their experiences.
- Who are you interviewing?
- When did you receive your first Holy Communion?
- Please tell me about that special day: what time of year, how old were you, etc.?
- What did you wear?
- Who was there with you?
- Who said the Mass?
- At what Church?
- Do you remember what you were thinking/praying?
- Any other comments or memories?
Additional resources: Child’s Guide to First Holy Communion by Elizabeth Ficocelli is a picture book following a little boy on his First Communion day. It’s a nice little book that tells the story of the big day. This author has several books about sacraments, etc. I believe the Holy Trinity gift shop even sells them. This one and the one about Confession are books I would read to class every year.
In addition to books when it comes to the lessons about Communion I have the class watch the video The Eucharist for Little Children. This is available through the parish’s Formed account. http://www.formed.org If you have not used this resource before you will need to register for an account. Then look up the video by name in the search box. It is a sweet video and the kids really like it. They even show how the bread is made for Churches. Very interesting!
Vocabulary words to discuss with your child: Miracle: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs., Transubstantiation: change of form., True Presence: With the words of consecration, the whole of Christ is truly present – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – under the appearances of bread and wine., Consecration: sacred Words of Institution spoken by a the priest to implement Transubstantiation.
Prayer of the Week: Our Father
Homework First Year Sacramental Prep: Read from the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism: Lesson 11, question #48 and #50-54. Complete the Jesus comes to us and Jesus, my Lord and my God worksheets. Do the True Presence craft for Week 12. Practice the Grace Before Meals prayer. Learn the Morning Offering Prayer. Your child should now know the following prayers: Sign of the Cross, Angel of God, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and the Our Father.
Homework Second Year Sacramental Prep: Read from the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism: Lesson 11, question #48 and #50-54. Complete the Jesus comes to us and Jesus, my Lord and my God worksheets. Complete Spirit of Truth pages 61-64. These pages will be handed in at the end of the month. Use the sacred art on p. 61 to teach about Peter’s sin and Jesus’ mercy. By now your child should know The Sign of the Cross, the Angel of God, the Glory Be, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the 10 Commandments, and an Act of Contrition. Keep practicing these every night. The Data Form, the Letter of Intent, and a copy of the Baptismal Certificate (for those not baptized at HT) were DUE DEC 1 (forms can be found in your white First Holy Communion folder). Please turn them into your family folders THIS WEEK!
Homework Years 3-6th Grades: Read from The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism: Lesson 26, pages 162-166. Say the words of consecration with your child and have your child listen for them at Mass. There usually is a bell rung when these words are said (if there are altar servers). Complete the Bread from Heaven worksheet. By now your child should know The Sign of the Cross, the Angel of God, the Glory Be, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the 10 Commandments. Continue memorizing the Act of Contrition. It can be any version that your family prefers. Continue memorizing the Apostles’ Creed. Start memorizing the Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love.
Activity Ideas: The Month of January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus. Memorize this Bible verse, “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:10) Teach your children the meaning of the monogram IHS and point it out when you come to Mass (it can be found on the altar and on our huge rose window). Pray the Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus with your children.
While we are still in the celebrating season of Christmas I suggest a few options that pertain to Epiphany. Making a Three Kings Paper Chain is an easy to make paper craft. Print out the pattern, cut out, color, then tape together. There are many great craft ideas from the Red Ted Art blog for Three Kings Day crafts. How about making some king crowns or if you need an easier option print one out and put it together.
Here are a few ideas for Holy Communion crafts at the Catholic Toolbox.
* Mass is available locally at many parishes. Please check with your parish for any restrictions such as signing up for a set time to attend Mass, the rules for mask wearing, and any special times for high risk parishioners. Each parish has its own set of guidelines that have been approved by the Diocese.