Reprinted with permission from Catholic Parent.
You can help your children understand and appreciate the Eucharist--and thus prepare for First Communion--if you relate it to their lives. Familiar, ordinary realities that kids already value can be conversation-starters for exploring the meaning of the Eucharist with them. Here are four ways to use those everyday realities to talk about the meaning of the Eucharist with your children so they will understand the sacrament they will be receiving for the first time.
1. Spiritual Food. If your kids are like mine, one of their main interests in life is food. How many times a day have I heard, "What's for dinner?" or "Isn't there anything good to eat (read: junk food) around here?" So, food is a natural starter for conversations about the Eucharist, since it is a ritual meal. Here are some ways food can help you talk to your children:
- "The Eucharist is a meal. On the table of the altar, Jesus feeds us with his Body and Blood, under the appearances of bread and wine."
"Just as food nourishes our bodies, the Eucharist is spiritual food that nourishes our soul."
"The bread and wine are signs that tell us the Lord is nourishing us spiritually."
"Unlike other signs--stop signs, for example--that can't cause us to do anything, the bread and wine of the Eucharist cause what they signify. They nourish us in our spirit; they cause us to grow in Christ."
2. Real Presence. Friends are a high priority for your kids. Your children's experience of friendship can be a launching pad for talking about the Eucharist, the sacrament in which Christ is present to us and shares his life with us. Some possible lines for conversation are:
- "We like to be around friends, and our love for them grows when we're with them."
"Jesus called us friends, and in the Eucharist he made it possible for us to be with him (see John 15:15)."
"Jesus is really present in the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine."
"When we celebrate the Eucharist and spend time in Jesus' presence, our love for him grows."
3. Sacrifice. Christ's sacrifice on the cross was the offering of his Body and Blood to the Father as gifts for the salvation of the world. In the Eucharist, we offer the Father this gift of Jesus. It is the greatest gift we can give the Father, and we receive abundant blessings because of this. You can use the concept of gift giving to help your children understand the sacrificial element of the Eucharist. Here are some points to make:
- "We give gifts as a sign of our giving ourselves to people we love."
"Friends like to share with us our gifts to them --like candy or toys--as a way of uniting themselves to us in love."
"In the Mass, we give bread and wine to God as signs of our giving ourselves to him. God unites our self?giving with the bread and wine. Through the action of the priest, the Holy Spirit transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This act makes present the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and its divine power of salvation for us. When we receive Communion, we are united with Jesus and transformed by his saving power into him. When we eat ordinary bread, we change the bread into ourselves. When we eat Christ's eucharistic Bread, he changes us into himself by giving us a deeper share in his divine life and love. God accepts our gifts (bread, wine, ourselves) and changes them by uniting them with himself. Then he gives them to us to share in Holy Communion."
4. Celebration. We have parties to celebrate events and anniversaries, and the Eucharist is a celebration of the most important event ever. You may find the following themes helpful:
- "At parties, we celebrate with special foods and drinks, and we do things like sing and dance to express how we feel."
"The Eucharist is a celebration. We gather with friends to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus."
"The Eucharist is a thanksgiving celebration of what God has done for us in Christ."