Photo by Allison Girone.
Belief in the Eucharist, part II.
In the first part of this article, I introduced readers to “Father. John,” a local priest in a Novus Ordo parish and his good efforts to introduce traditional piety to enliven faith in the Real Presence.
Many mainstream Catholics don’t think the changes that are happening don’t matter; if it’s a Novus Ordo Mass, she has to go. For them, a return to the Latin Mass is the only satisfactory remedy for the current crisis of disbelief in the Real Presence. I would say that even small steps towards more reverence and acceptance of traditional customs in Catholic worship are commendable. Traditional Catholics should encourage these changes and pray fervently for the current USCCB “Eucharistic Revival” initiative and for clergy like Fr. John.
Yet we have an even more important role than that in rebuilding a Eucharistic culture. Mainstream Catholics often speak as if they think the Latin Mass itself is the antidote to problems of unbelief. Yet attending Mass is not enough to gain deep understanding and faith in the Eucharist. Unfortunately, I know several educated and traditional parents whose children have abandoned the Faith. I have also heard stories of children in CCD classes in my traditional parish who came to their First Communion fearing that the host was “gross” and tasted like flesh.
Deep love for the Eucharist must be cultivated in the family. Parents, godparents and grandparents should embrace the call of Our Lady of Bon Secours to “teach children what they need to know for salvation.” Children are more likely to stay in the Faith when they experience it as a set of rituals that work through an intimate relationship with One Person, Jesus Christ. They learn this relationship through other relationships, especially the parent-child relationship.
There is not much a child can learn from attending Mass. (This also applies to converts drawn to the Church by the MLT.) Attending Mass does not answer a child’s questions about why the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice is necessary or how this miracle occurs. Learning the answers to these questions can help prevent a child from doubting the Real Presence, especially when faced with questions from non-Catholics. Moreover, the mere fact of attending Mass alone is not enough to teach our children the interior disposition with which to approach the Eucharist. By this I mean the definition and types of sin, the danger of receiving in a state of sin, what a sacrifice is or how to offer oneself to God at Mass. Finally, attending Mass does not inculcate the habits of daily life that are necessary for preparation for the Eucharist, such as examinations of conscience or daily acts of contrition.
We must never take for granted the treasure of teachings, prayers and practices available to foster love for Christ in the Eucharist. As parents (and godparents, grandparents, etc.), we must show children how to live the Eucharistic life outside the sanctuary. Many of us are already doing a lot to build a Eucharistic culture, but here are some suggestions to help you spark Eucharistic renewal in your home church.
1) Always treat Christ with respect. Respect for Christ in all things will make it more natural to show respect for Christ in the Eucharist. Never allow your child to see or listen to media that uses the Lord’s name in vain. If your child hears the name of the Lord in vain, be sure to call him and say, “Praise be to the name of the Lord” or another restorative phrase. Treat images of Christ, even inexpensive prayer cards, with respect by never leaving them on the floor.
2) Read books to your children who explain the Mass to them or teach them the Eucharist. Some options include: An Altar Alphabet, Attending 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 Children by Griffin Swegart. Discover saints who loved the Eucharist, such as Blessed Imelda, little Nellie or Saint Dominic Savio.
3) Go to Worship. Even for five minutes. If it’s not a habit, start by going there 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 the prayer of his Church, “where two or three are gathered together in my name”, in the poor, the sick, the prisoners, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the mass, and in the person of the minister. But “it is present… more particularly in the eucharistic species”.
4) Look for 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 skeptical priest, a Eucharistic miracle, a nun receiving visions and Saint Thomas Aquinas writing hymns!
5) There are times during Mass when a child’s attention may be drawn to the Eucharist. Lean towards quietly indicate the moment of consecration by the sound of the bells or the raising of the host or the chalice. You can also remind your older children to say a prayer of thanksgiving after the reception.
6) Be sure to genuflect in front of the tabernacle when entering and exiting the main area of the church. Pause after your own genuflect to remind or help your child do the same. Teach your child that Christ is present in the tabernacle whenever the red candle shines 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 at churches or crossing yourselves as you pass by.
7) Some missals suggest saying the prayer”my Lord and my Godwhen the host is lifted during the consecration. Share this with your child, explaining that this is what St. Thomas (Thomas who doubts) said to the risen Christ in John 20:25-28.
8) Read scripture verses which formed the basis of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. Then share these stories with your children.
In John 6:22-69, Jesus gives the talk of the bread of life. These verses provide a strong argument against the belief that Holy Communion is just a symbol. Jesus lost many disciples because they could not accept having to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have life in him. Notice that He doesn’t call them back saying He was only speaking symbolically.
The Last Supper, also called the Institution of the Eucharist, is found in Luke 26:26, Mark 14:22 and Luke 22:14.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-32, St. Paul repeats Christ’s words at the Last Supper and warns 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 the Old Testament. When the stranger gives thanks and breaks bread with them, they finally recognize that he is Jesus, who reveals himself in “the breaking of the bread”.
For the ordinary layman, Scott Hahn is a wonderful resource. On his website, he offers lectures, video series and books on the Eucharist in Scripture.
9) Make a habit of saying your Family act of contrition every evening. Encourage your older children to do this on their own. Explain that unlike mortal sin, venial sins do not separate someone from God or from receiving the Eucharist, but Catholics are called to repent of even small sins. “Deliberate and unrepented venial sin gradually disposes us to commit mortal sin” (CCC, 1863). Sin “creates a propensity to sin” (Ibid., 1865) and corrupts the good judgment of good and evil.
ten) repeatedly remind your children that the Catholic Church (and the churches in recognized apostolic continuity with her) is the only church which has always taught that Holy Communion is the true Body and Blood of Christ. He is too the only Christian Church which has an unbroken apostolic succession, which gives the Catholic clergy the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist and the Catholic Church were instituted by Christ.
11) pray with family that friends and relatives congreen and receive the Eucharist to bring true peace and wholeness into their lives now, and heaven after death.
12) Discuss abuses of the Eucharist with your children. For example, when a tabernacle is stolen from a local church, pray that Our Lord’s body will be protected from those who wish to harm him. If a consecrated host falls on the ground and remains there, order your children to bring it to the priest or consume it. (According to footnote #219 on section #1388 of the New Catechism, a person can only receive the Eucharist twice a day.)
13) Take an active role in preparing for your child’s First Communion, leaving it not only teachers or priests. Study the catechisms concerning the different types of sin. Practice the Sacrament of Confession at home. Discuss your own experiences of 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 on the Eucharist with your children. Square Note Gregorian Chant is an application that contains the music and melody of dozens of hymns, as well as the Latin text and a reading speed control. “Adoro Te Devote”, “O Salutaris Hostia” and “Tantum Ergo” are beautiful Eucharistic hymns that are easy to learn. Reading the English translations as poetry would also be uplifting.
15) Try to breathe joy about your time spent with Jesus at Mass and adoration. Let your love for Christ (even if you don’t feel it) put a smile on your face. Tell the children that you are grateful for your chance to receive Jesus. Tell them that you hope to be able to enter the confessional so that 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, pray to God to give them to you and be patient. Let your older children know that having a relationship with Christ in the Eucharist is not always easy or something they can always live with their emotions, but it is always worth fighting for.