My second grader is preparing to make his First Holy Communion next month. It is such an honor to be able to help your child get ready to receive Jesus for the first time. I know that Tobias is very excited about the Sacrament, but several times over these last few weeks I have caught him daydreaming aloud about buying a pair of LeBron’s or an Xbox with the money from his First Communion party. Last year, he sat and watched as his older brother opened card after card filled with generous gifts and now he knows his turn is coming.
How do you keep an eight-year-old focused on Jesus during this time? Here are a few tips that we hope will help!
1. Lead by example. If you are more focused on the dress or suit, the cake and the party, then it follows that your child will be focused on those things as well. You must be the example for your son or daughter. Turn your attention to preparing your hearts, minds, and souls for this special day. Don’t stress about the minor details of a party or spend all your energy on things of this world. Your guests are not expecting a home in perfect order. They will be happy that more work has been put into getting ready for the sacrament than getting your house ready for a big party. Take time in your own life to study the meaning of the Eucharist and reignite your own passion for this gift. We suggest reflecting on John 6 during your personal prayer time in the weeks leading up to your child’s First Holy Communion.
2. Share stories. Take the time to sit with your family and share special stories of the Eucharist. You could start by sharing about your own First Holy Communion or about a time when you received the Eucharist that was very memorable. Share stories about the Saints and the power of the Eucharist. Our family loves The Miracle of St. Anthony and the Donkey as well as the story of St. Clare showing the Sacred Host and turning away the attack of the Saracen soldiers. It may also be helpful to draw some parallels for your children from the stories of the Old Testament that help us to understand why Jesus comes to us as the Bread of Life. If you need a refresher course on this, Dr. Brant Pitre has an excellent teaching titled “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist” available for download here.
3. Emphasize the Real Presence. It can be so difficult for our minds to grasp the concept that the Eucharist truly is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. If we really understood this, nothing would keep us away from receiving Jesus as often as we could. Encourage your child to grow in faith by praying, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” We can always grow more in our understanding of the miracle and the gift of the Eucharist. For help explaining this to children, therealpresence.org offers a free pdf workbook with activities, games and coloring pages
4. Take time for prayer. Set aside an extra time of prayer in the weeks and days leading up to your child’s First Holy Communion. You can pray a First Holy Communion Novena or attend a Holy Hour as a family. Remember, you don’t need to stay a whole hour if you have little children with you. We considered it a Eucharistic miracle when all five of our children ages one to nine sat quietly for 15 minutes in Adoration! While you are there, whisper to your child the words of Mother Teresa, “When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” Just making the effort to be in Adoration will help your child to see the importance of adoring Jesus in the Eucharist and growing in the love of Christ.
5. Go to Confession. This is a wonderful opportunity to reiterate the importance of going to Confession and keeping our souls pure in order to receive Christ into our bodies. Make an effort to go as a family. We like the idea of going out for ice cream after Confession as a reminder that God’s mercy is sweet!
6. Choose a gift wisely. Take time in choosing a gift for your child that will help them remember this day in a special way. Try to find something that will help them grow spiritually. A few ideas for great gifts:
If your child does receive money as a gift, have some guidelines for how the money will be used. We allow our children to use a small portion of the money for a fun activity or to buy something special. They are also required to tithe 10% of it to a charity of their choice. They really enjoying taking time to think about how they can bless others with the gift they have received. The remaining amount of money is put into savings to be used for faith-building activities such as retreats or school-related events. No money is allowed to be spent until thank-you notes are written.
7. Frequent the Sacrament as often as you can. You don’t want your child’s First Holy Communion to be their only Holy Communion! Take your child to receive this gift as often as possible. The graces that flow from this sacrament are abundant. Go to the Lord’s table as frequently as you are able to and bring your children to Him.
During the Holy Communion Mass, take a moment to soak in the joy that radiates on the children’s faces. These little children understand the meaning of the Eucharist in an innocent and pure way. Reclaim that enthusiasm for yourself. Let this day refresh your awareness of the beauty of the gift that Christ gives us in Himself. May God bless you and your family as you enjoy this great Sacrament.
O Jesus, You have loved us with such exceedingly great love as to give us the ineffable gift of the Holy Eucharist, inflame us with a burning zeal to promote Your glory by praying for (your child’s name) to prepare worthily to approach Your holy table for the first time. Protect, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, this young soul from the assaults of evil, strengthen his/her faith, increase his/her love and endow him/her with all the virtues that will make him/her worthy to receive You. Amen.
Saint John the Baptist, forerunner of the Messiah, prepare the way for Jesus in the heart of (your child) Saint Tarcisius, keep safe the children who are making their first Communion.
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