Inviting Children to Encounter Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist
Children have an innate desire to know and ponder the most essential and important things in life. Because of this, Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist isn’t something that is too far off or beyond even the youngest of children. But how do we share this with them? How do we teach the Real Presence?
Parents have the most important role in this process, and it isn’t just taking our kids to religious education or Catholic school. Parents have “the first responsibility of educating their child in the faith” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2223). It is from a child’s experience of home and family life that they first learn to understand and shape an image of God who is the Good Shepherd, who loves them, knows them and calls them by name.
Our church uses the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) methodology, which is a great tool for parents and catechists alike. While the program is usually offered in parish and school settings, there are many insights that parents can implement at home.
Children have a special connection to the parable of the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:3-16), and by focusing on this parable, they can come to see that he cares for them, protects them, calls them by name and gives his life for them. In the CGS program, children will often ask to come back to this parable, because it strikes something deeply within them. So light a candle, then slowly and prayerfully read the passage, reflecting on it together. Ask questions like:
When the Shepherd calls the sheep by name what do they do? Why?
They follow him. They know his voice and they trust him.
Where do they go? What does he do?
He gives them all they need. He leads them to green grass and water. He lays down his life for them – all of his time, all of his attention. He is never too busy for them.
Who are these sheep that have such a Good Shepherd?
Let them ponder and reflect on this, without giving an answer.
Remind your children that Jesus the Good Shepherd is with them, and invite them to share anything they want with him. As they get older, children are often able to realize on their own that they are the sheep. As this connection is made, deeper meditations can happen on how the Good Shepherd feeds and calls his flock within the Mass and is present with them there.
When attending Mass as a family, invite your children to observe the different gestures that happen during the Eucharistic Prayer, and to listen carefully for the words that accompany them. Take time to reflect together what these mean, and highlight the gift that God gives us of himself in the Mass. Even squirmy little ones can be invited to tune back in during the Eucharistic Prayer, and we can help them to focus at this most sacred moment. Taking children to eucharistic adoration, for even just a few minutes, is an incredible way to build devotion to the true presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. It is there, in simple and beautiful silence, he can speak to their hearts and help them encounter him.
The witness of a life of faith and devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is the fundamental factor in passing reverence of the Real Presence along to our children. The more we parents grow in understanding and devotion, the more our children will be influenced by our witness.
WANT MORE RESOURCES?
Check out the book “The Good Shepherd and the Child” by Sophia Cavaletti or visit CGSUSA.org.
Sarah Runko is the director of faith formation for Blessed Sacrament Church in Charleston. Email her at email@example.com.