5 gifts that help your child realize that receiving the Eucharist is a dynamic and lifelong force for good
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It’s the time of year when boys and girls just entering the age of reason have nervously made their First Confessions and are readying their hearts for the Real Presence of their Savior.
These sweet souls are looking forward to receiving the Divine Gift in their First Communion, but they are probably also eager for a few smaller gifts as well.
We here at Aleteia suggest these ideas as gifts that your First Communicant will enjoy, but which will also help him or her deepen in this first experience of Communion with Christ. And they don’t have to be given on the actual First Communion day; in fact, these are gifts meant to help a child realize that a First Communion is just that — a first experience of love that heralds many more Communions to come.
1) Make a “Little” Pilgrimage to your (or another) diocesan cathedral or other designated church, to walk through the Holy Doors in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. To give a new communicant the opportunity to earn an indulgence right out of the box is a great thing, and it gives a chance to teach about indulgences. Include lunch in the deal, and you’ve given your child a memorable, instructive and Mercy-full day, as well as earning some new intercessors in heaven.
If you have a little more time, embark on a longer, domestic, pilgrimage to a U.S. shrine, and live your Catholic faith as a family.
If you need to brush up on indulgences yourself, see this simple two-part primer here and here. For info on holy doors, see here.
2) Hire an artist to do an original sketch of the child’s favorite or patron saint to hang in his or her room. If it’s small and a sketch, rather than a complete work, it shouldn’t be too costly. If you don’t know any artists personally, you might find someone on Etsy. Or see if any of your local parishes host icon painting workshops. There might be budding artists in such a workshop who would love to work with you to create a beautiful image for your child.
3) Help your child foster an appreciation not only for the sacrament of the Eucharist, but also for those who bring us such a great gift: our priests. See if your priest might be able to meet with you and your child for lunch (provided by you) at the rectory.
You might have Father bless one of the medals/statutes/rosaries that your child will wear or use on First Communion day, or that he/she received as a gift for the occasion.
If your child is also receiving money for First Communion, you might invite him or her to spend a small portion of it on the meal. This will help him/her to begin to see that we should be good stewards of all our treasures, and that sharing our “riches” is a way to experience joy and give it too.
4) Most First Communicants are beginning to read and write on their own. Why not introduce them to prayer-journaling, as a tool to continue deepening in their relationship with the God who loves them so much he wants to dwell inside them?
You might consider a large, beautiful journal with unlined pages, such as this one, so that a child can also use the pages for drawing. Our Lord must delight in his children’s pictures as much as any mom!
5) Finally, to emphasize that receiving communion is the source of a loving, intimate relationship with a person, we suggest an illustrated Catholic Bible. As St. Jerome said, ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, and as your First Communicant receives the Bread come down from heaven, the Holy Spirit will undoubtedly foster his or her longing to know this Guest more and more. The Second Vatican Council reminded us, “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord.”
What’s so unique about that? Well, maybe when they get to the Noah’s Ark image they’ll find a card saying that a poor family received 20 chicks, to provide nutritious eggs, given to them in honor of a child’s First Holy Communion. Not too shabby, eh?
Kathleen Hattrupis Aleteia’s senior editor, and her oldest son made his First Communion this year.