These ideas are simple but powerful.
When a sad poll a few years ago suggested only a fraction of Catholics believe what the Church does about the Eucharist, I suggested 17 ways to boost faith in the Eucharist.
The best place to start, however is in your own family. Here are 10 ideas.
1: Teach them basic doctrine.
As the Compendium of the Catechism, No. 282, put it: “Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity. In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man.”
In short, Jesus is really, truly, totally present in the Blessed Sacrament. He just looks like bread. As St. Augustine puts it, “he held himself” in his hands at the Last Supper — and today your local priest gives us Jesus himself in communion.
2: Teach them basic Eucharistic prayers.
Here is a simple prayer that is easy for kids to learn:
“O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament Divine
All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.”
But as the angel who visited the shepherd children of Fatima showed, children can learn more sophisticated prayers, like the one he taught them:
“Most Holy Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — I adore you profoundly. I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.”
A shorter one is the prayer the children themselves said, spontaneously, after seeing Our Lady of Fatima for the first time:
“Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”
3: Teach them basic Eucharistic customs.
Don’t just genuflect before getting into your pew without explaining why. Remind your children what they are doing: bending a knee before their king, Jesus, truly present in the sacrament. A good practice is to look directly at the tabernacle while genuflecting, to remind yourself.
4: Draw their attention to the consecration.
When our children were little we would whisper and gesture gently to the altar when the priest says “This is my body” and “This is my blood” at Mass. “This is where Jesus comes!” we say.
When children get older we teach them the custom of silently praying “My Lord and my God!” when he raises the host and “My Jesus, mercy!” when he raises the chalice.
5: Never miss Sunday Mass, no matter what.
Catholics have an obligation to go to Mass every Sunday. But it’s more than an arbitrary rule. It was Jesus’ last request before he died for us, and those who go to Sunday Mass find that it is beautiful, memorable family time that resets their whole week’s priorities.
On the other hand, when parents make excuses for missing Sunday Mass, their children often take those excuses to heart and make them their fundamental stance toward the Mass, and skip even more when they are older.
6: Go to confession to prepare for Mass.
Going to Sunday Mass is one precept of the Church — going to confession each year is another. Confession prepares us to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, and it helps to make that connection explicit in kids’ minds.
Tell them: “Let’s go to confession so that we are in the right state to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.”
7: Practice the Eucharistic fast.
The Church’s canon law puts a number of safeguards around the Eucharist to protect it, since it is the Lord himself. Canon 919 is one that comes up almost every Sunday. It requires that we refrain from all food and drink except water and medicine one hour before holy communion. Keeping this fast is simple and it powerfully reminds kids that the Eucharist is special.
8: Visit the Blessed Sacrament.
It has been gratifying to hear, as my kids become adults, that the times we stopped by a church to pray in front of the tabernacle made a big impression.
I lead my own prayers with the children when I do it (as I described here); but it is a great time to teach the Eucharistic prayers above.
9. Try these resources.
- The Eucharist for Little Children
- The Bread of Life: Celebrating the Eucharist With Brother Francis.
- Holy Heroes CDs, especially Blessed Imelda and Carlos Acutis
10. Be an example.
The best way to teach your children to love Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is to lead by example. The more parents love, reverence, and spend time with Jesus in the tabernacle, the more their children will do the same.