Holy Communion: The Most Important Thing to Teach Your Child About the Eucharist

Jesus in the Eucharist

This time of year, many families are making final preparations for their child’s First Communion Day. No doubt they have spent time in workshops and retreats at their parish. They’ve read and studied at home. They’ve practiced how to receive the sacrament. And they have carefully selected the perfect dress or suit for their special day.

But remaining steadfast in their love for the Eucharist will be an ongoing journey in their life. Their First Communion Day, while incredibly important, is only the first step.

So what is the most important thing a child needs to know about the Eucharist?

In my opinion, the most important thing to teach our children is pretty simple:

Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.

Simple. And yet incredibly difficult to understand. 

In fact, most Catholics believe the Eucharist is just symbol of Christ's body and blood, according to a recent Pew Research Report. 

So how can we illustrate this profound reality to our children who are preparing for their First Communion?  Here are 3 ways. 

1. Jesus Said it Himself

This is pretty straightforward, but is often brushed over or explained that Jesus was being metaphorical But in John 6, Jesus does not mince words when he says:

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:54-56).

This was shocking language to the crowd. In fact, many people left Jesus after he said this. But what’s even more interesting is that Jesus let them leave. He did not chase after them. He did not say, “Oh wait, I was just being metaphorical. I just mean you need to eat a symbol of my body...” No, he let them go because he could not change the truth.

In addition, during the Last Supper, all three synoptic gospels quote Jesus as saying: “This is my body.” He didn't say this is a symbol of my body. He didn't say this is like my body. He said this IS my body.

As St. Cyril of Jerusalem said, "Since Christ Himself has said, 'This is my body,' who shall dare to doubt that it is His body?"

2. Church History & Tradition

The Church has been unwavering in its teaching of the true presence for over 2,000 years. The tradition of the Eucharist has been handed down to us from the first Church fathers (remember, the Bible was compiled 300 years after Jesus died, so the early Church relied on tradition and oral storytelling).

Here are just a few quotes from the early Church on the teaching of Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist.

  • “I desire the Bread of God, WHICH IS THE FLESH OF JESUS CHRIST, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I DESIRE HIS BLOOD, which is love incorruptible.” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, 110 AD)

  • “…therefore, the mixed cup and the baked bread receives the Word of God and BECOMES THE EUCHARIST, THE BODY OF CHRIST…” (St. Iranaeous of Lyons (c. 140-202 A.D.)

  • “Therefore do we ask that our Bread, WHICH IS CHRIST, be given to us daily, so that we who abide and live in Christ may not withdraw from His sanctification and from His Body.” (St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200-258)

These are just few quotes - there are many more, demonstrating that those who lived closest to Christ clearly understood the true presence.

In addition, the church has honored martyrs of Eucharist throughout history, such as St. Tarcisius, a young boy who was killed by a mob while protecting the sacred host. Or Fr. Pedro Maldanado, who was also brutally beaten while he clutched the Eucharist in a pyx. If Jesus wasn’t truly present, why would someone die protecting it?

My point is this: If the people who lived closest to Christ (who perhaps knew Jesus, his apostles and others who met him), understood the true presence, and if people have been willing to die to protect it, then why would we, distanced over 2,000 years from when Christ lived, dispute this teaching?

3. Eucharistic Miracles

There are various Eucharist miracles that have occurred throughout history. Each story features inexplicable miracles related to the sacred host. A simple Google search will give you many documented accounts of these miracles.

But one of my favorite stories is the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano, Italy. A monk in the 8th century started having doubts about the true presence. One day, while saying the consecration at mass, the host turned to flesh and started bleeding. The Church, in its wisdom, conducted several scientific investigations to uncover the cause. When it could not be explained by science, the Church declared it a miracle.

In this case, the host was examined again in the 1970s to determine if there was some other way to explain this strange occurrence. Scientists were given no background information about what they were to examine. They were only asked to look at the specimen and share their conclusions.

And what did they discover?

The scientists concluded that the matter they examined was human flesh and blood. The flesh consisted of the muscular tissue of the heart. And the blood type was AB, which by the way, was the same blood type found in the Holy Shroud of Turin.

Isn't that incredible?!?! Sometimes I don't know why, we as Catholics, aren't jumping up and down telling people about miracles like this! I can't think of a better way for God to reaffirm his presence in the Eucharist than by giving us these awe-inspiring miracles. What science cannot explain, we understand through faith.

Whether or not you have a child or grandchild getting ready to celebrate their First Communion, I believe these 3 facts are incredible reminders of God's steadfast love for us and should be shared with those you know and love.

May we all continue to be anchored in the profound reality of encountering Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

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