The whole parish community plays an integral role when preparing our children for their first experience of coming to the Table of the Lord. It begins when we gather each Sunday to worship and praise our God. St. Paul eloquently expresses this reality in his letters to the early Christian communities of Rome and Corinth “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. . . But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”
What does that mean for us, as we prepare our children for their first experience of coming to the Table of the Lord? How can we help our children grow in their understanding that their first communion is the beginning of many communions? As part of their faith formation, how can we deepen our understanding and experience of Eucharist? In this particular post, and the next few posts, I reflect upon the parts of the Mass and offer strategies that we can use as we accompany our children during this time of preparation.
It began at Baptism. . . As we enter St. Nicholas through the west entrance, we encounter the baptismal pool. The sacrament of Baptism ritualized our entrance into the Catholic Christian church. We were baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The next time you enter St. Nicholas, stop at the pool, scoop the water with your child and bless yourself with the Sign of the Cross. It is a gesture remembering and owning our baptism. The Sign affirms the promise you made when you presented your child for Baptism. You may discover, that your child needs a little more practice making the Sign of the Cross. If your child needs help with making the sign of the cross, the baptismal pool is a good place to start.
Tell your child to look around and he/she will notice that the church is in the shape of a cross. Help your child to discover that at the very center of the church is the Altar, Table of the Lord. Does your child know why the Altar, the Table of the Lord is at the center of the church? Eucharist is at the heart, the very center, of the sacramental life of the Church. The next time you gather around the Table, look around, you’ll see all of us, a diverse community of believers. . . we are the Body of Christ. In the words of St. Paul, “We have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”
Before you find a place to sit, ask your child to show you the Eucharistic Chapel. This is where the Tabernacle is located to remind us of the Presence of Jesus, the Christ, dwelling among us. About 20 feet from the tabernacle, show your child the red sanctuary candle suspended from the ceiling. The candle burns continuously throughout the year reminding us of the Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle. Once a year the sanctuary candle is extinguished after the Holy Thursday Mass. When we gather for the blessing of the New Fire during the Easter Vigil Mass, the sanctuary candle will be aglow once again reminding us of the Risen Christ present in our Faith Community.
Look for a special place to sit, preferably close to the front where your child can see what’s going on. There are a lot of child-friendly worship aids. In my opinion, you are the best worship aid for your child.
Next post, we’ll spend time with the Gathering Rite…