A 4 year old and the Eucharist
"Misguided mom" wrote: “My 4 year old has been going to mass since she was little, but I guess she's just really started to listen. Last week she didn't want to walk up to the altar with me when I went up for communion. She said she was scared. Well, people were in the pew waiting to go up, so I didn't have time to ask why just then. I asked my 6 yr old to sit there with her when I went up. Later, I asked here why she was scared. She told me that she didn't want to see Jesus' "dead" body and blood.
In listening to my daughter's fears, it reminded me of many of my own apprehensions about my faith- not knowing enough about Catholicism, not being as devout as someone else (and having them find out), being uncomfortable in participating in many of the beautiful offerings of the church like confession and adoration, feeling out of my element, etc. In that moment, I realized that I haven't been living my faith very purposefully. I go to mass, sing the hymns, go up for communion and stay around after mass to say hello to the priests and parishioners, but I do little more to acknowledge the enormity of what I have through the Eucharist. I do understand that it is probably normal for a younger child to have misconceptions about parts of the mass, so I'm not beating myself up about that, but it was a sign to me that I could do so much more within my family to teach my kids in both word and action about how much Jesus means to me in my life and how grateful I am in the abundance of his love.”
This is one of my favorite stories of the past year at St. Andrew’s. I don’t mean to belittle “misguided mom’s” apprehensions, but it really is amazing to hear that the Real Presence has registered with a 4 year old! Ok, maybe the child’s theology needs to be squared away just a bit – the Eucharist is the RISEN Body of Christ – but she gets it: The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ! I think we should change the mother’s nickname from “misguided mom” to…say…ummm… Mother of the Year!? Whatever you’re doing in your home, Mom, please keep it up!
I told this story last Saturday when I celebrated an instructional Mass for the second graders who will be making their first Holy Communion this Saturday. It was a real Mass, but I stopped a few times to explain the parts of the Mass, and why we do and say certain things. During my homily, I retold this story, and praised the faith of this precious child. I then asked the kids what four words are the whole reason we believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. I even offered my car for any of them who knew the answer! All of a sudden, one little girl raised her hand, and my heart sank. She said, “this is my body”. After promising her my car keys (sort of) and envisioning long walks around Silver Spring, I congratulated her for her inspiring and correct answer.
The reason why I make such a big deal about people (especially kids) getting it about the Eucharist is because the Eucharist is a big deal! It’s huge!! I truly believe that if these kids really have made some kind of an identification with the Eucharist– which the 4 year old went out of her way to show – then they will be set for life, and for all eternity! They get it that Christ is real, and that he is very close to them in the Eucharist. They have begun a relationship with him, one that it will be very hard to walk away from later in life. And, Christ promises that if they (and anyone else) stay close to him in the Eucharist, they will have eternal life (see Jn 6:54).