By Allison Gringras
Explaining the Eucharist to young children, especially when you struggle to understand certain aspects yourself, can be a challenge. However, the beauty of the Catholic faith is knowing, "with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). We don't need to know all the answers, just where to look and Whom to ask.
First, remember always to be honest with children; they have a keen sense for these things. We believe the Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus, His body, blood, soul, and divinity. Do not be afraid to share that truth; trust in the Holy Spirit to not only guide your words but also open their hearts to receive it. Be attentive to your child's questions. What they ask is the best guide to knowing what they are ready to be taught.
Children learn in a variety of ways. While some children learn through hearing about a subject, another child may need some type of visual to understand the information better, and still others require a "hands-on" kind of experience.
The Brother Francis DVD series is an excellent example of meeting both visual and auditory learning styles. If you follow up the video with a simple activity, such as a coloring page or craft, you will reach those who learn kinesthetically (i.e., by doing).
Does your family like baking? Baking bread provides a foundation for many discussions around the Eucharist. Begin your family time watching Brother Francis' The Bread of Life DVD, which can be purchased or rented and available in English and Spanish. This episode contains two sections, which can be watched individually (adding an activity for each) or all at once. Wrap up your 'lesson' with a good old-fashioned sing along with the DVDs two visualized songs: "I am the Bread of Life" and "What More Can He Give."
Choose books that share many aspects of the faith, read a little bit each night, letting your child, again, guide the conversation. The Adventure Catechism series gives children a basic overview of the catechism while strengthening their faith. Reader 4 of this series answers the question, "What is the Eucharist?” as “Jesus promised to be with His followers always. Let your heart be moved by the way in which the Son of God comes to us through the giving of His body and blood."
Whatever resources you choose, take your time working through them, especially on a subject as complex as the Eucharist. For example, here is a great misconception about picture books: that they need to be read in one sitting. That is simply not true. Bookmarks tuck between those pages, so give yourself permission to move through the material at a pace that best supports your child. Pictures, text, and conversation can be a parent's best tools for passing along the faith. The quiet time of bedtime cuddles and early morning breakfast before school, whenever you find best for your family, and having quality materials makes your job all the easier.
Learning about the Eucharist is a life-long undertaking. Look at these years with your child as a time to lay a solid foundation. While every parent desires to give their child every good and perfect gift of faith, there are many things they must simply learn and experience on their own. However, the more substantial the foundation, the better they will build upon it as they mature and grow in their faith in the future.
Allison Gingras shares the Catholic faith with honesty, humor, and experiences from every life. Allison created the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women (OSV), which includes her titles — Seeking Peace and The Gift of Invitation. She is a podcast host, blogger, inspirational speaker, and Catholic social media consultant. Learn More: ReconciledToYou.com