Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Everyday Grace: First Eucharist: after the party’s over
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the May 24, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)
I called long distance for a report on Angelica’s First Eucharist. She lives 3,000 miles away, so I couldn’t be there. But she’s my niece and Godchild, and I wanted her to know she was in my thoughts and prayers.
My sister Louise told me Angelica and her classmates were noticeably kind and helpful throughout the weekend. Angelica lent a willing hand caring for her baby brother and helped her mother in the kitchen without being reminded.
A neighbor boy, also in the First Communion class, saw Louise mowing the lawn in the hot sunshine and brought her a glass of water. Louise said, “Wow, this First Eucharist is making a difference.”
I bet she couldn’t help but think, “I hope it lasts.”
What happens after the party is over? How do we help our children see the importance of the Second Eucharist? And the third? And each one after?
If you’re anticipating First Eucharist, plan a celebration that bears some resemblance to the Sundays that will follow. If gifts, clothing and activities are so extravagant they have no relation to normal life, you may be setting your child up for letdown. You may be drawing attention to the extraneous, rather than to the sacrament.
Here are some suggestions for keeping the excitement alive.
- Continue to talk with your children about the Eucharist. Their understanding of the sacrament will grow over the years. Share how Eucharist feeds you, or calls you to change.
- Keep Sunday Mass a priority — not an obligation, but the focus and center of your week. Prepare by taking a look at the readings ahead of time and talking about them as a family. On the way home from Mass, ask children what they heard, saw or felt during the celebration.
- Show enthusiasm. If gathering with the community on Sunday is important to you, your children will notice. Make the day different from other days of the week by spending time relaxing, or visiting with friends and family.
- Make a connection with another family or single person you see at Mass. Invite them to your home for a simple meal or dessert. Participate in parish activities.
- Spend time as a family. Go beyond watching TV together, driving to soccer, or shopping at the mall. A family game night or a Saturday afternoon picnic in the park can strengthen family relationships. Work together, too. It may be easier and quicker for Mom to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen, but the whole family working together creates a sense of belonging. Kids feel better knowing they are contributing. Strong family bonds teach children what it means to be community.
- Help your children cultivate relationships with other Catholic adults. In the teenage years when your kids may not listen to you, or even like you very much, these adults can be important guides.
- Take a look at your marriage. In what ways does it model the unity of the Body of Christ? What your children see and hear at home will influence them more than anything you might say, or that they learn in school or religious education.
- Show compassion when your child fails. We try to emulate Christ, but none of us is perfect. Know that your children will make mistakes. Be gentle with them, and lead them to Jesus by modeling his forgiveness and love.
Don’t let this list overwhelm you. You don’t have to do everything in the next week. Eucharist is food for a journey. One step at a time, our families grow in Christ. We move forward trusting the Spirit is alive in us and our children.
(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane freelance journalist and children’s writer.)
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