The Communion Conundrum

May 6, 2024

The Easter season provides an opportunity to celebrate the life and death of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice on the Cross brought light to the world conquering sin and death, his destruction of the works of the Devil, and the opening of the gates of heaven. We are also blessed to receive the richness of the liturgical readings from the Acts of the Apostles that highlight the development of the early Church, the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, and the witness of our fellow brothers and sisters received into the Church who have finally come home. Within this series of celebrations, we also encounter another important event, a child’s first Holy Communion.

It is the last of these events, I argue that poses a communion conundrum because of the nature and substance of what the child receives and how the reception of this gift is viewed and treated. To provide more context, there was a family who had joyfully revealed that their oldest son had just made his first holy communion on Saturday and that they couldn’t wait to have his first holy communion party with family and friends the following day, Sunday. What was interesting about this scenario is that they did not attend Mass on Sunday due to the priority of the communion party.

Now, whether the family had been instructed that you cannot intentionally miss Mass on Sunday because it is the Holy Day of obligation, or, whether it was explained that Jesus Christ died and rose again. And, He walked with us before his Ascension to ensure we would commemorate his life and death through our participation in the Lord’s Day. It appears that somehow, the catechetical instruction, pleas from the Pastor, billboard sign, threat of ex-communication, or the infamous eucharistic felt banner simply was not enough to have the family return the next day to give thanks to our Lord for the gift of his body and blood.

This situation reminds me of the words of Christ at the Last Supper where he tells his Apostles “Take, eat, this is my body, drink this is my blood.”[1] These literal words of Christ in Sacred Scripture confirm that the bread and wine used at the Last Supper are his actual body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine. If we take these words to be true, then the words of Jesus Christ in St. John’s Gospel resonate even more when He reminds us,

Truly truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks his blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.[2]

If this was Jesus’ intention, we have either ignored or misinterpreted the reason to receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist every Sunday hence a communion conundrum. If the family preparing their child to receive the Holy Eucharist has no intention to follow through with actively attending Mass every Sunday or handing on the faith to their children, why bother? It’s interesting to note that there is a specific language used in the Catechism that describes Jesus’ institution of the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his body and blood to be in perpetuity, meaning the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is to continue until he comes again.[3] This means that the Church has been entrusted to continue offering the celebration of the Holy Eucharist as the literal memorial sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

How should we prepare our families and their children to ensure the after-party Is not more important than active participation in the Mass? Here’s a sample lesson that may serve as a start:

  • Calculated disengagement. This means what are the best means to convey the Gospel message.  It is important to note that everything instructed must be centered on Jesus Christ regardless of the doctrine.  This step requires us to be Christocentric in our catechesis because it is Christ the Son of God who gave flesh to the Word of God. Things to use in this first step would include the following (the development of a sacred space at home and at school, sacred music, sacred art, Eucharistic prayers, and bible stories) The goal is to engage the child in the transcendence of God.
  • Main Message: Emphasis is placed on the Gospel proclamation. In other words, what is the main point you want your child to receive from the specific lesson taught? Typically, the Gospel message is only two sentences in length. Sacred Scripture is your driving force.
  • Precise Explanation: Carefully explain the teaching(s) of the Church using Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the lives of the saints, video, art, notes, workbooks, and handouts. Teach for the sake of conversion! Answer their questions carefully, and honestly! You want the child to ask questions to investigate the truth of Church teaching.
  • Pastoral Application: Provide learning opportunities that will aid the child’s understanding of Church teaching. Recitation and memorization of Scripture passages on the Eucharist, eucharistic-related prayers from the Saints, answering further questions. Always clarify!
  • Affirm: Actively affirm the true presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist and their participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. The child must see the value of everything taught and how it can be lived. Remember, a child learns by what he sees and how it is applied, this is how he develops a Catholic worldview through the examples of others demonstrating how to live the Catholic faith.

Prayer After Communion

Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have you present so that I do not forget you. You know how easily I abandon you.
Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak, and I need your strength, so that I may not fall so often.
Stay with me, Lord, for you are my life, and without you, I am without fervor.
Stay with me, Lord, for you are my light, and without you, I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, to show me your will.
Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear your voice and follow you.
Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love you very much, and always be in your company.
Stay with me, Lord, if you wish me to be faithful to you.
Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I want it to be a place of consolation for you, a nest of love. Amen.
 

St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Prayer After Communion

 

 

                       

 

 

[1] Mt 26: 26-29

[2] Jn 6:53-58

[3] CCC 1323

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