Now that your child’s first holy Communion day has come and gone, what should you do next? A veteran catechist offers three practical and doable suggestions for parents.
by Cindy Coleman
First holy Communion day was beautiful and exciting, wasn’t it? Your child, all dressed up in their special outfit, family and friends gathered to celebrate, the parish church filled with excitement, the children’s lovely procession … there was so much anticipation and preparation!
Then so quickly the children had received the Eucharist, and Mass was over. The pictures are taken, the parties are done, the special clothes put away, the presents opened. What’s next?
1. Make Mass Attendance a Holy Habit
Come back to Mass. Don’t stop after the first Communion Mass. Now is the time to make it a holy habit to attend Mass every Sunday as a family. Recent surveys reveal that only 35-45 percent of Catholics go to Mass regularly on Sundays.
As a catechist, this is no news to me. The curriculum preparing for first Communion focuses on the Mass. While I am careful never to ask, the majority of second graders are more than willing to tell me, that they don’t go to Mass because they are “too busy.” I tell them that there is nothing more important to be busy with than Mass. I know that children’s sports leagues are taking over more and more of Sundays. I know parents work a full week and try to catch up on chores and errands on Sunday. But setting aside that one single hour on Sunday (or Saturday evening) can be a family choice.
At every first holy Communion Mass, whether it is subtle and implied or boldly stated, the priest implores the parents to take their children to Mass. We go to Mass because of the praise and worship proper to God — but the payoffs for families who practice their faith are enormous. Read here about how family religious practice helps kids and families.
Don’t look back at what did nor did not happen before in attending Sunday Mass. Just decide to make it a priority going forward. Don’t do it because it is the “right thing.” Do it because it is the good thing — Good for you, good for your children, good for your family as a whole.
Just like any sacrament, receiving the Eucharist for the first time is a milestone on our journey of faith, not an end goal. As a wise priest says every year at our first holy Communion Mass, “The most important Communion is your second Communion and the one after that and the one after that and the many, many, many more through your life.” The Eucharist is our food for the journey. Without this spiritual food we all grow weak. Here are ways to make going to Mass as a family a better experience for everyone.
2. Try Eucharistic Adoration
Many parishes have adoration one day a week beginning after morning Mass and ending in early evening. Some parishes even have perpetual adoration (that’s adoration 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year). To find a perpetual adoration near year, search through this list.
This may seem bold, but how about taking your children for a visit to Jesus? It doesn’t have to be an entire holy hour; I suggest 10-15 minutes to start. It could begin with you encouraging your child for a few minutes of silent personal prayer in talking to Jesus from their heart. Then they could read a children’s Bible, Bible storybook, book about a saint or other similar book you bring for 5-10 minutes. Another possibility is to pray together one decade of the rosary. Here are more ideas on how to do Eucharistic adoration with kids.
Preparing to go to adoration will give you the chance to remind your child about the real presence, reverence and how amazing it is that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.
The silence will also teach them. In our busy and noisy world the silence of adoration is radical. If we are not quiet, how can we hear God speak to us?
3. Practice the Works of Mercy
Children often receive monetary gifts for their first Communion. Asking them to donate a set amount or percent to the poor box or another charity would be a wonderful lesson in the works of mercy. You could help them research and donate to a charity that takes their interest or buy food for the parish food bank. Here is a book review on an introductory set of books on the works of mercy that might help get you started.
How will you help your child to live out the beauty of their first holy Communion?
Cindy Coleman is a second-grade catechist and VBS leader at both her home parish of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, Montgomeryville, Pa., and at St. Jude Parish in Chalfont, Pa. She is passionate about sharing our Catholic faith with children and their families. She also is co-coordinator of her parish’s Liturgy of the World with Children. Among her other parish activities, she is being trained as ReachMore group leader and leads the newly started WINE (Women in the New Evangelization) group. Cindy is married to Ron and the proud mother of Matthew, who recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame.