Every Spring, kids get dressed up in white dresses or little suits and walk into a church usually packed with parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members to watch the young ones receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time in Holy Communion.
Sometimes, that is the last time the family attends Mass.
The sad reality is that some families see First Communion as a rite of passage but end up not maintaining a faith life for themselves or their children. Here are some ways to engage parents and help them to engage their children to keep growing in faith after receiving the sacrament.
Involve Parents in Religious Education
Holding a meeting with parents that coincides with their child’s formation classes, where they can talk about and grow in their own faith, gives the Church the chance to re-catechize them. Use this opportunity for adult formation to give guidance for how to practice their faith at home, as a family.
- Start Conversations, Make Space for Faith. Outside of any formation, families should prioritize faith-focused time together. This used to be the primary way children learned the Bible. In the time of the Puritans, parents felt it was their duty to teach their children their catechism. Fathers generally spent 45-60 minutes a week teaching their children their faith. That’s no longer the case, but if parents include some religious activities and spark discussions about God and the Church, the desire to grow in faith and be with the parish community to receive the Eucharist will bear fruit.
- Keep celebrations Christ-focused. For some families, First Communion ends up being more about the dresses or suits, the parties, gifts, and other trappings. Keep any and all gifts religious in nature. Ultimately, it is a chance to celebrate a child’s faith and to welcome them to the sacrament. It should be so focused on receiving Jesus that every Mass and Communions should feel as special as the first.
While it is a good start, it is not enough to just carry on a faith life in the home. Reminding and teaching parents that receiving Jesus at Mass is a vital part of everyone’s week, increases the likelihood that they will continue to come to Mass after the celebrations are over. Use class time to share ways to help teach and foster their family’s faith by coming to church and being an example during the Mass.
- Participate in Mass. In short, say it like you mean it. Really think about the words you are saying or singing – the Act of Contrition, the Gloria, the Our Father, the Lamb of God – and consider how each of those reflects the humility and the desire to grow in holiness. The more sincerely parents practice their faith, actively participate in Mass and sincerely receive Communion, the more children will be influenced. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
- Teach the Real Presence. More than two-thirds of Catholics believe that the host and wine are symbolic. That should shock Catholics everywhere. (63% of regular Mass-goers answered that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus.) The Church calls the Eucharist “the source and summit of Christian life,” and we are called to receive Communion at least during the Easter season. It is one of the most important sacraments, and parents should reignite their belief and love of the Eucharist; such a belief will be contagious to their children.
Share the ways you foster the faith of First Communicant’s parents and keep them coming to Mass below.