We want to keep our children pure and innocent, but we also need to teach them about Jesus and His Love for us. In doing so, they need to learn about the Crucifixion. It seems a gruesome thing to teach a small child, but it’s a crucial part of our faith. Additionally, we need to teach them about the Eucharist, the center of the Mass, which is the highest form of prayer.
So, how can we do that in a way to help children understand both the importance and the meaning behind this Blessed Sacrament?
Jesus Loves You
We start telling our children at a young age that Jesus loves them. We may even pair it with the times we say we love them, thus relating the two. After all, we couldn’t love our children if the Father didn’t love us first.
By reminding them of Jesus’s love, we make that the catalyst for how they identify Jesus. God is Love and so Jesus is an expression of that love. When they think of Jesus, they think of love. They begin to associate all things Jesus-related with love.
This can be understood at any age and it’s the simplest lesson for any child. When you start here, the rest follows naturally.
Jesus Died for You
The next part is more difficult sometimes. Children don’t understand death immediately unless they’ve lost a loved one or even a pet. The harder part is explaining how He died. Crucifixion isn’t exactly part of modern culture, but we don’t need to get detailed for young children. It’s enough to say that He died on the Cross because He loves us.
To a young child, they may simply take our word for it, but some may question why. Tell them that some people didn’t like Jesus’s message of love and that people were listening to Him instead of them (the “mean” guys). So those mean guys decided to kill Jesus.
Jesus Rose for You
If your children are shocked and horrified, that’s okay. Validate their feelings; it is horrible what they did to our Lord. Then comfort them as you say that Jesus loves us so much that He gave His Life for us. And the Father loves Jesus’s sacrifice so much that Heaven was opened up for us. And the Lord’s love was so powerful that death couldn’t hold it… And He rose again!
It’s a story of hope, renewal, love, faith… and children will understand it more quickly than we might think. It’s okay for them to be shocked or upset that Jesus was killed. They can experience those feelings as those are normal feelings in life. Following it up with feelings of renewed hope in the Resurrection is even better. Perhaps they’ll start to learn that death, failure, falling, etc. is not the end of anything. Perhaps that lesson is missing in this world and needs to come back.
Jesus Feeds You
We can tell our children all the Bible stories and there’s so many resources to use, but when it comes to the Eucharist, the Crucifixion story is paramount. Children will ask why Jesus had to do that. The answer is to give us hope, new life, and to feed us.
Just like our bodies need food, our souls need Christ. The Mass is a great, big prayer which brings us to the Crucifixion. The Bread and Wine are Jesus’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It might be too soon for young children to learn about transubstantiation, but they can simply be told that the Eucharist is Jesus’s Body and we receive Jesus in this special way to be with Him and to be more like Him.
The Holy Eucharist
The Holy Eucharist is soul food and just like our physical bodies need to eat, we need to receive Jesus for our souls. When children start to learn how precious Jesus’s Body is, they start to learn reverence for the Host, folding their hands, kneeling in His presence, and bowing before the altar.
It’s an ongoing lesson and we shouldn’t be afraid to tell our children that. We as adults are still learning about Jesus and His Love and the Eucharist. We’re not perfect and we continuously need that soul food too! Let’s be transparent with our children and make sure they know we’re on this journey with them.
As we prepare our children for the Holy Eucharist, we’re preparing them for Heaven. Receiving the Lord in this way is part of our Catholic identity and the greatest gift we can teach them to receive.