Do you remember the first time you laid eyes on your child? The first smile? The first step? The first word? No doubt you do, but your child isn’t likely to remember. At our First Communion Retreat day, there is a promise I make to children. “You will remember your First Communion Day for the rest of your life.” I ask the parents, “Do you remember your First Communion?” Heads nod and hands go up. Decades later, I remember being nervous, and the white cake my aunt made with silver candy on the top in the shape of a rosary. I remember my white shoes. I remember knowing this clearly was a big deal.
The deeper meaning of Eucharist is something we grow into, and is a bigger deal than the day itself, however wonderful it is.
How can we take in the beauty, power and awesomeness of Eucharist? It can only happen over time. It is enough on that special day to know this nourishes the love between our child and God.
The Eucharist is a Sacrament of Initiation and First Communion is another step in the walk of a Catholic. We become part of the Christian family at Baptism, and now our child is old enough to join us at Mass and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We believe they have enough understanding to celebrate what Jesus did for us through his death and resurrection. In this, he gained forgiveness for our sins. He opened the way for us to eternal life. Eucharist is what Jesus told his followers to do to remember him.
Eucharist is the Sacrament that enables us to remember and deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ. Since the beginning of Christianity, the Eucharist has been at the very heart of Catholic spiritual life. If church walls could talk, they would tell the story of those who came before us, kept the faith — and through the Mass, passed it on from generation to generation.
This is the ritual Christ gave us to hold us together. The Eucharist celebration has its roots in the Jewish Passover meal, when the Israelites remembered the Jewish families spared from the Pharaoh’s wrath as Moses led the people out of Egypt. In Eucharist, we remember God’s continued faithfulness in Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is a meal of gratitude. In fact, that is what Eucharist means: Thanksgiving. It’s a covenant meal renewing, again and again, God’s promise to us to be our God, and for us to be God’s people. Our family dinner roots us in food and love in the same way the Mass does as a family of faith.
Sometimes, as parents, we say one thing but we really mean another. When we say, “Brush your teeth,” we mean “Learn good habits.” When we say, “Be careful,” we mean, “You’re precious to me.” “Hold my hand in parking lots,” means, “We couldn’t bear to live without you.”
But, a message we hope to be very clear in bringing our children to their First Communion and sharing Mass together week after week is to say, “God loves you. I love you. In the Eucharist, God will always be with you.”
Dr. Kathie Amidei is a wife, mother, grandmother, and Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony on the Lake Parish in Pewaukee, as well as a consultant for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.