Soul Food: Children receive first taste of bread of life in sacrament of Holy Communion
WICHITA FALLS — Every spring, during the liturgical season of Easter, many children throughout the Diocese of Fort Worth and the world receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist for the first time.
On April 15, second graders at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls were among these children. The Holy Eucharist is one of three sacraments of initiation in the Catholic Church, along with Baptism and Confirmation.
“The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian lives,” said Father Alexander Ambrose, HGN, pastor of Our Lady of Queen of Peace. “This spiritual food, the Holy Eucharist, sustains and nourishes our parishioners and the Church, because the life of the Church is centered on the Holy Eucharist. As our bodies need to be sustained, so also our souls need solid nourishment to continue to live and to be strengthened against weakness and sickness,” he said.
The boys receiving their First Holy Communion wore suits and ties and the girls wore white gowns.
During the homily, Fr. Ambrose asked the 16 children why they wore fancy clothing on that day and were surrounded by family and friends to receive the Holy Eucharist for the first time, but they did not do the same when they ate other foods such as pizza, soda, or steak for the first time.
A little girl answered that she and her classmates would be receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood.
“Yes, beautiful. You are receiving Jesus’ body and blood. It is not ordinary drink or food. It is the Body and Blood of Jesus. It’s the bread that came down from heaven. And you are going to eat. Beautiful,” Fr. Ambrose said.
Fr. Ambrose also gave the children a “test,” during which he pulled different types of bread out of a white bag and asked them what kind of bread they were. They answered correctly as he pulled out a hamburger bun, a hot dog bun, and a piece of toast.
“If you are able to understand the difference between these breads [the buns and toast] and this bread [the host, which will become the Eucharist],” you are welcome to share in the Body and Blood of Christ.
Some children had serious expressions and some had joyful smiles as they received Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.
In the United States and many countries, children are given First Communion around seven years old, which is thought of as the age of reason.
“Through the children’s receipt of their first sacrament in Baptism, they were given life in Christ and His Church,” said Anne Poplin, Director of Religious Education at Our Lady Queen of Peace and lead catechist for their First Communion program this year. “As they now are reaching the age of reason, they are placed in environments where they begin to make decisions in absence of their parents. Christ now comes to them in the sacrament of Reconciliation and the sacrament of Holy Communion to sustain and nourish them so that they might have abundant life as they navigate the world,” she said.
Caryn Mijares, mother of Bianca Mijares, said the importance of Holy Communion is that children learn at a young age that they can receive Jesus in the Eucharist to nourish their heart, mind, and body.
“They will be reminded that Jesus is their savior every time they receive Communion, and it strengthens their faith. They will feel the love of Jesus as they receive Him in the Eucharist,” she said.
Like many Catholic children throughout the diocese and the world, the first communicants at Our Lady Queen of Peace were required to attend special classes on Reconciliation last fall and on the Holy Eucharist this spring, in addition to their regular religious formation classes. Their parents were also required to attend classes.
Karie Miller, mother of first communicant Ben Miller, said the whole process helped further develop her family’s sense of community with the Church.
“When we drop Ben off and he receives instruction from you all [at the parish], it helps us to think about how we cannot give him all those things by ourselves. We do need the Church, and we do need the Church family,” she said.
She also said it makes her family realize they also go to Mass to be with their Our Lady Queen of Peace parish family.
Fr. Ambrose said the reception of the Holy Eucharist by a parish’s children for the first time is important to parishioners because it reminds parents that they are the first and best teachers of their children.
“For the many years to come what they say and do will influence the faith of their children and their friendship with Jesus,” he said. “Hence, they should continue to train them in Christian faith and its practice, not just by advice but by exemplary Christian lives.”