Various studies in recent years have revealed a disturbing fact: less than half of people who identify as Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a central tenet of our Catholic faith. We believe that, in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ is truly though mysteriously present to us under the appearance of ordinary bread and wine.
Is this a difficult concept to teach to children (and adults)? Yes and no. On the one hand, it is challenging to teach a mystery, perhaps because, in reality, we don’t teach mystery; we invite others to encounter it and experience it. Certainly, we catechists are responsible for predisposing others to receive the sacrament, ensuring that they have a concept and understanding of what they are about to receive. However, we don’t teach the Real Presence of the Eucharist like we teach a mathematical or scientific theorem. Rather, we prepare people to see with their hearts.
One of the best examples I ever heard of someone doing this effectively was the woman who introduced my mom to the Eucharist when my mom was 13 years old. Mom grew up under very difficult circumstances, and her parents never had her baptized or brought to the sacraments. Her best friend at the time, however, was a very devout Catholic, and Mom tagged along with her (Ramona) wherever she went—including church. My mom grew curious about the Communion Rite and asked Ramona’s mom, “What do you go up there to get?” Ramona’s mom broke into a big smile and said, “Oh, Babe (my mom’s nickname), the greatest gift you can ever dream of receiving!”
She didn’t offer any theology; that came later when my mom attended “Baptism classes.” However, she predisposed my mom to enter into a mysterious encounter through which she would receive the greatest gift imaginable—the very presence of God within us! My mom, now about to turn 90 and living in a nursing home, has been and continues to be a daily communicant since the age of 14, compelled by the desire to receive the “greatest gift you can ever dream of receiving!”
This is what is at the heart of teaching the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist!
Have you seen God’s Gift, the sacramental preparation program for First Eucharist and Reconciliation?
Outstanding reflection on the Eucharist, Joe!!
Thank you, Mary!
You are the gift of information I have been praying for. The book Beyond the Cathechist’s Toolbox is just what I needed to to read. The websites are excellent too. Thank you so much for your ideas. I will be using most of what you have offered on those pages.
IHM School 7th grade
High Point, NC
Math and Religion Teacher
I do agree that this a very hard concept to teach. I work with 2nd grade students preparing for First Communion and they always have questions that I find difficult to answer. We talk about Jesus at Christmas time as being God’s greatest gift and I see now that I can carry that through during First Communion preparation and help them see the Eucharist as the greatest gift we can receive. They can receive that gift of God’s presence, carry it with them and share it with others. Thank you for sharing this reflection.
You’re welcome, Therese. Thanks for all you do to prepare children to receive this “greatest gift!”
What a great reminder to NOT over teach on this topic to young children. It is enough that they see and understand our enthusiasm for the gift of the Eucharist. Deeper theological understanding can come later!
I work with RCIA adults. Much different from 7-8 y/o 1st communion youngsters. Since my 1st Communion 73 yrs ago l had carried an erroneous image of Jesus some how stuck or forced to hide within the consecrated bread and wine.. (actually forget the wine, Father kept all of that.) In presenting the mystery of Real Presence to critically thinking adults it is my intention to describe a dynamic mystery, a dynamic God. A Devine mystery which makes itself present to the communicant through the life sustaining symbols of ordinary bread and wine. Further it is explained that it is the bread and wine that help us, along with all else happening at Eucharist, be open to the Devine presence or more precisely recognize that presence as coupled to and active with our very lives.
Beautifully said, Richard. Thanks!
This sharing is greatly appreciated for two reasons. First, your youthful experience shows how we can impact a young person’s perception. Secondly, in sharing your RCIA experience, you’ve emphasized the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist. Thank you.
I do not think that we teach the concept but we give example to what this sacrificial meal is and how it will change our lives. Faith is not taught but is caught. Thanks for the reflection.
You’re welcome, Julie
It is the greatest gift we have, the presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ in our lives.