Thoughts on Teaching the Faith to our Children
Including some points made at the meeting on 29th September 2010
Importance of Childhood
We as parents are the first teachers of our children so we should instil in them a sense of the divine i.e.
that other worldliness which takes us and them onto another level of understanding above the here and
now, above this earth.
William Wordsworth, the poet, believed that we are born “trailing clouds of glory” and that
“heaven lies about us in our infancy” so if our children are so close to heaven, it should not be
too difficult to do this.
Karl Rahner (Catholic theologian) reflects on the child’s unknowing familiarity with the
mystery that is denied to “the wise and clever”. He sees heaven as a place where we recover
and celebrate our childhood. He says eternity is “….a field of childhood, and no other, and
which will be carried into the store houses of eternity.”
Sometimes people say very young children will not be able to understand some of the truths of
our religion and that we should wait until they are older as some things are far too difficult to
understand. As far as some of the greater thinkers are concerned e.g those mentioned above,
this is not the case.
Children should be encouraged to see going to Church as a natural part of their life.
Sometimes they may even play at saying Mass!
There is a painting in the children's section on the website (www.deaneryintouch.com) called “Ninos
jugando a misa” (Children pretending to say Mass) by the Spanish painter Augusto Junquera Lavin
This delightful picture shows children playing at celebrating the Mass. It is shown not out of disrespect for the Holy
Eucharist but to give an idea of childhood in a Catholic country (Spain) at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Just as children play at being train drivers or postmen, the boy with the sanctimonious expression is playing at
being the priest. Note the chasuble and the biretta on the stool made from newspaper. (Priests no longer wear
birettas!) They have set up the altar with a curtain and tablecloth. The boy kneeling is the “altar boy” and the girl
looking this way looks particularly mischievous as if she is saying “Look what we’re doing!” whereas the girl about
to receive “Holy Communion” seems to be taking it all very seriously.
Jesus himself said “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” They have a very special place
in his heart and are the only age group singled out by him in the Gospels.
In modern times, children can be subjected to the evils of the world: materialism, secularism,
drink & drugs and over emphasis on pop culture!
The chief mission of the Church is to spread the Gospel. St. Francis said “Spread the Gospel.
Preach it if you have to.” In other words, our example is the best way of teaching the Gospel
to our children but we need to read Bible stories to them – stories of the miracles, the cures and
especially the story of the Last Supper. When we bring them to Mass, they will, perhaps with a
bit of help, easily connect the Last Supper with what the priest is doing at the altar
The Eucharist or Holy Communion was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper. We can find accounts of
this in three of the Gospels. This is what Matthew’s Gospel tells us:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying,
"Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink
from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of
sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with
you in my Father's kingdom."
You may consider reading similar accounts in Mark (14:22-25) and Luke’s Gospel ( 22;19-20) Also, St
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (11:23-27) recalls the events of the Last Supper, reminding
the reader of the importance of the reverence that should be shown when the early Christians gathered in
each others homes for the celebration of the Eucharist. He recalls the whole event that had been told to
him by the Apostles and emphasises that it is the body and blood of the Lord that they are receiving.
Passing on Catholic teaching on the Eucharist
All Christian doctrine is based on Scripture. The Church teaches that when Jesus said “This is my
body. This is my blood” he meant just that. We tell our children that by the action of the priest and
through the power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ.
(This is called Transubstantiation which is an important part of Catholic teaching and one which
separates us from most other Christians )
The Eucharist is the most important of the Seven Sacraments. (See list of the Seven Sacraments,
below) The Church teaches the importance of attending the Eucharist every Sunday. This is the
time when the Christian Community, the Body of Christ, gathers together in worship and it is so
necessary for us to do this on a weekly basis, especially when we are not on the rota for the
Children’s Liturgy so that we can hear the Scriptures and the homily and then take part in the most
important part: the Consecration and the Communion.
This is the opportunity to gather with our fellow members in the most important act of worship
when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, his Passion, Death and Resurrection, when we actively
participate in the celebration i.e. being engaged with mind and heart in what is going on at the
We keep the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle for adoration (that’s why we genuflect when we
come into Church) and also for taking to the sick.
Celebration of the Eucharist in the early Church.
This would have taken place in people’s houses. Christians then would have read the Scriptures (Old
Testament ) This we call the Liturgy of the Word. Then there would have been prayers of praise to God
followed by the presentation of the gifts – the bread and wine. Then the priest would consecrate the bread
and wine by saying the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. After this, the priest would receive Holy
Communion and then distribute it among the people. Soon, the Creed was added so that the people
reminded themselves of what they believed.
Over the years the Celebration has developed. Gradually other prayers would have been added. The Mass
is always in a state of development. Here are just a few examples:
Early celebrations would have been in the language of the people.
In the 4th century when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, Latin was used.
The Priest used to have his back to the people.
The laity did not take such an active role.
In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council decreed that:
Mass could be in the language of the people.
The laity could do the readings and help with the distribution of Holy Communion.
There has also been a change of style of the chasuble worn by the priest at Mass.
Soon there will be a new translation from the Latin into English.
Our Sessions of Children’s Liturgy
The adults are celebrating the Liturgy of the Word in church and at the same time, we are doing the
same with the children. When the priest announces the Gospel, we make the Sign of the Cross on our
forehead, lips and heart to remind us that we should know the Gospel, speak the Gospel and love the
Gospel. This is what we mean by active participation. We can do the same with the children.
Hints for conducting a Session
It is always wise to prepare well in advance of your turn.
The focal table is important. Always have a Crucifix on the table and don’t sit in front of it so that
the children can’t see it. Explain it to the children.
Know the Gospel reading for the particular Sunday well enough to be able to tell it in your own
words simple enough for the children to understand. It is not wise to just read the adult version.
If you are not happy with the material/activity and have a better idea, don’t be afraid to change
things so long as it is on an appropriate theme. (There are books for you to look through)
Always have extra material in case you find you have more time but it should be connected with
C.D.s and instruments are very valuable for the children
When talking about the miracles of Jesus, don’t use the word ‘magic’ instead of ‘miraculous’.
Remind them that they are going back into Church to join the adults for the important part of the
Mass when Jesus will be present on the altar in the form of bread and wine.
Seven Sacraments (all Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace.
Baptism (Makes us members of the Church and is the gateway to the other Sacraments)
Eucharist (the most important)
Anointing of the sick