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Online Edition - Vol. IX, No. 10: February 2004

Teaching the Eucharist - Two Methods

(The following appears as a sidebar to

What have we done to our children? Part III)

Model I -- Homily and Action from a First Communion Mass

From More Liturgies for Children edited by Maria Bruck (New York: Paulist Press, 1981) pp. 269-270.

"The homily is a story telling how 'God searched for the way by which He could be among His people'. He first tells them to share shoes. The people do. 'Yet they did not know God was with them' because 'now there was a nation of people -- all of whom had only one shoe'. So then God tells them to share water. Again the people do this, but they have no cups or bowls and when they try to carry it in their hands the water runs out. 'And God's people were still thirsty with nothing to share so that they could know that He was with them'. Finally God tells the people to share bread.

"They could share bread and still have plenty for themselves -- not like the shoes. They could share bread and not lose it -- as happened with water. They could share bread and be together when they did. They could be happy and not be hungry. They could be strength for one another.

"And so the people did as they were told - they shared their bread. And from that day on they knew that God was with them.

"This is accompanied by an action involving a large sheet of paper in the shape of a loaf of bread.

"Showing everyone present the large sheet of paper cut in the shape of bread, the celebrant then tears it into two equal parts and gives one of the parts to one of the children. He and the child then tear each of their portions into two, and the celebrant and child each share one of their portions with someone present.... The action of tearing and sharing the 'bread' continues until all present have a piece. Thus the message: When we share whatever we have, there is enough for everyone. That is what the Eucharist is all about -- having enough love to share with anyone who needs it."

***

Model II - Explaining Transubstantiation

From "Transubstantiation", by British philosopher, G.E.M. Anscombe, a pamphlet for Catholic Truth Society, London, 1974; reprinted in G.E.M. Anscombe, Collected Philosophical Papers Volume III: Ethics, Religion and Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1981, pp. 107, 108. The late Gertrude Elizabeth Mary Anscombe was the mother of seven children and professor of philosophy at Cambridge University.

"It is easiest to tell what transubstantiation is by saying this: little children should be taught about it as early as possible. Not of course using the word 'transubstantiation', because it is not a little child's word. But the thing can be taught, and it is best taught at Mass at the consecration, the one part where a small child should be got to fix its attention on what is going on. I mean a child that is beginning to speak, one that understands enough language to be told and to tell you things that have happened and to follow a simple story. Such a child can be taught by whispering to it such things as: 'Look! Look what the priest is doing.... He is saying Jesus' words that change the bread into Jesus' Body. Now he's lifting it up. Look! Now bow your head and say 'My Lord and my God', and then 'Look, now he's taken hold of the cup. He's saying the words that change the wine into Jesus' Blood. Now bow your head and say 'We believe, we adore your precious Blood, O Christ of God'. This need not be disturbing to the surrounding people....

"I knew a child, close upon three years old and only then beginning to talk, but taught as I have described, who was in the free space at the back of the church when the mother went to Communion. 'Is He in you?' the child asked when the mother came back. 'Yes', she said, and to her amazement the child prostrated itself before her. I can testify to this, for I saw it happen. I once told the story to one of those theologians who unhappily (as it seems) strive to alter and water down our faith, and he deplored it: he wished to say, and hoped that the Vatican Council would say, something that would show the child's idea to be wrong. I guessed then that the poor wretch was losing the faith and indeed so, sadly, did it turn out".

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