May is an exciting time for Catholics. Many children will continue their lifelong journey with Jesus as they receive Him in the Eucharist for the first time. May is also recognized by the Church as Mary’s month. It seems fitting for children to receive their First Holy Communion during a season dedicated to Jesus’ Mother who, in the words of St. Louis de Montfort, always leads us to her Son.
In 2005 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke in St. Peter’s Square with several children. Recalling his own First Communion, the former Pope shared:
“I understood that Jesus had entered my heart, He had actually visited me…And I promised the Lord as best I could: ‘I want to stay with you’, and I prayed to Him ‘but above all, stay with me’.”
Young Joseph Ratzinger expressed a desire for Jesus and lovingly welcomed Him into his heart. God places a longing in each of our hearts to lead us back to Him. Children are especially receptive to this prompting because of their innocent and trusting nature. Our duty as parents and catechists is to cultivate a love for Jesus in each of our children’s hearts.
I’d like to suggest three ways to do this: 1) get them to Mass to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist as often as possible. 2) teach them how to pray the Rosary and pray it with them every day 3) introduce them to St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB).
The Eucharist is the greatest gift Christ left to His Church. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, it is “the perfection of the spiritual life, and the end to which all sacraments tend.” No wonder St. John Paul II described First Holy Communion as an “unforgettable meeting with Jesus” and a “day to be remembered as one of life’s most beautiful.”
As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explained “It is important, and I would say fundamental, to be nourished by Jesus in Communion.” Getting our children to Mass to receive Communion as often as possible is a sure way to inspire love for Jesus.
The Rosary helps us get to know Jesus better. By continually reviewing the key events of Jesus’ life, in union with Mary, children come to know how much Jesus loves them. They connect the joyful and sorrowful circumstances of Jesus’ life with their own life which helps them to know Him and themselves better.
The Rosary is one of the most powerful weapons we have against evil. St. Padre Pio said, “The Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today.” It is a storehouse of countless blessings. Venerable Pope Pius XII said, “There is no surer means of calling down God’s blessings upon the family…than the daily recitation of the Rosary.”
Mary has, in the course of history, shown her motherly care for little ones. Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the three shepherd children and asked them to pray the Rosary every day. Pope St. John Paul II and other saints have written about the “enormous power” of children’s prayers. Mary wants us to accept her help in drawing our children closer to Jesus through daily recitation of the “most beautiful and richest of prayers” (Pope St. Pius X).
Theology of the Body
St. John Paul II’s TOB is a platform for sharing the truths of the Gospel. Using the words of Jesus, the late Holy Father takes us on a journey back to the Garden before the fall, to our redemption in Jesus, and our destiny in Heaven. God loved us so much that he took on a body to reveal Himself to us. It is through the Incarnation of His Son that we come to learn more about Jesus and ourselves. TOB shows children that every person is a unique and unrepeatable gift to be upheld in all they do. With Jesus as the example, children learn that they are called to love by making a gift of themselves to others. This understanding, when applied to the circumstances of everyday life, bears abundant fruit. Families and classrooms flourish with the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The Importance of Children in the Church
Throughout his pontificate, Pope St. John Paul II stressed the importance of children. In his Angelus address on the Solemnity of the Epiphany, 2005, the Holy Father shared the following:
“Children are the present and future of the Church. They play an active role in the evangelization of the world and, with their prayers, help to save and improve it.”
It’s up to us to pass on the faith to our children. We should confidently accept this responsibility; these little ones will transform the world. We should arm them with the Eucharist, the Rosary and TOB.
Written by Debbie Staresinic
Debbie is the author of two sets of Rosary meditations inspired by St. John Paul II. Her most recent book “On a Mission to Love: Rosary Meditations for Children and Families” was written with Catholic schools and families in mind. The optional decade a day format helps cultivate the important habit of praying the Rosary daily while instilling the truths about the human person as revealed by Jesus in the Gospel. To learn more about “On a Mission to Love” click here. The book is also available as a gift set which includes a beautiful children’s rosary.