As a priest, I can say that one of the great events of the year is administering Holy Communion to children for the first time.

I would like to take a few moments for deeper reflection on what the Lord asks us to do for these children that God entrusts to our care.

These children, who bring joy to our families and to the Church, are the Lord’s sheep. He cares about them deeply; He shed His Blood for them.

As a matter of fact, there is a deep tie between the Lord’s sheep and the Eucharist.

When Our Lord multiplied the loaves of bread for the 5,000 in John’s Gospel,  there was a “great deal of grass” in the place the people reclined before he fed them.

No detail in Scripture is recorded by sheer coincidence.

St. John was likely alluding to Psalm 23, the great and famous Psalm about the Good Shepherd, where it states “he maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

When a child receives the Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist for the first time, this is ordered primarily to keep them alive spiritually, so that they might forever enjoy the company of the Good Shepherd.

I make this heartfelt appeal to you as guardians of the Lord’s sheep–to buck certain trends that are repeated year after year in the Church.

I fervently pray that your child’s first Holy Communion is not their last. I fervently pray that when they receive the Bread of Life, we do everything in our power as guardians and protectors to keep them alive– not just physically, but spiritually.

In order to do this, it is necessary to restate the Church’s position on one of the bare minimums Our Lord asks of us: attend Mass every Sunday. 

The Catechism more precisely specifies this precept of the Church:

On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite, either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.

“Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2180-2181

Dear parents, please note the Church considers this “the foundation…of all Christian practice.”

Without a strong foundation, surviving with our faith and souls intact will be hard.

Secondly, (and I cannot stress this enough), the parents’ example is the greatest impetus for children in keeping the faith. Parents are the giants and heroes whom the Lord provides in leading them to Him.

Our examples can lead children to Jesus or away from Him.

I must stress, however, that even though attending Sunday Mass is the bare minimum, deliberately neglecting this is both a grave sin and a scandal:

“Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.”

CCC 2284 

As for Our Lord’s attitude towards little ones and scandal, He could not be clearer:

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6)

Our Lord uses strong words because He loves us. He loves these children and He wants us to live.

I humbly ask that you take these words to heart and avoid endangering the spiritual lives of the Lord’s most precious possession, His sheep.

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[See also: A Priest’s Hopeful Message for Parents of Fallen-Away Catholics: “Be Patient…God is Waiting”]

[See also: No, Catholic Parents Should NOT Let Small Kids “Decide For Themselves” About the Faith]

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