When she was about four years old, our youngest child developed an active curiosity about the tabernacle at our parish church.
At first we couldn’t understand why, at the end of communion, she would climb over us and stand on the kneeler, craning her neck in the direction of the tabernacle. After Mass, she would insist on going over to it and staring.
One Sunday, she asked, “What’s inside the gold house?”
We explained, as best as we could, that the house is a tabernacle and Jesus lives inside it. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have been so literal. Our explanation, which seemed so clear to the rest of us, was taken at face value by my inquisitive youngest child whose mind couldn’t yet grasp the True Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
“How does He fit in there?”
“Did someone chop off His head? How come there’s no blood?”
“Is it just His bones in there?”
Her determination to see real, live Jesus in the tabernacle propelled her to continue shoving past legs, people, pews and seats to catch a glimpse of contortionist Jesus before Father closed the tabernacle door. Eventually she grew to understand transubstantiation and consecration and the mystery of Jesus in the tabernacle was resolved.
When my older children were very young, they were often showered with presents that my parents would bring back from their many religious pilgrimages. My children were gifted with bags of souvenirs, among which were religious items: holy cards, books, medallions, rosaries. The items came from Rome, Lourdes, Fatima, every place that had major as well as lesser known shrines. In my mom’s eyes, they were little treasures and she presented them to the children with accompanying stories of the shrines and saints.
My mother-in-law would take the children to Saturday morning Mass and then they would remain in the church and pray the rosary. Nana would lead, children would follow and she insisted on exemplary behaviour from her grandchildren. Afterwards, there was often a little treat for the kids.
From experience, I believe that little children have a healthy curiosity and a willingness to learn about the Faith. They are naturally open to learning little prayers and discovering the life of Jesus and the Holy Family, angels and saints, Holy Mass and Church life. Constant exposure to the Liturgy, prayer and to Catholic tradition is an invaluable part of children’s formation and the family is where the first seeds of the Faith are planted.
We can’t shelter our children from all the immoral influences of the secular world but we can prepare them for the war on their souls. Their weapons will be a properly formed Catholic faith, a critical discerning mind and a family that nurtures their souls…and it all starts with a little child whose curiosity is piqued by Catholic teachings, prayers, traditions and items that are constantly in their lives.
Copyright 2013 Terry McDermott