Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sacramental prep year

Now that school, homeschooling, and religious education are back in full swing, I imagine a good percentage of you have children receiving sacraments this year. Regardless of their age and whether it's First  Reconciliation and First Eucharist or Confirmation or all 3, I wanted to talk about what you can do to be an active participant in the experience.

Sadly, many parishes do not have programs, curricula, etc. in place that intimately involve the parents in the formal preparation for these sacraments. The bulk of prep will take place in the classroom and maybe there will be a retreat or a few other meetings/events/prayer services, but that's about it. I, myself, will be preparing twenty 8th graders at my parish for Confirmation using the new program Decision Point from The Dynamic Catholic Institute. My kids will go on a retreat, but most all the prep will be done in class. I am still discerning how I want to go about engaging the parents more after Christmas when we begin most of the formal preparation for Confirmation. I'll keep you posted as I go along!

Regardless of whether or not your parish has a lot of activities set up for you and your child to do together, this is a great time to make some extra time for your child. Regardless of which sacrament(s) your child is preparing for, here are some ideas.

If your child is around 2nd grade age you can:

  • After Mass, have him/her draw a picture of the gospel and discuss that picture with him/her.
  • Spend a few minutes each week talking with your child about the Eucharist. Have them ask their questions and if they don't know, research an answer and get back to them! 
  • When your child is in trouble, use those moments to lovingly discuss Reconciliation and explain how important it will be for him/her to apologize to God as well so he/she can do better next time.  
  • Work on memorizing prayer/songs like the Gloria or Nicene Creed. Learn 2-3 lines each week and discuss what they mean as you go.
  • Go to Eucharistic Adoration. Even if it's just for 10-15 minutes once or twice a month, that special quiet time with your child in the Lord's Presence will benefit your entire family!
  • Invite your priest for dinner. Have your child help prepare the meal. Ask your priest to tell you about his First Communion. (You could also do this with your child's catechist, DRE or a deacon at the parish.)
  • Record some children's shows on EWTN and view them together. 
  • Get a book of the saints and read about a saint together each night. Ask that saint to pray for your child. 
  • Create a huge Eucharist collage on butcher paper. Start by gluing down an image of the Last Supper. Each week, add 1 or more new images: Catholic friends, family members, fellow parishioners, local clergy or religious, etc. If possible, use photos from their First Communions. Make sure to include saints and deceased relatives. Talk about how all these people are part of the Eucharist each and every week. Put the collage in your child's bedroom. Put a photo of your child somewhere in the house. Have that photo travel a few inches or feet closer to the Eucharist each week. It'll be a great visual countdown! The morning of their First Eucharist, they can move the photo onto the collage. 
If your child is closer to 8th grade you can:

  • Read the readings (or just the gospel) before Mass and discuss it on the drive/walk to church.
  • Make a Holy Hour once/month or so.
  • Receive Reconciliation with him/her every 1-2 months. 
  • Each week  pick a Gift or Fruit of the Holy Spirit. Discuss what it means, how to live it out, how you've experienced it that week, etc. There are 16 total, so after you've gone through each of them, go through them again. You can probably get through each one 2 or 3 times before Confirmation so they'll really get to comprehend how the Holy Spirit is active in his/her life.
  • Pick 3 or 4 saints your son/daughter is interested in or might feel a connection to. Read about their lives together and/or read some of their writings. If your child is expected to pick a saint's name for Confirmation, this will help immensely with the decision process.
Regardless of the age of your child, as a family you can:

  • Create a special prayer table or add special items to your current prayer table that will help remind everyone to pray especially for the child preparing. This could include: a photo of that child, his or her baptismal candle, or his/her artwork depicting the sacrament(s) being prepared for.
  • Attend daily Mass once/week (in addition to Sunday and Holy Days)
  • Attend Mass on the Feast Day of  your child's patron saint. 
  • Find service projects to do as a family such as making cards for parishioners who are homebound, preparing a meal at a homeless shelter, or doing house or yardwork for an elderly neighbor. 
Don't get me wrong, many of these are suggestions I hope you might use at any time in your child's life. However, I know that during this special, holy, exciting year you may be looking to do something extra,  new or different. I hope my suggestions help! What things have you done at home or, if you're a catechist, what things have you suggested parents do at home, to help better prepare a child for the sacraments? 

1 comment:

  1. We can be confirmation buddies! I teach the confirmation prep program at my parish and it's a struggle sometimes. The weird thing about the middle schoolers at my parish is they DON'T TALK..I can't get them to talk for ANYTHING. It's a constant struggle.

    We purchased Chosen at the end of last year when it came out so I'm looking forward to using those videos along with a program from Loyola Press I used last year. I'm probably going to use Matthew Kelly's program for homework when kids are absent since the videos are all on youtube.