Carrying the Eucharist with your child, beyond First Communion

By Annie-Rose Keith

Connecting Faith and Life

My favorite images on Blessed Carlo’s website are the hand drawn illustrations portraying the emotions of the people who directly witnessed such an event. My thanks to Blessed Carlo Acutis for choosing these images. Seriously, what would you do if you looked down into the ciborium and found a red host with liquid that was moving from the center towards the exterior? Like an open wound? It’s sobering to think about that, but there’s also a little bit of an element of whimsy, no? Where else can you present proof of the real presence of Christ and have it scientifically proven to be true? It’s our Church. And I think that’s just great … but how does this awe translate to First Communion? 

We have a creative God who made our imagination, so why not utilize the ancient tradition of sacred seeing? Contemplative prayer with images (otherwise known as Visio Divina), is an ancient practice that is a powerful method of meditation on the presence of Christ seen in our daily lives. Our church’s artistic tradition is expansive, so any piece of sacred art can be used for this approach to prayer. I make sure to include images from our church’s long-storied patronage of the arts in our First Communion retreat every year because imagination is important. God can use our imagination to attract us into a deeper relationship with him, and the earlier we as parents, faith leaders, teachers, etc. can start cultivating this sense of awe through hearing (or any of the five senses), the more likely our children will see their faith as something beautiful instead of something burdensome. 

I present this approach to the First Communion season in our diocese because it’s so hard to find peace, and it will continue to get harder for the children in your care to find (and be OK with!) peace as they get older. There are many ways of praying contemplatively, but I present Visio Divina because it keeps a sacred physical object (a painting, an icon, etc.) at the forefront of your mind, allowing distractions to fall away. The steps for this sacred practice are as follows: 1) Choose a sacred image. My favorites are Ingres’s “The Virgin Adoring the Host,” and Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” 2) Look at the entire picture. Note any shapes, colors and lighting that stick out to you both in the foreground and the background. Once you have given the entire piece a good once-over, pay attention to what draws your attention. Just like in other methods, like Lectio Divina, God’s luring you to the specific thing he wants you to see; a treasure meant just for you. 3) Meditate on the part that draws your attention. What is God trying to speak to you about here? Why do you think God has drawn your attention to this particular part of the image? How does what you see in the image pertain to your life today? Is God calling you? Is a memory recalled? Allow the thoughts you have while contemplating the image to descend to your heart as you embrace the emotion that comes forward during your prayer with a sacred image. What word describes this inner stirring as you embrace this feeling? 4) Put words to what you are feeling. Have a conversation with God about that. 5) Rest. Sit in silence with this image allowing Christ’s love to wash over you.

It’s nice, right? You can even put yourself in the artist’s shoes. This is especially true for paintings created around the time of great personal and international turmoil. Were they able to finish their idea? How were they (the artists) feeling when they painted this? Visio Divina can be put into practice at any point in our lives and, hopefully, will greatly strengthen your prayer life and the prayer life of our First Communicants. Especially as they move to their Second Communion, Third Communion, and so on.