The Holy Eucharist and Your Family
“I never knew about any of this. I just did what I thought was okay.”
Adam is in his late thirties. A husky, jovial husband and father, he seemed genuinely shocked when he learned more about the Faith and specifically, sacraments and precepts of the Church. Adam told me that despite doing his best as a father, he hasn’t had much direction until now. He also confided that he sometimes gets into heated arguments with his wife.
That was almost two years ago. Today, Adam is a stronger Catholic, having devoted himself to regular Mass attendance. He also received Confirmation as an adult. His role as a husband and father, and his renewed life as a devout Catholic, all go hand-in-hand for him. Adam no longer escalates arguments with his wife, and he spends more time with his children. He attributes the changes in his life to Jesus and Mary, especially to regular reception of Holy Communion.
Center of Your Family
Pius XII said in an address given on June 7, 1939, that when it comes to the family, the Eucharist “unites and almost fuses hearts together.” With the graces attached to Holy Communion, Catholic parents can and ought to focus on making family life peaceful and edifying to each member of the family. Generations ago, this was perhaps easier due to stable family structures in society. How can Catholic parents do this today, when many seem to sorely lack good examples and supportive extended family?
Before you consider any work of your own to build up your family, consider turning first to our Blessed Lord and offer your family to Him. If you and your spouse have discussed ways to strengthen your Catholic family life and you are ready to implement your plan, perhaps the best way to begin is offering this plan to Jesus in the tabernacle. You and your spouse could also ask our Lord for His blessing when you each receive Holy Communion at the same Mass.
If your family is already consecrated to the Sacred Heart, this would involve turning again to Him and remembering His image in your home. The important thing is to rely on God’s work, not your own. You could first do this in your own individual mental prayer. Then, come together with your spouse to offer your family to our Lord.
A wonderful truth about the Eucharist is that Mary is always near her Son, as St. Alphonsus de Liguori taught in his 1745 treatise titled “Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin.” Mary’s closeness to her Eucharistic Son means that when you receive Holy Communion, Mary is very near to your soul. Your family has a maternal advocate in heaven when you center your family on our Eucharistic Lord. Strongly consider making the Eucharist the center of your family’s spirituality, with the Blessed Mother near Him.
Peace and Practicality
Peace results from centering your family life on our Eucharistic Lord. Your children certainly notice this peace and benefit from it. What are some practical ways to develop this?
First, consider spending time to develop peace in your home. It is important to spend time with our Eucharistic Lord, visiting Him often in the tabernacle, and if it is good for your parish to have regular expositions of the Blessed Sacrament, it is certainly good to spend time together with your spouse. If you need to spend regular time with our Lord to maintain your spiritual life, you also need to spend time with your spouse to maintain your marriage. These visits could be combined. If you are going out on a date with your spouse, what if you visited our Lord together first? A ten-minute chapel visit together as a couple before the rest of your date night could set a peaceful tone for the rest of your evening together.
Another way to center your marriage on the Eucharist is to offer a Mass intention for your spouse. You could offer your Holy Communion for your husband or wife. You may also consider offering your intention and your Holy Communion for your children. Sometimes I offer my Mass for one particular child who seems to need more support that week.
Consider that the fruit of Eucharistic adoration is a peaceful quietude. Fr. M. Muller, C.SS.R., wrote in 1868 that, “by whatsoever passion he may be agitated, let him frequently receive the Body of Christ, and his soul will become tranquil and strong” (The Blessed Eucharist: Our Greatest Treasure, 1994, p. 119). How do you apply this quietude to your marriage? You could do this by creating an environment which invites your spouse to communicate with you. In other words, encourage your spouse to talk while you listen without interrupting. When you feel the urge to cut off your spouse’s words, remember that our Blessed Lord waits quietly in the monstrance, making Himself completely vulnerable under the appearance of mere bread simply to be visited by sinful men. To be more Christ-like, you could listen patiently and give your spouse a little smile and a nod to affirm his or her feelings. If you aren’t used to “active listening,” Father Raoul Plus wrote in 1941 about offering ourselves to others to co-operate with Redemption (Progress in Divine Union, 2004, p. 36):
“This truth ought to change our usual way of thinking. Most of us passively assume that Christ has done everything, that we are concerned in the Redemption only insofar as we have benefitted by it. We are not even aware of the importance of our active duties: that we are also redeemers with a definite work to carry out in the salvation of the world.”
The Eucharist and Family Life
Another practical method for centering your family life on the Eucharist is to encourage your children to make spiritual communions. When they want to take a step closer to our Lord and meditate on Him, you could encourage them to think of the Real Presence and remind them that He is present right now in a tabernacle, perhaps only a few miles from you.
You can also include a visit to the Blessed Sacrament when running errands. I recently had to wait a while in the post office, which is only a half-mile from my church. My wife took the kids and went to the grocery store, but my errand ended first. By the time she returned to pick me up, I had already walked to the church. She and the kids came into the chapel to meet me, and we all paid an impromptu visit to our Eucharistic Lord. This isn’t the first time I’ve had my kids meet me in the chapel or paid a visit on the way from one place to another. This teaches children that God isn’t Someone we only think about on Sunday, and it also orients a part of their day toward quiet meditation. You might also encourage your children to reflect on their next Holy Communion.
Catholics focus a lot on a child’s first Holy Communion. What about his twelfth? Or ninetieth? Three months after the first Holy Communion, you should notice positive changes in your child. Perhaps rough edges of behavior are smoother, or the child is at least somewhat more reverent at Mass. It may be only a slight change, but something is…different. The difference is the impact that our Eucharistic Lord makes on the soul of your little one. You may help these changes grow stronger as you remind your child throughout the week that our Lord is waiting for us in the tabernacle, and He wants us to persevere until our next Holy Communion. This focus also strengthens family life.
Changing Your Family Tree
Many married Catholics today were not raised in a peaceful, sacrificial home. Thus, like Adam at the beginning of this article, they do not have an example of ideal Catholic home life. Yet the saints consistently urged Catholic families to be centers of harmony and charity. St. Francis de Sales wrote in 1608 that in marriage, “This mutual support should be such as never to admit of anger, dissention, or hasty words. Bees cannot dwell where an echo or other loud noise prevails, neither will the Holy Spirit abide in that house which is disturbed by strife, altercation, and noisy discussions.”
A family which builds consistent habits of Holy Communions, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and regular spiritual communions will soon see peace replace strife, and harmony replace altercation.