The Catholic sacraments are neatly and intricately interwoven. They have a beautiful and fundamental way of overlapping to help us move from one step to another step in our natural and spiritual lives.
It is important for children to realize that the sacraments must be a part of their daily lives. What we do and learn in the Catholic Church should be incorporated and lived (literally) through our everyday lives. Our devotion to the sacraments shows our willingness to participate in a faith that praises God’s creation and Jesus’ sacrifices.
The seven sacraments are learned and understood through the minds of children through their active participation at Mass, their Catholic school or a religious education program as well as the examples set by adults.
When a child is old enough, explain to them how they have already participated in one sacrament when they were called into church membership through baptism. Illustrate this by showing them pictures from that day and showing them the baptismal gown they may have worn.
When children are in second grade they will begin preparing for their first communion. This is another opportunity to empower them through preparation, training, and the actual celebration. During their preparation for first communion, they will learn how to meet with a priest and go to confession (i.e., reconciliation).
During this preparation they will also learn the meaning behind the Eucharist (i.e., breaking of the bread and sharing of the wine) which is a part of every Mass.
Most children are in eighth grade when they begin to prepare for Confirmation. This is a time in which these children can learn to participate more deeply in volunteerism at their parish or with ministries supported by the church (i.e., assisting at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, nursing home). This is a vital step towards adulthood and the chance to take on more responsibility in the church.
It is critical that adults show children, through example, how joyous the commitment to marriage can be. Through a solid Catholic marriage children can see what it means to make a commitment and keep it for a lifetime.
Children must be around people of religious vocation in order to appreciate and value the sacrifice and commitment these men and women have made. Although lay people do assist the priest and deacons during Mass, it is ultimately the priest who is at the table representing Jesus as he leads the Mass in communion.
Anointing of the Sick
Although children may not have the opportunity to participate when a priest is anointing a sick or dying person, the adult can explain to them that before a person dies and goes to heaven this is the last sacrament that they will be receiving. For example, it could be explained that the deceased was welcomed into the church when they were anointed in baptism and they are now being welcomed into heaven through another anointing.
Therefore, the sacraments have a wonderful way of taking people full circle through their lives, from birth to death. This fascinating analogy is one that can be easily applied in many situations to show children the importance, fullness, and value of the sacraments.