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Tips for teaching about the sacraments

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By Patricia Mathson

Sacraments are gifts that are part of who we are and who we will become.

In order to encourage the children to learn about the sacraments, you need to find ways to involve them in what they are learning.

Baptism

Through the sacrament of baptism we become children of God and share in the new life Jesus Christ brings to all of us.

Look at the baptismal font. Talk about how baptisms are celebrated. Children like to tell about the baptisms of their brother and sister, or a baptism they saw at Mass.

Talk about the symbols. Lay out a white garment and talk about the new life Jesus Christ brings us. Show the children a candle as a reminder that Christ is the light of our lives. Point to the oil by which we are signed with the cross. Discuss the symbol of water which all living things need to survive.

Follow Jesus Christ. Discuss the importance of living out our baptismal commitment. Talk about ways to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ each day.

Confirmation

The sacrament of confirmation strengthens us with the Holy Spirit for service to our God.

Read about Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4. Talk about how the apostles were changed as a result of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Walk through the rite of confirmation. Tell the children that when the bishop says, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,” and we respond “amen,” we promise that we will let the Spirit guide our lives.

Explore living the sacrament. Talk about ideas such as helping the elderly, making dinner for the homeless, making time for prayer, participating in Sunday Mass, and standing up for the rights of others. Stress that this sacrament is not an end but a beginning.

Eucharist

Jesus Christ gives us the great gift of himself in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

Read about the last supper, e.g., the account in Mark 14:22-24. Talk about how Jesus is always with us in the Eucharist. Explain how this sacrament is a gift given to us out of love.

Explore the Mass. Review the meaning of the Eucharistic Celebration with your children. Explain how we offer Jesus Christ in the Eucharist to the Father through the Holy Spirit.

Discuss living as Eucharistic people. Some ideas are helping the poor, visiting a nursing home, making cards for shut-ins, and living in peace with one another.

Reconciliation

Through the sacrament of reconciliation we experience God’s mercy and forgiveness. 

Look up stories about forgiveness in the gospels, such as the account of Jesus and Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. Discuss what these stories show us about God and what they tell us about living forgiveness 

Ask God’s forgiveness. Encourage the children to ask God’s forgiveness when they fail to live as Children of God.

Discuss forgiveness. Talk about the difficulty and the importance of forgiving others and asking for forgiveness. Remind the children that when we pray the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others.

Stress celebrating the sacrament. Talk about opportunities for celebrating reconciliation. The reconciliation services are a time to come together to pray, listen to Scripture, and reflect on the times we have separated ourselves from God and others.

Anointing of the Sick

Through the anointing of the sick we are strengthened for our journey to God when we are ill in mind or body.

Explore the rite. Tell the children that in this sacrament a person is anointed with oil. Talk about the comfort that prayer brings to the person who is being anointed.

Pastoral care. The person responsible for pastoral care might share their own experiences about the value of visiting sick or homebound parishioners.

Pray together. Encourage the children to pray for the sick, and also pray together in your sessions.

Christian Marriage

In the sacrament of Christian marriage, the priest witnesses to the love that two people pledge to one another.

Ask a married couple to speak. Parents can talk about what marriage means to them. They might bring in wedding pictures, which are always a hit with the children because this personalizes the lesson.

Talk about promises. Review the rite of this sacrament and talk about the promises the couple make to each other. Talk about what it means to be faithful to each other in all things. Though some children’s parents are no longer together, you need to let the children know that marriage can work.

Discuss preparation. Stress how important it is to prepare for and live this sacrament.

 

Holy Orders

Through the sacrament of holy orders, deacons, priests, and bishops are ordained for special service in the Church.

Invite a speaker. Have a permanent deacon or a priest speak to the children during the lesson on holy orders.

Give out prayer cards. Pray together for vocations, and encourage the children and their families to pray for vocations at home.

Talk about being “called.” Look up Jesus’ call to his apostles in Matthew 4:18-22. Talk about how we can live out our calling in different ways, as priests, religious, single persons, or married couples. 

Patricia Mathson

Patricia Mathson is Director of Religious Education at Holy Trinity church, Des Moines, Iowa. Her latest book is Time To Pray, Ave Maria Press.

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