Five ways to help reinforce the truth of the “Real Presence”

Photo credit: Josh Applegate,

by Michaelyn Hein —

Earlier this month, Catholic media was abuzz with news that, according to a Pew Research Center poll, almost 70% of self-identified Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Instead, the majority of Catholics feel more certain that the bread and wine of Communion are mere symbols of the body and blood of our Lord.

As a member of the other 30%, I contemplated the data from a very personal place. How, I wondered, did I come to believe? And how could I help my children grow up to believe as well?

Though the answers to those questions are certainly deep, consisting of a multitude of theological considerations, I’m no theologian. I’ve always been a very simple believer, taking Jesus at His word.

But, as a mother, I need answers, because children ask a lot of questions. And, as their primary educators, my husband and I are entrusted with giving them the right responses, particularly about our Catholic doctrines.  And, since the miracle that occurs at the Consecration is the summit of our faith, we earnestly need to help them have confidence in this truth.

It is most challenging. Where do we even start to help our children develop a lasting belief in the Real Presence? What if we’re not even sure about it ourselves?

Considering that the majority of Catholics who don’t believe in transubstantiation are also ignorant of Church teaching on it, the easy answer is that we must start with catechesis.

But as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. I’ve witnessed formerly devout Catholic friends leave their faith completely because, though their parents sent them to Catholic schools, they wouldn’t otherwise appear to be Catholic. These parents gave their children the teaching of the faith through their education, but neglected to live it at home.

We risk a similar outcome with our own children if we verbally espouse the teachings on the Real Presence, but live as if we don’t actually believe it. Just as our religion requires of us faith and works, so forming our children in the faith requires the same. We must impart knowledge and demonstrate it in our actions.

We can start with these steps to an abiding belief in the Real Presence:

  1. Attend Mass regularly

If we tell our children that Our Lord truly comes to meet us at Mass, but we neglect to take them there, what message do we send? We become like those who honor the Lord with our lips but have hearts that are far from Him. Worse, we groom our children to become the same.

2. Visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

Eucharistic adoration is perhaps the best time to reinforce the fact of Jesus’ Real Presence – for our children and ourselves. Over the years, my children have come to speak to Jesus in the monstrance as to a friend. “Hi, Jesus,” they’ll whisper. They’ve waved and blown kisses to Him. In some mystical way, they understand that Jesus is who He says He is –  hidden in the Eucharist.

3. Show Jesus reverence

About a month ago, I reminded my 5-year-old daughter to genuflect as she left the pew at the end of Mass. Whether from tiredness or hunger or sheer defiance, she refused. And so, my husband took our two boys to the car while I had a conversation with her about why we genuflect.

I realized in that moment that being lax about our children genuflecting is a major mistake of parents trying to raise children to be strong in their faith. The posture of our bodies awakens our minds to the truth that our Lord really is before us in the Eucharist.

The same holds true when we receive Communion.

When my son was required at his first Holy Communion to receive kneeling, I braced myself for complaints. However, he shocked me when he showed eagerness to do so. It was obvious that doing so made tangible for him the mystery of our eternal King in that little round host.

Do we receive the Eucharist with the same honor given to Jesus as some first Communicants do? If we can’t kneel as we receive Jesus, do we at least genuflect before doing so? It seems a small gesture, but it speaks volumes about what we believe.

4. Dress for the occasion

Many Mass-goers visibly treat their hour with God as nothing more than an obligation. They show up in jeans or shorts and t-shirts – or worse – and a look that says, “At least I’m here.”

When we put more effort into how we look for, say, a night out with friends, than we do for our time before the King, this begs the question: Do we really believe He is present? If we do, shouldn’t we stand before Him in our Sunday best?

5. Use the power in His name.

When I bring my children to Adoration each week, I tell them, “We are going to spend time with Jesus.” When we arrive, I point to the monstrance and say, “Look, there’s Jesus!” And when it’s time to receive Communion, I whisper, “Let’s go receive Jesus.”

There is, indeed, power in His name!

Without preaching, using Jesus’ name in place of words like “Communion” or “host” tells our children – and reminds us – of the truth, that it is our Lord who resides in the Eucharist.

The Pew Research Center poll was a sobering one for many devout Catholics. But, we know that God creates good from bad. Let us use the disappointing results of this poll to awaken us to treating our truly present Lord with the reverence He deserves. In so doing, we may begin to help the unbelief of many Catholics, starting in our own families.

Michaelyn Hein is a writer and mom, who resides in Hopewell, NJ.
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  1. Thank you Michaelyn Hein, we need more moms (parents) like you to show by example and by following and obeying the rules of the church. Stop undermining the rules by saying to children, ” it’s O.K. if you don’t want to do it”. Explain why all of us should or must continue to do the right thing, Obey all commandments.

    • Thank you for your comment, Jesse. I am grateful to have a mother who also led by example in Church and at Mass. May we all continue to lead by example – either to our children or to our fellow parishioners. God bless you!

  2. Great article to which I would add the need for Holy Silence! The infamous ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ has largely succeeded in turning our Churches into general purpose meeting rooms where we discuss sports at full volume as soon as the Priest exits after Mass. We need to return to the practice of being silent in God’s House with conversations limited to essentials and never above a whisper.

    • Great suggestion, Kevin! Quite true that we need also to return to Holy Silence. I remember trying to talk to my mom in Church as a child, and she’d always shake her head and shush me, pointing to the tabernacle. It left such an impression that decades later, I still remember that lesson that we are to remain silent and reverent in God’s House.

    • Kevin. Well said but in many Churches in New Zealand the only silence is during Mass. They are now the new chat rooms but they are not chatting to God! I was horrified when I moved to a provincial city and they were talking loudly to one another before Mass and after. It forced me to attend a Latin Mass of the SPPX to get the reverence God deserves.

    • I agree, so irreverent to God and distracting to those trying to have a moment of peaceful prayer after Mass. I remember as a child everyone waited until they were outside the Church to start up conversations. This also happens during Adoration. It’s heartbreaking and I make apologies to Jesus for them.

    • Amen to that. In our Parish here at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Clovis, CA, we started praying the Holy Rosary before Sunday Mass, and with 15 minutes left after the Holy Rosary and before Holy Mass, there’s silence inside the Church. Thanks be to God!!!.

  3. I love going to Holy Communion and always have. I left the church after attending a very liberal parish when vatican 2 changed so much. I finally returned 10 years later and searched until I found a very wonderful parish. St. Thomas in Dallas. I also thought about so many who do not believe Our Lord is in the Eucharist completely, but my comment is that little children are so much more accepting of the truth of it than adults. because they are innocent and believe what Jesus taught. I pray that the ones who teach and train them will be true to the Faith and not water down the lessons. I see a change in the church now and it scares me to see how disrespectful some are in the worship and attendance of the mass. indiscrete dress in both men and women. I have also decided to return to the veil at mass. I don’t see many but maybe this pious habit will be re instituted if enough women do it. The children are little angels and they are more accepting of the true teachings than many grown ups are. Our Priest Father John, is so good and he reminds us of not leaving mass early but some do and I have at times only for good reason. God bless this site and I watch it on you tube as well

    • Thank you, Beatrice, for your comment. I agree with so much of what you have said. I, too, am trying to start veiling as I’ve learned of the beauty of it. I was not raised in a time when women veiled in the Church but appreciate seeing a return to it. God bless you!

  4. So true about all that you have written. I would like to say respectfully, although not meeting the standards of other people’s dress some of us wear our best jeans and not so perfect shirts because that is all that we have. Sometimes a lack of income dictates how we dress. Only God knows the depths and intentions of our hearts.

    • Thank you, Gary, for your comment. You remind us of something we should always remember: only God know our hearts. What you wrote makes me think of the poor widow in the Gospels who gave just two small coins. Jesus indeed praised her for the little she could give, saying she “gave more than all the others into the treasury.” I would imagine he’d say the same about some at Mass who dress in their best jeans and shirt because it is the only option they have (when pregnant, I often wore less than what I would normally consider my best because I legitimately had nothing else that fit me at the time!) God bless you and thank you for the reminder!

  5. Beautiful. May you be richly blessed for bringing your children to know the True Presence of our Lord. You give me hope for the future!

    • Thank you, Susan, for your kind words. I see so many young families in our Church who definitely give me much hope for the future! God bless you!

  6. I couldn’t agree more!! It is such a circus in our church with loud talking and laughing right in front of the Tabernacle– that is if you can find the tabernacle. I try to pray the prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas after mass and I am almost pushed out of the pew.

    Pray for mothers like Michaelyn that they may help lead to a return to more reverence in church and encourage silent devotion.

    • Thank you, Nancy, for your prayers. I will pray for you and your church, and for all our Catholic churches, that reverence for our Lord in the Eucharist is continually strengthened!

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