You’re Too Little for Jesus
by Jennie Murphy
You’re too little, a phrase that has been etched in the hearts and minds of many children for years. I can hear my dad’s voice now telling me, “Jennie, you’re too little to climb that tree.” When we hear that phrase it is usually in reference to something not appropriate for our age. The question is, are we ever too little for Jesus?
A few months ago, I was holding my 3-year-old son, Aaron, while attending Mass. I started whispering to him about what was taking place during the consecration and his eyes lit up as he watched intently what the priest was doing. He would occasionally point and ask a question about the chalice or host and as Mass progressed it was time to exit the pew and enter into the Communion line. My son’s head peered around the people who were standing in front of us. I bowed, received Communion and began walking away from the priest. Immediately, I heard the small exclamation, “I want Jesus, too!” from behind me. I turned and, trying my best to quiet him, I said, “Aaron, you’re too little for Jesus.” Belonging to the Latin Rite, children do not receive Communion before the age of reason. It broke my heart to deny him the Eucharist as I know the graces that it brings. He knew, even at his young age, that the host was Jesus and he wanted Him. Now, he might not have been able to understand the complexity of the mystery, but he knew who Jesus was and that He was present in the Eucharist, which is more than a great majority of adult Catholics believe. My explanation of “you’re too little for Jesus” did not sit well. Aaron began to cry and scream “I want Jesus. I want Jesus.” As not to disturb everyone in the Church I quickly moved Aaron to the vestibule to try and calm him down. How upset he was for not being able to have Jesus! Ever since this occasion during Communion, Aaron will ask for Jesus and really I’m often at a loss as to what to say.
Last Sunday my husband found the answer – a spiritual communion! While Aaron is below the age of reason, he knows and loves Jesus and wishes to be close to Him. After my husband and I received the Eucharist we came back to our pews and knelt to pray with our children. My husband leaned gently over toward Aaron and told him to repeat after daddy. He said: “Jesus, I love you. I’m too little to have you. I want Jesus.” Aaron repeated after my husband and seemed quite proud in his praying to Jesus to be with him spiritually. His childlike love for Jesus reminded me of a story from “Jesus, Our Eucharistic Love” by Fr. Stefano Manelli.
“When St. Elizabeth of Hungary was a little girl and used to play about the palace with her companions, she would always pick a spot near the chapel so that every now and then, without being noticed, she might stop by the chapel door, kiss the lock, and say to Jesus, ‘My Jesus, I am playing, but I am not forgetting You. Bless me and my companions. I will see You again.’ What simple devotion!”
This is the relationship I want my children to have with Jesus. It is a relationship that must be nourished and cultivated. Here are some pointers on how to help your child develop a relationship with Jesus and make a spiritual Communion with Him at Mass.
1. Sit close to the front in Mass! Most children become bored and agitated at Mass because they cannot see! Yes, it may mean a longer walk of shame for you as a parent if the child begins to act up, but it’s for your child’s and your own benefit to sit up close!
2. Whisper to your child about what is taking place during Mass. My children love stories so when the lector goes up to the ambo I explain that they are going to read a story to us.
3. Help them learn the objects that they see in Mass. Currently, my son is fascinated by the “gold box” (Tabernacle) that Jesus “sleeps” in. Print pictures of liturgical objects and put them in a photo flip book. Take it with you to Mass and let them play a matching game.
4. Let them play pretend Mass at home! Vacuum cleaner attachment tubes make great processional candles!
5. Pray with your children after receiving Communion! Have them repeat a prayer after you or even a simple “I love you, Jesus.”
6. Stay after Mass and pray as a family. This one is often difficult. Sometimes an hour is all you can muster with keeping kiddos under control! If your Church has a side altar, go there and kneel with your children and pray. They’ll love being that close to Jesus.
I pray that I will one day experience the childlike love for Jesus that my children experience daily.