Chapter One: In the Name of the Father

In this chapter we talk about names and how important they are in the Bible and in everyday life. We reflect on the importance of our name and of being chosen by God. We think about Baptism ‘in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ and its significance. We reflect on the story of Jesus’ baptism and on our own baptism. When we go into church and dip our hand in holy water and bless ourselves, it is a reminder of our baptism. We are also introduced to the baptismal font and to the idea of the Old and New Testaments.

If possible, get in touch with your child’s godparents. Get your child to write to them and tell them about First Holy Communion and ask them to pray for them especially this year. You could also choose a friend or relative to act as a ‘prayer sponsor’ for your child. Find a bible and talk to your child about it. Maybe you can help them learn how to look up Bible passages (PDF) over the FHC course.

Some questions to ask/discuss to get started:

Q. What do most of us do when we enter the church?
A. The answer you are aiming for is that we dip our fingers into the Holy Water (obviously not during coronavirus!) and bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross

Q. Why do we do this?
A. It is prayer, it shows our belief (shows we believe in Father, Son and Holy Spirit), a sign of respect (as we are entering a holy place, where Jesus is present)

Q. Is it something similar that what we do in Mass?
A. Yes. We make the Sign of the Cross at the beginning of Mass.

THEN OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS:

What’s in a name? Why are our names important? Are our names important to God?
The aim of these is to establish that God has a relationship with each and every one of us. This relationship helps us to see that he is a loving Father.

For us, it’s important to have names, because we are members of a family. Where do we become a part of God’s family? And where in the church do we find it?
The aim here is to recall their Baptism and its significance. Pointing out to the Font helps them remember that they were chosen by God to be his children. The Eucharist/Mass, which they are preparing for, is now the next stage where they will encounter their loving Father.

What is my name? What makes me special?
Celebrate your child! Encourage them to identify what is unique about them and explain that their talents are gifts from a God who loves them and created them (gifts can include being a good artist or footballer, but also can include kindness and generosity).

Suggested Activities

  • Page 2 – read through the page, draw a picture of your church and make the sign of the cross.
  • Page 3 – talk about your church, when you go, who you see there, to create a feeling of belonging.
  • Page 4, 5 & 6 – Old Testament – explain the two parts of the Bible: Old Testament – before Jesus; and New Testament – with Jesus. Go through the stories together. Concentrate of the baptism of Our Lord. The name Jesus means Saviour. Talk about that a king is, what a judge is and what a parent is and link them to God.
  • Page 7 – talk about why we use holy water at baptism: a symbol of being washed clean. Talk about where they will find the holy water when they enter the church and why they make the sign of the cross: a sign of respect to God and of belonging to your church.
  • Page 8 – tell them about their baptism or a brother or sisters if they remember it. Mention what God to said them, which is the same as he said to Jesus “you are my beloved child. I am delighted with you”. Explain why they have water poured on their heads: to cleanse them.
  • Page 9 – This is about everyday life. Talk about how we have the power to live like Jesus using the word search to find the words about God. We can share in these characteristics of God, in the way we live of lives!
  • Page 10 – explain where the baptismal font is in the church. If you have their baptismal candle, show them this – light it and say a prayer together.

Summary

  • Practise making the Sign of the Cross with your child in a reverent manner.
  • Celebrate your child’s name! Tell them the story of how/why your chose their name or explain its meaning. Tell them something of your family name/surname.
  • Find the baptismal font in the church.
  • Get to know the Bible – introduce the children to our Holy Book and maybe you can learn to look up some of the passages from the chapter in “I Belong” in your family or child’s Bible. In particular, you can focus on the story of creation in Genesis chapters 1&2 (to emphasize the wonder of creation and the uniqueness of each of us as created children of God, as well as emphasise Genesis 2:19, where Adam is invited to name the animals) and the story of Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3: 13-17 (to emphasize the way that God chooses Jesus, washes him clean and sees him as His beloved – just as he does for us: In baptism God chooses us, he washes us clean and he loves us!).
  • Learn the Our Father (p.8).
  • Say a prayer together to thank God for your child and their baptism and to thank God for his love.
  • Have your child do the online quiz (compulsory).

You can also:

  • Point out priestly vestments and colours when you are in church or watching on live-stream. Talk about the names of our priests and explain how they help us through the Mass

Chapter Two: Lord, Have Mercy

Chapters 2, 3 and 4 of “I Belong” all look at the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) – which your child will receive for the first time in the weeks leading up to their FHC Mass. We explore it at this point in the book, because of the link between Reconciliation and the Penitential Act in the Mass, which is the moment at the beginning of Mass where we take time to think about times we have sinned and we ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness, in order to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

In this chapter we are looking at mercy – which is characterized by kindness, understanding, forgiveness and patience. Mercy is the loving kindness, or compassion, of God for each one of us. In receiving the Eucharist, we receive special dose of God’s mercy! God will always love us and forgive us and, therefore, we should forgive others. So, in this chapter we look at where we can see examples of merciful acts in every-day life and how this links to the Mass – where we come before our loving God to receive His infinite mercy. We look at how we should pass on this gift freely, by the way that we behave towards other people.

Some questions to ask

Most of these are open ended and should be used to help your child explore these ideas/their feelings:

Q. What words do we repeat three times near the beginning of Mass?
A. We ask God to “have mercy” – we ask Him for his kindness and forgiveness (teach your children that this is called the Penitential Act).

Q. When we ask God for “mercy”, what do you think it means?
A. Love, forgiveness, kindness, understanding

Q. What are some of the ways your parents show you they love you, even if you have behaved badly?
A. Hugs, cuddles, a smile, telling you “it’s okay”. They might sit with me and tell me about a time they did something similar, to show me they understand. My mum and dad might play with me to let me know it’s all forgiven.

Q. What does the story of Adam and Eve tell us?
A. That sin separates us from God, but that he always seeks to bring us back into a close connection with Him, because he always loves us, even when we do wrong.

Q. In the story of the Forgiving Father, what might the three main characters (The father, the younger son and the older son) have been feeling:
1) when the younger son left home
2) whilst he was away
3) when he returned?
A. Answers will vary, but allow your child to share their thoughts freely. You could help them imagine they are each character in turn.

Q. How can I show mercy to others?
A. By being patient with people, by being kind – even to those people who are annoyed me, by understanding how someone must be feeling and accepting them, by giving someone a helping hand, by saying “I forgive you” to someone who has upset you in some way, by giving a smile.

Suggested Activities

  • Page 12 & 13 – Read the story together and answer the questions. In the story the child is like God to the kitten. Usually children are like the kitten – on the receiving end. Help them to think of some attitudes and acts of caring and mercy that they see at home e.g. family cuddle, playing together. Discuss how parents forgive them if they have done something wrong and how the love they receive is not diminished in any way by their mistake. It is important that our children know that they are still loved and lovable, even when they have been naughty.
  • Page 14 – Read the page. See what your child knows about this story. In the Old Testament we recognize that the separation from God created by Adam and Eve saddened God, but his plan to save us was to send Jesus to help us! So, we are talking about how, ultimately, good triumphs over bad. As Christians our FAITH and HOPE are founded on Jesus and reminds us that God still loves us, even though we sin.
  • Page 15 & 16 – The Prodigal Son – hopefully they will know this story! Discuss the feelings of all those involved as you read the passage and stress the PARTY aspect of the homecoming – to emphasize how happy God is when we come back to him and receive his mercy.
  • Page 17 – Colour this picture of the story. Maybe use the opportunity, whilst your child is colouring, to ask them about the characters in the story once again.
  • Page 18 – Spend time helping your child think about the things they need to say sorry for. Help them step into the shoes of Adam and Eve (making bad decisions) or the younger son (being selfish). It is worth reminding them that the younger son’s motives for returning weren’t particularly praiseworthy, but that didn’t matter. The joy of the father was so strong it blotted out everything else. God is always full of love. Compare the son’s homecoming party with the Eucharist. In First Holy Communion, your child will receive special food to celebrate the fact that, no matter how far they wander from God, He is always waiting there for them.
  • Page 19 – Here, acknowledge how your child must feel when they are hurt. This is reality. Our feelings can be useful signals to us that something is wrong and we must take some action to put it right. But explain that even if we have been hurt, every time we show mercy, we are becoming more God like. Acknowledge that it is hard to be merciful and that sometimes our feelings are hurt. But by showing mercy or making up with someone, we gain something too – peace and joy!
  • Page 20 – Do the word search together and discuss the words chosen. Help your child to write their prayer if needed

Summary

  • Enjoy spending time exploring the theme of mercy and emphasizing was a positive experience it is! Make sure your child has a simple understanding of what the word means.
  • Encourage your child to say sorry when they have offended or been selfish. Work at making it into a habit, if it isn’t already.
  • In your family prayer times or prayers before bed, maybe use the opportunity to allow your child to look back over their day and identify times when they did not act in a loving way, as well as also recognizing what went well.
  • Use page 20 to guide some special family time together or learn the prayer printed there off by heart to say together regularly.
  • Create a mercy jar – take an empty jam jar and fill it with little pieces of paper with acts of kindness or mercy on them e.g. “forgive someone today” or “help lay the table to show your mum you care” or “comfort someone who is upset”. At the beginning of the week, pick one out and see if you can try and complete that act of mercy or kindness during the week.
  • Have your child do the online quiz (compulsory).