A Eucharistic Word: Grace

By Michael R. Heinlein | OSV News

In preparation for my son’s first holy Communion this spring, we naturally spent a lot of time talking about grace. The mysterious workings of grace in our lives — or even what grace is — were fodder for interesting conversations between this father and his then-almost-7-year-old.

Together we endeavored to wrap our minds around grace. And despite having a few more decades pondering the topic than he, invariably I’d learn just as much from our reflections — particularly as I had to think through concepts anew and make them understandable in my feeble attempts to satisfy his precociously inquisitive mind.

We’d talk about how the sacraments were necessary for salvation and gave us the grace we needed to live like Christ. We’d talk about how God loves us so much he gives us grace as the supernatural help we need to persevere in our call to be holy. We’d talk about how grace, as the Catechism puts it, “is a participation in the life of God” (No. 1997).

I could see in our lessons and my son’s regular interrogations on the subject — even in the grocery store line or on the kneeler after I received holy Communion — that his eyes were opening to supernatural realities. But I also understood that he wanted answers I couldn’t give. He was particularly interested in the practical — always wanting to know how Eucharistic grace would impact him, how it would show up in his life, how it would make his life different.

This photo illustration shows a priest preparing to distribute Communion during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican June 29, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

While the answers to questions like that were only answerable in God’s way and in God’s time, I could speak to him about the goal of sacramental grace. About how each sacrament has its own circumstances and its own character, but how ultimately they all serve the purpose of allowing Christ to live in us.

I’d talk about how in the Eucharist, Christ comes to dwell in us, how he feeds us with his body and blood so that we might be like him. I’d mention how the Eucharist is a sacrament that could be received daily. It is a supernatural nourishment for us to overcome our daily sins, to persevere daily in virtue, and to allow Christ to increase in our mind, in our will and in our hearts a little bit more each day.

I’d talk about how the Eucharist is a gift Christ gives us to change us to such a degree that our lives are meant to be a continual return of that most precious gift. I’d talk about how the Eucharist gives us the strength to overcome temptations and sins, to protect us in the daily battle of good versus evil in our lives.

Now, as any parent might know, you don’t know what is absorbed when these kinds of serious conversations are had with a youngster. Like most boys his age, my son’s mind can easily wander from whatever the task at hand might be — especially when the task at hand might be math problems and the temptation at hand might be Legos. And as many parents of children receiving the sacraments can identify, I’m sure, you can easily wonder “is he ready?”

But what a grace to me the last two months have been. The questions I didn’t have answers to are now being answered before my eyes each day. I can see in manifold ways how this precious boy is growing with and in Christ. From the ways he’s more attentive to the needs of his family, to the ways he’s more dedicated to prayer, to the ways he has zeroed in his focus at Mass — or even tallying up “My Communions” in the back of his missal — to the ways he offers the occasional spiritual insight I never could’ve dreamed of thinking up at his age.

All of this has been a clear reminder to me that the grace God gives us isn’t just meant for us. It’s a blessing to all of humanity — a gift received to be shared.

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Michael R. Heinlein is author of “Glorifying Christ: The Life of Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I.” and a promised member of the Association of Pauline Cooperators.

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Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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