Being Weird Catholics: Seven Ways We Help Our Family Believe in the Real Presence

by | Aug 13, 2019 | Kendra's Thoughts, Parenting, Parenting Advice | 38 comments

You’ve probably heard about the troubling study recently released by the Pew Research Center, stating that only one-third of self-professed Catholics believe in the Catholic Church’s teaching that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ, and nearly half don’t even understand that the Catholic Church teaches such a thing.

Just one-third of U.S. Catholics agree with their church that Eucharist is body, blood of Christ

Believing, as Catholics do, that at the words of the consecration, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ—not symbolically, but in actual fact—well, it’s not easy. Sometimes the best we can do is say to Jesus with the father of the deaf, mute child, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) But there’s a lot we can do to help ourselves, too. As a person made up of body and soul, I know that what I do and what I experience with my senses effects what I believe with my intellect. I know the same is true of my children.

Jack’s First Communion was pretty great.
read more here

The focus in our Catholic parishes over the past few decades on “welcomingness” and comfort rather than Truth and reverence probably felt to church folks like it was going to make becoming or being Catholic easier for people. But as we can see by the fruits, that’s not what has happened.

The Truths of our Catholic faith and tradition aren’t easy or comfortable. They’re, frankly, kinda weird. So, in our family, we go ahead and just own that.

We own the weirdness and mysteriousness of our Catholic faith, and the actions and traditions that for thousands of years have encouraged belief in Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist. We don’t need to be expert theologians to live like we believe, and living like we believe can help those around us believe as well.

Here are a few things our family does to facilitate our belief in the Real Presence.

1. We go to a reverent Mass.

I know this isn’t possible for everyone, just because of how few and far between reverent parishes are, but I think it’s the single most important thing we do. Canon Law says we are members of our local Catholic parish. And so we are. We are registered there, we contribute financially to our local parish, we pray for them, and we attend Mass there occasionally. But Canon Law also says that we can fulfill our Sunday obligation by attending any Catholic Mass, so most Sundays we drive past many Catholic parishes to get to one that offers a reverent Novus Ordo Mass with the tabernacle front and center, and altar boys who genuflect every time they cross the altar, and bells at the consecration, and a communion rail, and a crucified crucifix, and an adoration chapel, and Latin prayers, and beautiful music coming from the choir loft behind us, and fellow Mass-goers who believe that Jesus is really there. It’s a thousand little lessons that go without saying. We also moved in order that our older kids could attend a Catholic School where belief in the Real Presence is reflected in school Masses and religion classes.

From the archives: Why My Daughters Are Not Altar Servers

2. We explain the consecration.

Jesus’ own disciples, hearing his teaching on the Real Presence wondered, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (John 6:60). So we start when our kids are very young and accepting, holding them and whispering what’s happening during the consecration. Our three-year-olds can tell you that the Eucharist IS Jesus. They’ll have to come to a deeper intellectual understanding of transubstantiation as they get older, of course, but at least the seeds are planted.

From the archives: Our In-Progress At Home Painted Chapel

3. We receive the Eucharist reverently.

We prioritize the sacrament of confession, and DO NOT receive the Eucharist if we are not in a state of grace. If one of our kids asks to go to confession, we make it happen, no questions asked. We don’t receive the Eucharist if we can’t make the required one-hour fast, even if we ALMOST make it. Everyone in our family receives the Eucharist on the tongue. For my kids, this is a no-brainer, and what they’ve always done. For me it was a rather nerve-wracking transition that took some getting used to. But now, I’m totally on board, and can 100% point to it as a practice that has increased my belief in the Real Presence. We are fortunate that at our parish it is the norm to kneel at the altar rail to receive. When we are at other parishes, we remain standing if that’s the norm at that parish, but we always receive on the tongue. We also stay after Mass, kneeling down and spending a few moments saying thank you to Jesus for coming to us in the Eucharist.

From the archives: How NOT to Receive the Eucharist While Holding a Baby, Illustrated . . .

4. We spend time in adoration.

Making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament is one of four practices officially encouraged by the Catholic Church with a possible daily indulgence. Traditionally, Catholics talk about making a “holy hour” which means spending an hour before Jesus hidden in the tabernacle or exposed in a monstrance, either in a church or an adoration chapel. But the indulgence (subject to the usual conditions) is available for spending at least thirty minutes in adoration. I will admit that in this season of life, I’m not getting to adoration as much as I’d like to. But I’m always glad when I do, and I make sure that my kids know that it’s part of my practice of the faith. The husband and I will sometimes stop for adoration when we’re out on a date. If my girlfriends and I get together for a drink, we meet first for adoration. If I’m with my little kids, it’s more likely to be a quick greeting-type stop (more on that next) but I want my older kids to be familiar with the practice of adoration, and capable of managing it.

From the shop: Little Guide to Adoration Booklet

From the archives: Catholic Indulgences: what they are, when they are, and why you should care

5. We greet Jesus in the Tabernacle at church.

Whenever we visit a church, whether it be for a devotional practice, or to drop something off in the parish office, we first say hello to Jesus. If it’s an unfamiliar church, we play “find Jesus.” Ideally, this means looking towards the altar and seeing the tabernacle front and center, with the red tabernacle lamp glowing, telling us that Jesus is there. Practically, it often means poking around corners and behind doors until we find him. Then we say hello by kneeling down before the tabernacle for a moment, before heading off to do whatever we came for. We also say goodbye before we leave. I think of it like I was stopping by the house of a loved one for a second to pick something up. Even if I knew I couldn’t stay long, it wouldn’t be good manners, it wouldn’t show my love, if I snuck in and out without greeting my parents, or my grandmother, or whatever. It’s also a great opportunity to explain to kids that the crucifix, the Divine Mercy painting, the Infant Jesus of Prague statue, are all helpful representations of Jesus, but inside that box is The. Actual. Jesus. We can talk to him anywhere, of course, but especially so when we are there in his presence.

6. We acknowledge Jesus anytime we pass a Catholic Church.

There are churches everywhere, but Catholic Churches are different, because Catholic Churches actually have Jesus in them. This is a HUGE distinction, and one we don’t ignore. That means that if we are driving or walking past a Catholic Church, we acknowledge that Jesus is truly present there in the tabernacle. Now, the best thing we could do to acknowledge it is to stop for Mass, or if that’s not possible, for adoration, and if not that for a quick visit. But, practically, we are often driving because we need to get somewhere, and haven’t allowed time to stop. But at the very least, in our family, we ALWAYS make the sign of the cross with words and motions when passing a Catholic Church. We also usually say a quick prayer of spiritual communion: “I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy mother received you, with the spirit and fervour of the saints.”

7. We celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi.

The Catholic Church, since the very beginning, has given us the feasts of the liturgical year to help us focus on the most important people, events, and mysterious Truths of our faith. We want our kids to understand the incarnation, so we celebrate Christmas. We want our kids to understand the resurrection, so we celebrate Easter. We want our kids to know and be inspired by the saints, so we celebrate the feast days of our favorites. We want our kids to understand that Jesus becomes truly present under the appearances of bread and wine in the sacrament of the holy Eucharist, and the feast of Corpus Christi (celebrated 60 days after Easter, or the following Sunday) is intended to help us do just that. This feast day has traditionally been celebrated with a Eucharistic procession through the streets, perhaps the weirdest awesome Catholic spectacle of all, and one that can’t help but teach participants and passers-by the realness of what Catholics believe about the Eucharist. Let’s ALL bring that back, seriously. Let’s do it. But even without access to a procession, the feast day is a yearly chance to discuss what Catholics actually believe.

From the archives: Liturgical Living for June

So that’s what WE do. How about you? What has worked for you and your family to help understand the Real Presence? #wearetheonethird 😛 #makecatholicismweirdagain


  1. Mary

    I’m in the middle of “learn to receive on the tongue so your kids will too.” They never taught us that in the Dallas churches in the 90s, and I am TERRIBLE at it! It’s so awkward. But I just keep telling myself, 10 years from now, you won’t bat an eye. Just keep trying… Helps that I often have a child in my arms — gives me a necessary nudge to go through with it when I want to chicken out 😉

    • Kendra

      Yes! Exactly why I learned! 😛 It IS worth it.

    • Rose

      A piece of advice someone told me about receiving on the tongue is to close your eyes, open wide, and stick out your tongue. There is no unintentional uh…licking of of the priest’s hand that way.

      • TerriB

        And tilt your head back too!

    • Mary

      P.S. We recently went back to my childhood parish and now they do use the communion rail, receive on the tongue, do gorgeous traditional music, have gone back to all-male altar servers, everything! Things are moving forward in a beautiful way!

      • Catherine

        Mary, if you do not mind, is the childhood parish you visited recently in the Dallas area? What church is this? Thank you!

    • Cathy

      I was born in 1953 and we knelt at the altar, had our veils on and the priest put the Host on our tongues. It felt natural all my life. When things changed it is still hard for me to stand and let the Priest put the Host in my hand. I’m not saying either way is right or wrong. I guess it is how you are reared and taught from the cradle. God Bless you all.

  2. Amanda

    I love all of this. I’ve never been to the kind of reverent church you describe outside of Latin Mass, and I love when we visit places with bells. Listen up, y’all! JESUS IS HERE NOW.

  3. Mary Ann O'Neill

    Thank you for writing this. It saddens me to see children get up to use the restroom during the Consecration – most likely their parents are not aware of what the Consecration is. I am grateful for my Catholic School education, and all that has remained with me all these years. And that our children attended Catholic School through High School.

    • Liana

      When a 4 yr old needs to go, they need to GO. They’re not trying to be irreverent, and neither are their parents. I would rather take them out, even during Consecration, than have them pee on the pew. I always make them use the restroom before Mass, but sometimes that still happens. Be glad that there are children at Mass! I’ve been to parishes where there weren’t any besides ours. I find that far sadder than a child having to use the bathroom.

      • Kendra

        We’ve always had our kids wait until after the consecration. No accidents so far!

  4. Megan

    No little child escapes my Grade 1 Sunday school class without hearing this lesson and taking at least one trip to the tabernacle to sit (mostly) quietly for a few moments. I don’t receive on the tongue currently, though I wish I did, because our parish doesn’t use the little plates on sticks (patens maybe?) in case the Eucharistic Minister is squeamish about really sticking that bread on my tongue. I picked more than one piece up off the floor! The telling off I got from the adult faith formation leader when I asked for bells was something else altogether. The nearest Latin mass is 45+ minutes away, which would preclude us being active in that parish, so I go locally and do what I can to bring the respect there.

  5. Debbie

    There is more something that happened rather than something we do. Twenty years ago my middle daughter made her First Holy Communion. At her party afterward she became sick with a 105 degree fever. We rushed her to the emergency room. The doctor asked her if anything else was wrong. She said her stomach hurt. He asked her what she ate last. She thought about it and then said, “The body and blood of Jesus.” He definitely gave us the weird Catholic look!

    • Clau

      Congratulations on your beautiful family and thank you for your blog.( a friend told me about it today)
      We did our procession for the feast of the Assumption and I am so glad not to be the only “weird Catholic”family that also travels to attend a reverent mass, and all the other items listed to practice our beautiful and rich faith. May God continue to bless you and I look forward to learning from you and other readers.

  6. Jo

    This post is great! My tendency is to jump straight to NEED MOAR TEACHING, so your ideas come as welcome re-direction. It gives me confidence to see we have a few of these things in place, and is a good reminder to start the ones I’ve been meaning to take up (making the sign of the cross when driving by a church – love the prayer, too!)

    And thank you for everything you’ve done on Catholic All Year. As an adult convert, I worry that I won’t know how to raise my kids in the faith from the ground up. Your work is an endless source of inspiration to me – and I want to say that, as much fun as anatomical cupcakes and It’s a Boy parties are, it’s content based in clearly-articulated principles like these (turn to the body before the intellect) that really keeps me coming back. 🙂

  7. Sharon

    Kendra, you and I could not be more far apart in our preferred worship style, but your main point was not lost on me; you teach reverence and true presence at every turn as a parent. On this we agree completely and I so admire your devotion and commitment to modeling this in your home. Our children need authentic spirituality shared from parent to child. Beautiful! I strive for the same outcome in my own children.

  8. Katie

    Since a few of the things I do at my parish are: RCIA/RE Director, Marriage Prep, Wedding Coordinator, Ministry Head…I never miss an opportunity to teach the Real Presence. One of my favorite things to do is when a wedding is happening, and we are doing the rehearsal (so many times there are a lot of non-Catholics), I simply let the entire group know that they are in the physical presence of Jesus and point to the Tabernacle. I explain the Sanctuary Lamp and why it is lit, I tell them that it is true that the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus is right there! I tell them that is why we bow and genuflect before the Tabernacle, because our Lord is truly present there. This is what we’ve taught our kids as well. And…ok…here goes…I do let people know (in a nice way, of course), that this is what is missing in Protestant churches. They are missing the Real Presence!!

  9. Lindsay H

    I recently went to a parish where they put out kneelers so you can receive while kneeling. It really does help me so much to be reverent as I receive Jesus and just that act of being on my knees is so helpful. I’ve been toying in my head if kneeling to receive would be too distracting at my parish as the priest actually stands on a step during communion! Not sure if he could even reach me easily. But I’ve been longing to do it.

  10. Melissa

    Thank you for all you do to share the faith!!!! My kids are so young and have the beautiful natural love of God, so they soak up everything. We read a lot about Eucharistic miracles and do everything you listed.

    How did you find such a reverent N.O. Mass? Do you call and ask, I’m wondering how I can find one? Our Latin mass is 30 mins away but that’s the only reverent mass I know of. Also- I had no idea that cannon law says you must register with the local parish, is that true?!

    • Kendra

      No, you’re not required by Canon Law to register anywhere, it’s that per Canon Law you ARE a member of your local geographic parish, whether you register or attend there or not. It is the norm to be baptized at the local geographic parish and Canon Law requires that marriages take place in your local parish, or that you have the pastor’s permission to celebrate elsewhere, so it’s just nice to show your face locally, even if you often fulfill your Sunday obligation elsewhere.

      As for finding a reverent parish, the most telling thing, I think is how often they have confession available. If it’s “by appointment only” that’s a no, if it’s 4-5 pm Saturday that’s not a great sign. I’d also look for scheduled weekly benediction and adoration, and a parish that offers an EF Mass on the schedule is probably going to have a reverent NO Mass.

  11. Kris

    I just want to say, “Thank you!” You inspire me in so many ways and make me strive to be a better Catholic wife/mother/grandmother/youth minister/person! Your beautiful and gentle way of presenting the Truth and ways we can help grow our little Domestic churches give me the spark and resources I need. You are a blessing, Kendra! You are in my prayers~

  12. Campbell

    Taking my kids to a daily Mass a couple of times a week when they were little helped tremendously. Now that they are teenagers, we can only fit in one day a week before school but as my daughter says, “I need my Jesus.”

  13. Angela

    We also try to talk about how when we go up for Communion that it is the body and blood of Christ. Thanks so much for the lovely post. What great reminders of what a gift we have in the Catholic church.

    We also talk about how Jesus, our faithful departed, the saints, and heavenly host are present at mass.

    I pray you and your family are doing well. Thanks for sharing the picture of the amazing chapel at your house!

  14. Betka

    About a year ago a friend shared with me that she was in anguish over abuses to the Eucharist–people receiving irreverently, carelessness when hosts fall, lack of belief, and I’m sure so much more. At the time I had to have shots three times a week for an at-risk pregnancy, and I had just reached the point that I felt I couldn’t face one more needle. I decided that I would take the shots as a penance for abuses to the Eucharist. The thought enabled me to bear those shots throughout the pregnancy. I hope it consoled Jesus a little too.

  15. Susan Erbacher

    I have found that talking to the children about stories of Miracles of the Eucharist has been invaluable. There is an excellent CD called ‘The Hidden God’ available here:
    The CD tells seven or eight stories of Miracles of the Holy Eucharist. These are all true stories and are fully dramatized and are so appealing to children. I must say that my devotion to the Eucharist has deepened, too, through hearing these stories. I honestly can’t recommend it enough.

    • Jen

      “Heavenly Hosts” by Kathryn Griffin Swegart, OSF is also a great book on Eucharistic Miracles written for kids. (Available on amazon!)
      My 9, 7, and 5 year olds all listen transfixed!

  16. Samantha

    I actually think NOT letting my kids go to the bathroom during the consecration is another thing we do to emphasize the true Presence.

    • Jen

      I agree with this. I don’t even respond if my kids talk to me during the consecration. I want them to see that This is more important than whatever they are saying. Kids who are “iffy” on being able to wait a few extra minutes for the potty wear pull ups to Sunday Mass even if they’re in big kid panties all the rest of the time. Graduating into panties for Sunday Mass means you can “hold it” like a Big Kid!

  17. Carolyn

    My husband and I were recently out with some friends of all different faith backgrounds, and a Jewish friend (I think he’s not very active in his faith) was so puzzled about us eating Jesus’ body and drinking Jesus’ blood. No one at the table was interested in getting into a deep theological discussion, so we moved on, but I was suddenly struck by how weird it must sound. Thanks for pointing out that we should just own the weirdness. 🙂 And I need to prepare a better elevator pitch about why we eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood.

  18. Jen

    My kids love watching “Wild Kratts,” so I’ve explained to them that at the Consecration Jesus “activates bread power.” Like the Kratt brothers, Jesus is still Jesus… just with all the powers of bread! My kids look confused. What “power” does bread have? I let them stew on it for a little while. Because of course bread has LESS “power” than God or Jesus in his humanity. It’s “power” lies in its ability to feed US… even though it actually makes Jesus himself seem weaker and more vulnerable. Anyway, it’s helped my kids and the kiddos in their CCD classes & I thought I’d share in case it helps anyone else. The Wild Kratts reference really helped my kids “get” that the bread really IS Jesus… because I’m the Wild Kratts shows the narwhal or mosquito (or whatever “creature power” the Kratts have taken on) doesn’t change THEM. It’s still Martin or Chris – just vested in otter, bear, etc. power.

  19. Mary Kate

    Thank you for an excellent post revering the Holy Eucharist in ways that display our belief that we *are* receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
    Out of curiosity, do you refrain from receiving the Precious Blood while you are carrying a baby? My daughter was born on Ash Wednesday; since then I have been receiving the host on the tongue, and not receiving the precious blood (because it feels like the chalice is something that should be handled with two hands). Just wondering what your practice is? Would it be poor form receive the Precious Blood holding the chalice in just one hand?

    • Kendra

      If I were holding a grabby, wiggly baby, I would refrain from receiving the precious blood, just to be cautious. However, with a sleeping, or newborn, or chill baby, I would receive, carefully holding the cup with one hand. There isn’t anything in the guidelines for reception of communion that discourages this, as far as I can tell.

  20. Kaitlin

    This is beautiful Kendra. Exactly what our Church needs!

  21. Mallorie Kelly

    I love these ideas! We do a couple, but my husband was just saying yesterday, “I’m afraid he (our 8 year old) is already forgetting the true presence! We need to do more to make sure they never forget it!” Of course, this is partly due to the pew study and partly because it was not something I learned until adulthood, as a cradle Catholic, poorly catechized. I am excited to share this and implement some more ways to keep Jesus alive to my family! Thank you for the always insightful blogs.

Submit a Comment

Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

If you’d like to learn more about what Catholics believe and why, and to be inspired by saints from every era all over the world, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of how to teach your kids about the faith in a way that’s true, engaging, and lasts a lifetime, we can help!

➡️ Get my liturgical living checklist for free when you join my weekly newsletter. Sign up here.

This blog contains affiliate links and sponsored posts, for which I receive a commission. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.