This past weekend, my second child celebrated his First Communion. I’ve been thinking about this day for years and planning for *almost* that long (hey, party planning is my vice). To think I almost missed the big event during Mass makes me chuckle. But, more on that in just a moment.
As I opened my email on Monday morning, I was delighted to see my daily Vatican Information Service (VIS) email sitting in my inbox. It’s a free Vatican e-communication anyone can receive and I love that it gives “the rest of the story” when the mainstream media falls short. You can register to receive it by clicking here.
I was even more excited to read that during Pope Benedict’s Sunday audience, he appeared at the window of his study to pray the Regina Coeli with faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square below. “The Holy Father recalled that during the period of Easter it is customary for the Church to administer First Communion to children. In this context, he exhorted pastors, parents and catechists ‘to prepare this feast of the faith well, with great fervour but also with sobriety.'”
Not only is this Holy day special to the children, but when it’s celebrated is of equal and noted importance. I’ve always believed there really is no greater time to celebrate a sacrament than during the Easter season.
I volunteered to Lector during the First Communion Mass, my oldest was an Altar Server and my husband served as a Eucharistic Minister. It was humbling to participate in such a precious day for our son, John Paul. The church was filled with family, a Godmother and dear friends. As I looked around that sanctuary, I saw nothing but love. That’s the way every Mass should be! Just before communion, my youngest started to fuss. My husband had just left to serve as an EME and the baby of the family was none too pleased. “Great,” I thought. I quickly scooped him up and walked to the back of the church. The whole time I was flipping through my mental rolodex of distractions. How was I going to get him to calm down, see John Paul and not disturb the entire congregation? I said a quick Hail Mary, spotted an open seat on the second row with an awesome view and a made a beeline for the seat, praying the whole way.
It was as if the Holy Spirit knew I needed to be there. Fr. Danny began calling the children forward, one by one, to receive the sacrament. Tears leaked from my eyes, one after the other. The beauty of the moment was almost blinding and my heart swelled with what can only be explained as intense love. The preciousness of that moment will never leave my memory. Oh my, God must’ve been dancing in heaven to see all those children standing before the altar saying, “AMEN!” This IS the Body of Christ. This IS the Blood of Christ. It is not a symbol, but the true presence. Praise the Lord! As I looked behind the altar to catch the eye of my husband, I could see an entire row of Eucharistic Ministers with tears of joy. I looked around the sanctuary and saw a roomful of love and admiration.
After Mass, my husband commented that if people could’ve felt what we did, if there was some way to bottle that emotion and faith, we could convert the world to Christianity. The words Fr. Danny spoke during the homily were touching, as well. While he did a wonderful job of speaking directly to our children, he also took a few moments to address the parents of the First Communicants. He reminded us that our children have been given the gift of faith, but it’s up to us to nurture it. Faith can be lost, but it can also grow ten-fold. As parents, we help our children develop a relationship with Christ by talking to Him regularly, by surrounding themselves with community and by living a life of discipleship.
This weekend was about the real presence of the Eucharist, its mighty power and our responsibility to go forth and preach the Gospel. It was also a reminder that if it weren’t for my children, my faith life would be dismal. May we all have the faith of a child, the confidence of a disciple and the love of Christ in our hearts this Easter season, and always!