This weekend and next, the first and second Saturdays in May, are traditionally set apart for First Holy Communions in Catholic parishes across the nation. This Saturday, May 6, I attended the celebration of First Holy Communion of some twenty second grade boys and girls. It was a beautiful liturgy, with the Priests of the parish concelebrating.
The children processed reverently into the Church, knelt down and hardly fidgeted during the Mass as they knew why they were there and for Whom they were waiting. For each of them, the moment of Communion brought them Jesus Whom they had been taught to love so dearly. The pastor in his homily spoke of the importance of this day, and then addressed the teachers, parents, grandparents and godparents. He thanked them for bringing their children to this most important day. He pointed out that their responsibility since the day of their baptism was to nourish and foster in these children the faith that Jesus won for them and for all of us by His death and resurrection, so recently celebrated in the Church throughout the world. First Communion Day is a testament to the commitment the adults in the lives of children have beautifully carried out.
I met many adults who said, one after another, ‘I am so proud of my child, very proud of my granddaughter, we’re blessed to be his godparents….’ They reflected, without realizing it, the pastor’s observation that none of these little ones could have come to this day alone, on their own. Each was guided and led by the example of their elders, and in some cases by brothers and sisters who practice their maturing faith so openly. Great sacrifices have been made to give these children a Catholic education in struggling Catholic schools, or have made the effort to bring them to weekly religious education classes (now often referred to as faith formation). Older siblings accompany them to Mass on Sunday. Grandparents sometimes drive them to CCD after school, and parents faithfully help their little ones with the homework assigned during religious instruction. Teachers, including many busy, generous CCD instructors, give of their time, often gratuitously to reinforce what these children are learning at home. How true it is that it takes a village….
I prayed for these families and schools by which these wonderful little girls and boys came to the altar this weekend for the first time. And I felt in my heart the Lord’s joy in these children and the thousands across the nations who will, this May, begin living a Eucharistic Life through the love and example of others. As I am writing I think, too, of you who are reading this who have along the way certainly influenced a child, five children, entire classes of children in their faith journey. But I also think of those among you who beg for the prayers of the Sisters for people in your life who have drifted from the practice of their faith, who no longer approach the altar for Holy Communion, and I think of the pain so many of you feel, wondering if you have somehow failed your children or your spouse by not knowing the words that might ‘bring them home.’ Don’t listen to those voices. Continue to pray for them. Ask Jesus for a kindling of the faith of their childhood. And let us ask God to kindle our own faith, that we, like those little ones making their First Communion, might give ourselves anew to Him completely, forever.
God bless you.