Friday, May 4, 2012

First Holy Communion

I love meeting with the First Communion and Confirmation classes to answer their questions. I visited with the grade two class at the school just yesterday, and I'll be in to see the PREP class in the next week or two.

 It's a lot of fun for me, and I think you kids enjoy it too—right?

Certainly you come up with some tough questions, and I have to work hard to come up with good answers.

But at least it's just us, sitting in the classroom. A few years ago, Pope Benedict did the same thing, only he was sitting in St. Peter's Square in front of tens of thousands of people. Talk about being on the hot seat!

The Holy Father was meeting with children who had received their First Communion during the year, and he let them ask questions just like I did…. Though I suspect he had better answers!

It's no surprise that some of the questions were the very same one you boys and girls ask me—especially the first one. A boy called Andrew asked Dear Pope, what are your memories of your First Communion day?

The Pope—who is a lot older than I am—answered "Of course I remember my First Communion day very well. It was a lovely Sunday in March 1936 [that's 76 years ago!] It was a sunny day [better weather?] … the church looked very beautiful, there was music.... There were so many beautiful things that I remember. There were about 30 of us, boys and girls from my little village …. 

"But at the heart of my joyful and beautiful memories is this one—I understood that Jesus had entered my heart—he had actually visited me. And with Jesus, God himself was with me. And I realized that this is a gift of love that is truly worth more than all the other things that life can give.

 "So on that day I was really filled with great joy, because Jesus came to me and I realized that a new stage in my life was beginning, I was 9 years old, I promised the Lord as best I could: "I always want to stay with you," and I prayed to him, "but most of all, you stay with me."

"So I went on living my life like that; thanks be to God, the Lord has always taken me by the hand and guided me, even in difficult situations.

"Thus, that day of my First Communion was the beginning of a journey made together [with Jesus]. I hope that for all of you too, your First Communion … will be the beginning of a lifelong friendship with Jesus, the beginning of a journey together, because in walking with Jesus we do well and life becomes good."

Another boy said [My teacher] told me that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. But how? I can't see him!

The Pope had a very good answer: "No, we cannot see him, but there are many things that we do not see but they exist and are essential.

 "For example: we do not see an electric current, yet we [know] that it exists; we see this microphone, that it is working, and we see lights. Therefore, we do not see the very deepest things, those that really sustain life and the world, but we can see and feel their effects. This is also true for electricity; we do not see the electric current but we see the light.

 "So it is with the Risen Lord: we do not see him with our eyes but we see that wherever Jesus is, people change, they improve. A greater capacity for peace, for reconciliation, [and so on] is created. Therefore, we do not see the Lord himself but we see the effects of the Lord: so we can understand that Jesus is present. And as I said, it is precisely the invisible things that are the [deepest] and most important. So let us go to meet this invisible but powerful Lord who helps us to live well."

Then a girl called Julia asked Your Holiness, everyone tells us that it is important to go to Mass on Sunday. We would gladly go, but often our parents do not take us because on Sundays they sleep. The parents of a friend of mine work in a store, and we often go to the country to visit our grandparents. Could you say something to them, to make them understand that it is important to go to Mass together on Sundays? 

Pope Benedict replied, "I would think so, of course, with great love and great respect for your parents, because they certainly have a lot to do. However, with a daughter's respect and love, you could say to them: 'Dear Mommy, dear Daddy, it is so important for us all, even for you, to meet Jesus. This encounter enriches us. It is an important element in our lives. Let's find a little time together, we can find an opportunity. Perhaps there is also a possibility where Grandma lives.'

"In brief, I would say, with great love and respect for your parents, I would tell them: 'Please understand that this is not only important for me … it is important for all of us. And it will be the light of Sunday for all our family.'

A boy named Alessandro asked What good does it do for our everyday life to go to Holy Mass and receive Communion?

The Pope answered "It centers life. We live amid so many things. And the people who do not go to church, do not know that it is precisely Jesus they lack. But they feel that something is missing in their lives. If God is absent from my life, if Jesus is absent from my life, a guide, an essential friend is missing, even an important joy for life, the strength to grow … and mature as a human being."

I think the Pope said some wonderful things to those children in Rome, don't you? But at the end of their beautiful meeting he said "I can only find one word [to say]: thank you.

"Thank you for this feast of faith," he said.

"Thank you for this meeting with each other and with Jesus. And thank you, it goes without saying, to all those who made this celebration possible: to the parents, the teachers, the priests, to you all."

Do you think I could say it better? I really can't go wrong by using the Pope's own words.

But I suggest you use them too. Memorize the simple prayer of that 9 year-old boy who grew up to be Pope. Make his words a memory of your First Holy Communion. Pray to Jesus "I always want to stay with you, but most of all, you stay with me."



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