Dear Fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This weekend we celebrate First Communion Sunday. Yes, at both the Saturday 5:00pm and Sunday 10:30am Masses we will have young parishioners coming to the Lord’s Table for the very first time to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. This day always invites each of us to reflect on our own First Communion, whether it occurred last year or many decades ago, and encourages us to renew our appreciation of this wonderful gift. How are we approaching this sacrament? Consider the following story —
Father Walter Ciszek was arrested by the Russians during World War II. He was accused of being a “Vatican spy,” and spent the next 23 years of his life in prisons and in Siberian work camps. When he finally got out of prison, he wrote a book about his experiences. He entitled it “He Leadeth Me”.
One experience, especially, deserves mention. First, let me give you some background. In the days of World War II, prior to the Second Vatican Council, it was church law that you must abstain from all food and drink for 24 hours before receiving Communion. [Note, today we are asked to only abstain for one hour before Communion.] Keeping that in mind, read what Father Ciszek says:
“I have seen…prisoners deprive their bodies of needed sleep in order to get up before the rising bell for a secret Mass.… We would be severely punished if we were discovered saying Mass, and there were always informers…. All this made it difficult to have many prisoners in attendance, so we would consecrate extra bread and distribute Communion to the other prisoners when we could. Sometimes that meant we would only see them when we returned to the barracks at night before dinner. Yet these men would actually fast all day long and do exhausting physical labor without a bite to eat since dinner the evening before, just to be able to receive the Holy Eucharist — that was how much the sacrament meant to them.”
And so, this weekend as we watch these little “angels” come forward to partake in Holy Communion, I encourage everyone to reflect on this wonderful gift/responsibility we each have received. How blessed we are as Catholics and Christians! Let us rejoice and be glad.
P.S., Let’s not forget to pray for the parents and godparents of our First Communicants. They still have much work to do before their child/godchild is able to come to the Church and declare their faith at the Sacrament of Confirmation. Let’s give thanks for the good work done to this point, and continue to support these adults in their efforts to guide the formation of their children/godchildren.