|I am the Bread of Life...|
This is the future of the Church, I thought; the next generation of faithful. I wondered if there was a future priest or nun in the group and I prayed that they would be profoundly touched by Christ on that day.
By the time the first boys and girls got up after the consecration and bowed before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time, I felt tears involuntarily running down each of my cheeks.
And to think, my daughter was still a couple of pews behind. I was concerned that by the time it was her turn to receive the Eucharist; I might be slobbering like John Boehner talking about the fading “American Dream” on 60 Minutes.
And, if that wasn’t bad enough, I was afraid of looking at my wife, who was kneeling next to me, because, either we might start crying even harder, or, worse, she would start laughing at me (which isn’t uncommon!).
In any event, I couldn’t contain my tears. And, to be honest, why would I? This was the Blessed Sacrament that she was about to receive; the “source and summit,” as the Catechism states, of everything we believe in as Catholics; the Bread of Life, the Daily Bread that we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer and the sustenance of our soul.
To think of the humility of our God to offer Himself as bread to feed His disciples is so profound, that it could only be understood in faith through the perspective of a God, creator of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen, who took on human flesh, and was willing to suffer and die, for our salvation.
Moreover (which always gets me), since God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit cannot be divided; while three separate persons, there is but one God, and where one is all are, and since the Church, as St. Paul writes, is the Body of Christ, then in that Holy Host, that we believe to be Jesus Christ himself, as instituted during the Last Supper, is contained the entirety of the Church; the saints in heaven, those on the way to heaven and those of us that comprise the Body here on earth; a true communion! It’s mind boggling!
St. Therese of Little Flower, whose mother died before her First Holy Communion, later wrote of that day, “As all heaven entered my soul when I received Jesus, my mother came to me as well… we were closer than ever. It was joy alone, deep ineffable joy that filled my heart.”
In other words, it's personal! You wanna talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as our separated brothers in Christ always talk about? Nothing could be more intimate than the Lord living and transforming us from within. In fact, it's so personal that St. Paul compares the relationship between Jesus and the Church with that of a husband and a wife; where two flesh become one.
Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote, “All love craves unity. As the highest peak of love in the human order is the unity of husband and wife in the flesh, so the highest unity in the Divine order is the unity of the soul and Christ in communion.”
Needless to say, I am absolutely in love with the Eucharist. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the main reasons that I send my children to Catholic school; to learn to love the Eucharist and their faith.
Therefore, I'll never forget when I overheard another father at my older daughter’s First Communion four years ago say, “I don’t know what’s the big deal is. It’s just the First Communion!” How sad, I thought; how little understanding about his faith. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon, which is, without a doubt, the greatest reason so many Catholics stray away from the Church, as I once did.
Nevertheless, as I sat there kneeling and feeling a bit self-conscious, especially after holding another man's hand in prayer, whom, by the way, I hardly knew but felt a sudden kinship to since our kids were being united with us and God in the most profound way through the Blessed Sacrament, with tears running down my cheeks, my daughter finally went up to receive Him for the first time. I mustered the courage to glance over at my wife, who looked at me with tears in her eyes as well and smiled. We quickly turned our gaze back to our daughter. How proud we both were and how grateful to God for that moment tears and all.
Anyway, while living a sacramental life can be emotional for us, and, to think, we still have our son's First Holy Communion and their Confirmations to look forward to, the true test of our Boehneresque imitation, as far as our daughters are concerned, may be on the day I walk them down the aisle on their wedding day (Then again, let's just hope nobody is watching us when our son gets married!)...