The congregation at St. Catherine of Siena Parish should have been wearing sunglasses as my granddaughter, Cordelia, was beaming so brightly when she made her first Communion. At age 7, she walked solemnly into church and moved with both a remarkable eagerness and calmness. Her very being seemed to radiate light.
However, after she received Communion, her smile was beyond remarkable. And the glow, truly, was even brighter. In fact, many at church mentioned that they had never seen anyone receive Communion with so much joy.
The priest invited her to come up to the altar at the end of Mass. He asked her how she felt, and her reply was, “Awesome!” And to prove that feeling, she spun around with glee, her white dress whirling. Her love for God shone forth, and it was contagious.
Her big day made me reflect on what it means to really appreciate receiving Communion. I wondered when was the last time I went back to my pew glowing and grinning. Do I feel like spinning in joy knowing that I have Jesus within me?
I thought a lot more about the importance of the Eucharist and appreciating the Real Presence of Christ.
Pope Francis, on the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in 2022, said: “Everyone can experience this loving and concrete attention of the Lord. Sometimes there is the risk of confining the Eucharist to a vague, distant dimension, perhaps bright and perfumed with incense, but rather distant from the challenges of everyday life. In reality, the Lord takes all our needs to heart, beginning with the most basic.”
He added: “We find this in the Eucharistic Bread — the attention of Christ to our needs and the invitation to do the same toward those who are beside us. We need to eat and feed others.”
Pope Francis also said not only do we need to nourish ourselves, but “we also need to be satisfied, to know that the nourishment is given to us out of love. In the Body and Blood of Christ, we find his presence, his life given for each of us.”
Cordelia has not “confined” the Eucharist to a “vague dimension.” She approaches the Eucharist with a very open heart. And Cordelia’s joy has not waned. She spoke to me with delight as she described making her second or third or fourth holy Communion. She continues to count and recognizes that the privilege of receiving Christ is worth marking. She smiles when she says, “Today, I made my sixth Communion!”
I wonder what number I am on. I wonder why there are days when I do not feel the joy, and I am trying to recapture a bit of the focus that I once had when I was young. I can remember the day of my first Communion. I knelt before a statue of Mary along the Communion rail. I waited and waited, and then the priest gave me Communion, and I loved it.
So when did I stop counting my Communions? And what can I and all of us do to remind ourselves that receiving Communion will always be a privilege and a joy.
Since Cordelia started counting her Communions, I have begun recording them. I write down what number she is on, the date she has received the Eucharist and the name of the church.
I hope to give her that book someday. Maybe her joy will have waned (though I doubt it). I hope to keep it up until she makes her Confirmation and she turns a smiling, glowing face at me because she smells of chrism and is filled with the Holy Spirit. And on that day, the rest of the congregation and I might again need some sunglasses because God’s love and joy are contagious and brilliant.