My oldest daughter just received her First Communion. It was a beautiful experience for our family, as I’m sure it is for every family. What message should we give our first communicants, to help them to be as open to the Eucharist as possible?
My daughter has grasped the basic doctrine of the Eucharist since she was a toddler, waving and blowing kisses to Jesus in the tabernacle. While I wanted her to understand the doctrine of the Eucharist, I wanted something even more for her. In the final minutes before the start of her First Communion Mass I fervently prayed for one thing – for her heart to be on fire with the love of Jesus. The Eucharist is, after all, an encounter of love.
There were two very special things that we did, in preparation for her big day, to help her to fall more deeply in love with Jesus.
We live in a large metropolitan area, but this suggestion can be done in a simple way, regardless of where you live. During the week leading up to her First Communion, we took a mini “Eucharistic Pilgrimage” each day. We live in a city with lots of religious orders and lots of Eucharistic adoration chapels, so we visited a different one each day. On Monday, we visited the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (an order famous for their bright pink habits!). Tuesday was our day to visit the Poor Clare’s, and Wednesday the Discalced Carmelite Nuns. On Thursday, the seminarians recommended a visit to “the dragonslayers” (a.k.a. the Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr St. George), and Friday’s was a visit to the Daughters of St. Paul. We stopped at our cathedral (with her godfather) on Saturday, and Sunday’s visit was a final prayer at the Eucharistic chapel in our parish center.
Let me be clear, that the emphasis here was the word mini. These were mini Eucharistic Pilgrimages. I took her to the adoration chapels in each of these places — with a four-year-old and nine-month-old in tow. We were lucky if we got to pray for five minutes. However, it wasn’t the amount of time that mattered so much as the very fact that we were making these trips to begin with. Whether it was a few moments or a few minutes, taking time out of our day to spend time with Jesus helped build the anticipation for her union with him, in the Eucharist. This is something that could be practiced anywhere that you can find an open church or adoration chapel!
Since we were able to stop at the adoration chapels of religious orders, we were also able to write her name in their books of intentions. Those added prayers made the experience even more special.
The other special thing that we did was organize a spiritual bouquet for her. When our children were baptized, we put together a spiritual bouquet book for each of them, filled with messages and cards from people who were praying for them. Since our daughter is older (and really into holding on to “treasures”), I bought her fancy box from the craft store, and we had people bring cards and notes (or email their notes to us) and put the messages in her box. We also had out a basket full of fake flowers that people could tie messages to and add to her box. Not only did all those extra prayers help open her heart to the graces of the Eucharist, but the box of those messages will hopefully serve as an encouragement to her for many years to come.
To My First Communicant
In the busyness of the preparation for that day, I wasn’t able to write more than a short note to toss into her spiritual bouquet. But what would I like to tell her, as well as any first communicant?
Dear First Communicant,
Happy First Communion Day!
For your whole life, you have gazed at Jesus in the tabernacle. For years, he has gazed at you, and you at him. Today, that all changes. Today your gaze becomes an embrace. Jesus comes to you, and you hold him in your heart, while he holds you in his embrace. You will never be the same.
As you go through life, you will face hard days. You will face sorrows and disappointments. But starting today, you will never be alone. Whenever you struggle, you can take it to Jesus, in the Eucharist. Through receiving him, you will always be held in his embrace.
Today, you feel excited as you receive him. You may not feel as excited every time, but your feelings- or lack of feelings – don’t change what is real. Jesus is really here, really present in the Eucharist. He waits, quietly and patiently, for you to come and visit him. He waits eagerly for you to come to Mass and receive him.
Like with any friend, the more time that you spend with Jesus, the closer you will become to him. It will seem like you are the one doing all of the work, until you realize something very important. It is not you who are going to Jesus, but rather Jesus who is drawing you to himself.
You see, Jesus loves you. He loves you so very, very much. He wants to give you that love always. He only asks you to say yes to him.
My prayer for you is not only that you may know his love, but that you may truly fall in love with him. Whether you are called to marriage or religious life, you will not be able to be truly happy unless you are first in love with Jesus. If you have fallen in love with him, everything else becomes a joy – even the hardest “crosses” in our lives.
I love you sweet child, and I am so happy for you. May God make you a saint!