By Bertha Melendres
Connecting Faith and Life
In the month of May, we Catholics usually celebrate and get to see children come to the altar to receive their first Holy Communion at our parishes – their first encounter with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist..
I received my First Holy Communion under what I would call unusual circumstances. One day when I was only five year old, my aunts, who were the catechists in my home town, came and told my parents that I would be doing my First Communion in two weeks, that our pastor had tested me and that I was ready so I should do it a year ahead. Besides, I asked too many questions they could not answer, and I distracted the rest of the children. I just remember how much I wanted to receive Jesus.
As a parent myself, I got to experience that joyous day with my own two children. I remember how proud I felt knowing that my little ones where being welcomed to the table of our Lord. Recently, my daughter, who is 17 now, told me what she remembered about her special day. She remembers a little story that Father Tran told in his homily, about a little girl who kept counting the times she had received Jesus after her first Holy Communion. My daughter was so touched by that story that she started counting and keeping track of the times she also received Jesus in the Eucharist. She lost count sometime in third grade after 200-plus times.
As a Director of Religious Education for over a decade, I always felt so privileged to witness how each child would come up and receive Jesus fully present in his body, soul and Divinity. I felt so grateful that I had been given the gift of my own faith to share with others. It gave me so much joy to see how families came together for that special event and how, sometimes, these children had brought their parents or family members back to church and the sacraments after many years of absence.
I often felt like the luckiest person alive. I could be doing so many other things in life, to help people become better at anything else. But what I was doing goes beyond this physical world and my own comprehension. What I was witnessing was littles souls coming to their God and creator, our eternal God himself, and this encounter would have eternal consequences.
Maybe, like me, you were also eager to receive your First Holy Communion; and although we might have lost count of the times we have received him, we know that each time has made us better people because we have received him who is Love. We, the baptized, are all called to evangelize and share our story. I hope that you too will recall that special day and share it with your loved ones; it might just help them realize how the, too, have touched and encountered our eternal God.