This weekend, 30 of our parish youth are receiving their First Communion, with one other coming to the Table of the Lord later this month. It is a time of great joy for these children, their families, and for our parish. These children have been preparing for this moment for nearly two years. The Friars and I were able to join these youth during their final preparation, a retreat centered on their upcoming sacrament, which took place at the North Campus last weekend. There was a feeling of excitement and enthusiasm that was palpable. We must thank our Faith Formation Staff and Catechists for creating that atmosphere, because it is meant to be an exciting time in the faith journeys of these children.
Four years ago this weekend, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at Sacred Heart Church….in Rakovski, Bulgaria. Rakovski is a predominantly Catholic community in Southern Bulgaria, where their Sacred Heart, which is tied to a nunnery of Franciscan Sisters, is one of the largest churches in the Balkans. While he was there, Pope Francis celebrated the sacrament of First Communion for more than 250 children from around the country. I would like to share with you Pope Francis’s homily to the children from that occasion, as it provides a brilliant summary of the experience:
“Dear boys and girls, you have come here from every corner of this “Land of Roses” to take part in a wonderful celebration. I am sure you will never forget this day: your first encounter with Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist. One of you might ask me: How can we meet Jesus? He lived a long time ago, but then he died and was laid in the tomb! It is true: Jesus carried out an immense act of love to save human beings of all times. He remained in the tomb for three days, but we know – the Apostles and many other witnesses who saw him alive have assured us – that God, his Father and ours, raised him up. Now Jesus is alive and is here with us. That is why we can encounter him today in the Eucharist. We do not see him with our physical eyes, but we do see him with the eyes of faith.
I am looking at you, dressed in your white robes. What a meaningful and beautiful sign. You are dressed for a celebration! First Communion is, above all, a celebration. We celebrate Jesus, who wants to remain always by our side. He will always be with us. This celebration was made possible also thanks to our parents and grandparents, our families and our communities, who have helped us to grow in the faith.
You have travelled a long way to come here. Your priests and catechists, who have accompanied you in your preparation for this day, have also accompanied you on the road that today leads you to meet Jesus and to receive him in your hearts.
Today you have made it possible for us to relive that joy and to celebrate Jesus, present in the Bread of Life. Some miracles can only take place if we have a heart like yours: a heart capable of sharing, dreaming, feeling gratitude, trusting and respecting other people. Making your First Communion shows that you want to be closer to Jesus every day, to grow in friendship with him and to lead other people to share in the joy he wants us to feel. The Lord needs you because he wants to work the miracle of bringing his joy to many of your friends and family members.
Dear children, I am happy to share this great moment with you and help you meet Jesus. For you, this is a day to be celebrated in a spirit of friendship, joy, and fraternity. A day of communion among yourselves and with the whole Church, which, especially in the Eucharist, expresses the communion that makes all of us brothers and sisters. This is our identity card: God is our Father, Jesus is our brother, the Church is our family. All of us are brothers and sisters, and our law is love. I ask you always to pray with the same enthusiasm and joy that you feel today. Remember that this is the sacrament of your First Communion, not your last! Remember too, that Jesus is always there, waiting for you. I hope that today will be the beginning of many Communions, so that your hearts may always, like today, be festive, full of joy and, above all else, gratitude.”
Congratulations to all of our young children who are celebrating their first communion: Genevieve Allender, Autumn Arena, Maryn Buffa, Liam Cabrera, Louis Cabrera, Aaron Caire, Gabrielle Castano, Amelia Chaumont, Liam Cutro, Sam Ferrito, Noah Fundora, Lorenzo Gomez, Mia Hall, Sydney Hernandez, Taylor Hippleheuser, Nadia Joseph, Sean Lannan, Ellie Leuthauser, Maddox Matthews, Adalie Misdary, Ema Mittag, George Pasteur V, Francesca Pomarico, Reina Prince, Heidi Robyak, Ivan Rudic, Lara Rudic, Josephine Smith, Brian Stecker, Jade Swangnete, Patrick Thompson.
Peace and All Good,
– Fr. Mike