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Expected and Unexpected Graces: A First Communion Story

Last weekend was Miss T's First Holy Communion. We spent all year preparing, at home and at the parish classes. Even though we homeschool, we choose to enroll in the parish classes so our children have a wider experience of learning their faith and seeing their peers grow in their faith, too. It has been important to us that our children see that what we believe, others also believe! It is not just for our family, and our faith family is large!

The day before making her First Communion, we attended a retreat. There was a retreat before making First Reconciliation, as well. These mini retreats have been a great way for the children to be given one last preparation and prayer time before their “big day”. It helped make the sacrament of penance less intimidating for the children, and it helped excite them even more for receiving our Lord in the Eucharist. As we completed the retreat last Saturday, the children did a dry run, practicing receiving the Eucharist. My poor girl, who walks stiffly and uses her hands and arms in jerky, awkward, less than graceful ways when nervous, was nervous. After being told they could choose for themselves whether or not to receive on the tongue or their hands, I just hoped Miss T would choose her hands, since it seemed the least awkward thing for her to do (in spite of her nervous awkwardness!). We came home, and I vowed to do more dry-runs with her after she'd rested. She had had a meltdown after the retreat, probably due in part to all the stress–for good or bad–of the big day nearing. Family in town, practicing, wanting every detail to be perfect. She is a planner, a dreamer, and sets up expectations…then lives for it to be perfect. In my heart, while I was looking forward to sharing the Eucharistic Meal with her, I dreaded anything happening that would not live up to her dreams.

After rest, we practiced how she should fold her hands, then carefully and reverently cup them to receive, how to place the Precious Body in her mouth. She grew more confident, but would not practice with anyone watching. We didn't get as many practices in as I hoped. “Blessed Imelda!” I prayed for the patroness of First Communicants intercession, “Help her to be graceful! Pray for her to long for Jesus even a part of how you longed for Him!”

Sunday morning arrived. Everyone did their part to help make our First Communicant look and feel special. Her dress was from Daddy (by her request), her veil from Nona, a tiny cross also from Nona was perfectly pinned to the bodice of the dress, pearl jewelry adorned her wrist and neck from Harmony (grandmother), her hair was combed and curled into sweets curls. We left for the church, to be early for details like photos and the most special opportunity to make a confession again before receiving the Eucharist! Dear T, you looked joyful and excited for your special moment to arrive! I kept praying for gracefulness, and for your soul to be so filled with grace when receiving our Lord!

It was such a gift for Father D to make himself available to the children for Confessions before Mass. Even though he usually hears confessions before Mass, he set extra time aside for the First Communicants. After a little prodding and reassuring, T entered the confessional soon before Mass. What a gift! A clean soul to receive our Lord! Dear T, you were so blessed to have the opportunity!

The children lined up, their families filled in the pews.

Mass began. Every now and then, T would look at me with excitement, and a touch of nerves. As the moment arrived, I prayed again for the graces (spiritual and social!) to surround her. From where I sat, I could only see her back, so I couldn't be sure how she received, though she appeared revert and graceful! I looked at my husband, and asked, “Did she just receive on the tongue?” “I think so!”, he replied. She received the Precious Blood, made a prayerful Sign of the Cross, and walked back to the pew. She did it! She joined the Feast, filled with the graces of a tiny saint in the making.

It was beautiful. I asked her later, if she received on the tongue or her hands. She said, “On the tongue! I didn't have time to make my hands right, because I get mixed up, so I opened my mouth!” What a girl, and she was so reverent doing something unfamiliar!

I pray our Lord works in her even more than ever now, and with the strength of Him in her, that she will grow in amazing ways. Already, she is asking to go back to Mass sooner than Sunday!

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