My First Holy Communion in Jeopardy: Family Reflection Video
At seven years old, I am not sure I knew what the theology of the Eucharist was. I do remember walking home from Saturday morning class, picking a wildflower along the way and repeating three great mysteries: Blessed Trinity, Incarnation and Redemption. I had to recall these in order to be eligible for First Communion. First Communion was the number one priority and the central goal of my life for months.
I was number eight in my family and all seven before me had made it to First Communion. I was bound and determined to make it too. Nothing would stand in the way. The classes were finished. By God’s grace, I was able to remember and pronounce the three great mysteries when examined by the young parish priest. The good sisters had done their work well training me. I learned how to go to confession and receive absolution from the priest after disclosing my sins. And, also of a sacramental nature, I tried on my older brother’s all white first communion suit. It fit me perfectly.
So, I was all set to receive the Living bread come down from heaven, right?
Not quite yet. There was still one painful endurance test before successfully navigating the trials leading to the altar. Saint Paul’s blinding light was nothing compared to what blinded me.
The Friday afternoon before First Communion Saturday, walking through an open field with my older sister and frequent partner in childhood mischief, we came upon a cute little black and white kitten. I grabbed it, and together we decided to take it home with us.
At home, we proudly produced this new kitten and promised to care for it. Something curious happened when people saw the kitten. They all moved away from us and the small black and white kitten without saying a word … until my older brother said, “That kitten is too small to be away from its mother. It will never survive. I caught on and volunteered to go looking for the mother. My brother shared that the mother will probably look just like the kitten. When I ran back to the spot where we found the baby kitten, there was a larger version of the kitten, black and white. That had to be the mother.
I lunged for her but she did not try to escape, she held her ground, turned completely away, lifted a bushy tail and sprayed me all over with a stinging liquid that burned my eyes, blinded me in pain for a few moments. I ran home and now people avoided me like I had the plague. My older brother offered his opinion that I would never be allowed in Church smelling like a skunk. My clothes were taken and burned. I was washed from head to toe in tomato juice. Once washed several times dried and sprinkled all over with Johnson’s Baby Power, my father took me for a ride in the family car with all the windows opened.
My first communion was in serious jeopardy that night. My mother and older sisters tried to comfort me and assure me that I would be all right in the morning. But I was worried and prayed hard to the boy Saint Tarcisius, who was martyred protecting the Holy Eucharist. I would rather have died than not receive the Body of Christ that Saturday morning. I was allowed in Church, smelling of baby powder and dressed proudly in my borrowed First Communion suit.
Believe me, no Christian ever was so relieved and so overjoyed to receive the Body of Christ for the first time. It was truly a family affair and I was now fully a member of God’s family. Amen.
“I am the living bread come down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
- Father Willy's inspirational homily was recorded live this morning during Mass at the Father Peyton Center. Please view the video on our Facebook page. (You don't need a Facebook account to view.)
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About Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C.
Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C. is President of Holy Cross Family Ministries. He entered Holy Cross Fathers in 1964. He earned a Bachelors in Philosophy from Stonehill College in 1967 and a Masters in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 1971. In addition to English, Father Willy is conversant in French and Spanish. He's a native of Old Town, Maine and one of 12 children. He remains a diehard fan of the Boston Red Sox, even though he has served as Chaplain for the Los Angeles Dodgers.