Praised be Jesus Christ! Frank McCourt’s book Angela’s Ashes was all the rage when it came out 20 years ago. McCourt is Irish, which is to say he knows how to tell quite a tale. His story de- scribes his childhood and all of the deprivations that he and his family suffered while growing up in Limerick, Ireland. One of the more memorable stories was of his 1st Communion. Poor little Frankie ate so much candy after Mass that he got sick in his Grandma’s backyard. His Grandma went berserk and marched Frankie back to church to confess his sin – after all, “he thrun up the body and blood of Jesus. I have God in me backyard.” The priest instructed little Frankie to wash it away with some water, but that did not satisfy his Grandma. She made Frank go back into the confessional and ask if he was to use holy water or ordi- nary water! For the record, McCourt seems to have long ago forsaken his Catholic upbringing. As we celebrate the 1st Com- munion of our children this weekend, we will be praying for the graces that will lead to a deep love of Jesus for all of their lives. One is reminded of the insightful quote from Dom Chautard that I will modify here so that it reveals the indispensable role of our parents: “If the parents are saints, the children will be fervent; if the parents are fervent, the children will be pious; if the parents are pious, the children will at least be decent; if the parents are only decent, the children will be godless. The spiritual generation is always one-degree less intense in its life than those who beget it in Christ.” Love of Jesus in the Eucharist is the hallmark of true holiness and we will ask the great patron saints of 1st Communi- cants to intercede for our little ones: Saint Tarcisius and Blessed Imelda, pray for us! And if you don’t know who they are and why they are the patrons of 1st Holy Communion, then you have some homework to do! Two future saints that you may recognize are Jacinta and Francisco Marto, the seers of Fatima. 100 years ago the Blessed Mother appeared to 3 shepherd children in a remote part of Portugal. Jacinta was only 7 years old at the time, Francis- co was 9, and their cousin Lucia was 10. The first time Mary ap- peared was on May 13th, 1917. Lucia asked Mary, “And will I get to Heaven? Yes, you will. And Jacinta? Also. And Francisco? Also, but he must say many Rosaries!” These children believed in the beautiful woman from the start and never wavered in their faith, though it was sorely tested by many critics. In August of that year the mayor of Ourem had the children arrested and then threatened with death by being boiled in oil unless they divulged the secrets Mary had told them. They held their ground and showed both courage and trust in the Lord. These wonderful children obeyed Mary when she asked them to, “sacrifice your- selves for sinners and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice, ‘Oh, Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conver- sion of sinners’.” Mary also revealed to the children that those who attend Mass and go to confession on five consecutive 1st Saturdays will be assisted by the Mother of God at their death. Mary kept her promise to both Francisco, who died on April 4th of 1919 and to Jacinta who died alone in a hospital in Lisbon on Feb- ruary 20th of 1920. Both children were beatified on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima (May 13th) in the year 2000. This year Pope Francis will canonize them saints, their feast day being February 20th. These children are wonderful role models for us at any age, but especially for our 1st Communicants. Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, pray for us!
May God grant our 1st Communicants and their parents a deep love of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist!
Your friend in Christ,