Yesterday was the anniversary of my First Communion and three years ago I wrote in this blog about how I remembered various things about the day but not much about the actual experience of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time. You can read more about that and also something that Pope Benedict said in 2005 about his First Communion here.
Recently, on April 22, as he prayed the Regnia Coeli in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict talked about the need for good preparation before children receive our Lord for the first time. He said: "Dear friends, it is usual in the Easter season for the Church to administer First Communion to children. I therefore urge parish priests, parents and catechists to prepare well for this feast of faith with great fervor, but also with moderation."
What did he mean by "with great fervor, but also with moderation." The answer can be found, I think, in something he said last year to a group of children with whom he met when he visited Benin, Africa. He contrasted his own interior experience of his First Holy Communion with the exterior celebrations that often accompany the event and which need moderation lest they overshadow the actual experience of receiving our Lord for the first time. Here's what he said:
The day of my First Holy Communion was one of the most beautiful days of my life. It is the same for you, isn’t it? And why is that? It’s not only because of our nice clothes or the gifts we receive, nor even because of the parties! It is above all because, that day, we receive Jesus Christ for the first time! When I receive Communion, Jesus comes to live in me. I should welcome him with love and listen closely to him. In the depths of my heart, I can tell him, for example: “Jesus, I know that you love me. Give me your love so that I can love you in return and love others with your love. I give you all my joys, my troubles and my future.”
His words challenge me to strive to make sure that I do not receive Holy Communion casually. They challenge me to make an offering of myself to the One who has offered himself for me and to me.