Today's the anniversary of my First Holy Communion and I have to admit I'm surprised that I remember the date. And I am sorry to have to confess that I don't remember much about that day. I remember wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and blue tie. I remember sitting in the living room of our neighbors and having my picture taken. I remember a party with my family in a big hall afterwards. But I don't remember anything about what was most important. I have no memory of what it was like to receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time.
I think many people probably share this experience. Pope Benedict XVI doesn't. He remembers what it was like to receive our Lord for the first time. He talked about this when he met with a group of First Holy Communicants in October, 2005, during the final month of the Year of the Eucharist. Here's what he said:
"I remember my First Communion day very well. It was a lovely Sunday in March 1936, 69 years ago. It was a sunny day, the church looked very beautiful, there was music.... There were so many beautiful things that I remember. There were about 30 of us, boys and girls from my little village of no more than 500 inhabitants.
"But at the heart of my joyful and beautiful memories is this one...: I understood that Jesus had entered my heart, he had actually visited me. And with Jesus, God himself was with me. And I realized that this is a gift of love that is truly worth more than all the other things that life can give.
"So on that day I was really filled with great joy, because Jesus came to me and I realized that a new stage in my life was beginning, I was 9 years old, and that it was henceforth important to stay faithful to that encounter, to that communion. I promised the Lord as best I could: "I always want to stay with you", and I prayed to him, "but above all, stay with me". So I went on living my life like that; thanks be to God, the Lord has always taken me by the hand and guided me, even in difficult situations.
"Thus, that day of my First Communion was the beginning of a journey made together. I hope that for all of you too, the First Communion you have received in this Year of the Eucharist will be the beginning of a lifelong friendship with Jesus, the beginning of a journey together, because in walking with Jesus we do well and life becomes good."
I know I can't change the past. None of us can. But each of us has the present which leads into the future. My First Holy Communion wasn't a spiritual experience that I now remember. I didn't realize, as Pope Benedict did, that I had received "a gift of love that is truly worth more than all the other things that life can give." I cannot change that. But I can strive to make sure that when I receive the Body and Blood of Christ now, I do so with as much awareness and gratitude as possible.