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Special Needs Mom Reflects: All are Welcome at the Feast

A week after Christmas, after months of preparation, my two youngest children received their First Holy Communion. I had always assumed that while welcome at mass, this particular avenue of grace would always be closed to them because of their disabilities. Jude was born with severe cerebral palsy due to an injury at birth and his older sister, Josie, has profound autism. The actions of a kind nun nearing retirement brought them further into the Church and able to participate in Holy Communion.

It is amazing the things that happen by luck, or more fittingly, by divine providence. We attend a variety of masses due to my job as a night shift nurse. We were lucky enough to attend a mass honoring the 50th anniversary of Sister Judy Jones of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, an order that was founded at the very parish we attend. It was there that sister met our children and asked a very simple question, “Have they received their First Communion?” When we replied no, her answer was equally simple, “We will need to fix that.” It was there that they started down the road to receiving First Communion.

We were on a time schedule. Sister was due to retire at the end of the year, and return to the motherhouse in Philadelphia. She made our children her top priority in the time she had left in Alabama. While we thought this wasn’t possible due to our children’s inability to participate in “normal” sacramental preparation, we were wrong. Sister had prepared many disabled children for First Holy Communion, allowing them even greater participation in the Mass. Our preparation consisted of a weekly meeting over a period of six months to prepare the children to receive. They learned more about the mass, Josie learned prayers (Jude is non-verbal), and how to receive. 

When the day arrived, it was not a typical First Holy Communion. The Church was beautiful with Christmas decorations, not the typical spring flowers. It also happened during a regular Sunday mass. Many of the congregants had watched our children grow and I am certain that mine were not the only tears of joy shed that morning. When they received, it completed something that I felt was undone, something that made my children “normal.” For my children, it allowed them to truly experience our Lord in Communion, perhaps not an experience either one of them will ever be able to truly verbalize, but one that they both felt. 

The Lord calls all of us to him, even the littlest, the weakest, and the least able because with him we are strong. He calls others to guide the way for them. We are all called to the feast.

by Melanie Miller

Melanie Miller is a cradle Catholic and registered nurse married 29 years to her husband, Daryl, who converted to the faith 22 years ago.  They have seven children, ranging in age from 9 to 28.  They currently live in Georgia but attend mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Phenix City, Alabama.

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Communion Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mary P. Sacraments

Approaching Communion with the Faith of a Child

Approaching Communion with the Faith of a Child

This past weekend, my oldest daughter, Rose, received her First Holy Communion. My husband and I were primarily responsible for preparing her for this incredibly special day. We did her lessons from the required First Communion book; we took her to Mass every week (as we always have); we took her to Confession often; we talked to her about what Communion is. We also tried to model respect and reverence for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We got some compliments on her First Communion day about how reverent she was, and how well we prepared her. It would be easy for me to bask in the glow of these compliments and pat myself on the back– that is, if I weren’t so acutely aware of my own shortcomings in this area, and how much Rose has actually taught me through this process.

Seven years ago, I wrote a Facebook post about how Rose– then just barely more than one year old– was teaching me about seeing the dignity in all human life. (I published the note here a couple of years later). Just like she did so many years ago as a baby, Rose has shown me once again what Jesus meant when he talked about the importance of becoming “like little children.”

I have more book knowledge about Jesus and the Church than Rose does, and I intellectually know more about what postures and behaviors are most appropriate in Mass. I can communicate those things to Rose fairly easily. But I think she is the one who more fully recognizes and appreciates Jesus present in Host and Cup. Children are much more able to simply trust in Jesus without full understanding. Their innocence and imagination help them to have a confident assurance of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist that eludes most adults. It’s real to them in a way that it might not be for many of us – even those of us who know and believe all that the Church teaches on the matter. They don’t just believe with their heads, but with their whole hearts and souls.   

Approaching Communion with the Faith of a ChildI can’t begin to describe the excitement that Rose had for months leading up to her First Communion, and especially on the day it took place. There was a time when I thought that maybe she was just looking forward to wearing a fancy white “princess” gown and getting a lot of attention; but in talking to her about Communion, I realized I was wrong about the source of her excitement. She really knew Jesus is present in the Eucharist and she really could not wait to receive Him. She came home from the First Communion practice the night before the ceremony with the biggest smile on her face, and it didn’t leave her face until well after Mass the next day. She was positively beaming. When was the last time I felt excited about receiving the Eucharist, and full of joy at the prospect of encountering the Lord there?

After she received for the first time, she told me that she was sad that Sunday Masses were an entire week away from each other because she wanted to receive Jesus more often (I reminded her that Mass happens every day, but it’s somewhat difficult for this pregnant mama to get her three little ones to weekday Mass alone). She received for the first time on a Saturday, so she did get to receive again the very next day– and she was more excited than ever to go to a regular Sunday Mass! How often do I long for Jesus in the Eucharist during the week, or make an extra effort to get to daily Mass to meet Him?

A few days before she received First Communion, she asked to go to Confession even though it had been less than a week since she had last been (she frequently has asked to go since her first time in November). She had been having an especially difficult time behaving herself in the days leading up to First Communion (I wondered if she were under a little spiritual attack), and she knew that you need a clean heart and soul to receive the Eucharist. We weren’t able to get her there since our access to weekday Confession is very limited, so I explained to her that her sins were not so serious that she couldn’t simply pray and ask for forgiveness and the grace to behave better. But, I was in awe of the fact that she understood how important it is to be well-prepared to receive the Lord. How often have I put off going to Confession for a long time and didn’t think twice about all the “little” sins that made my heart and soul less-than-pure for the Lord? I pray at each Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,” but do I really think about the meaning of these words, and how I could prepare better so as to be a little more worthy next time? It’s so easy for adults to take reception of the Eucharist for granted, as if we are entitled to it under any circumstance. 

Rose may have learned the proper words, actions, and doctrines from her father and me, but the proper interior disposition of joy and reverence can only come from the Holy Spirit. It’s acquired most easily by those with an innocent, child-like faith. I confess that despite my head knowledge and my going through all the correct motions, I frequently fall far short of the mark when it comes to that proper disposition of heart and soul. We adults can all too easily feel overly secure and superior in our faith because of our theological intelligence and our years of practice at doing things the right way. We can forget that, while important, these things do not equate to a close relationship with the Lord, or a strong faith. Rose inadvertently reminded me of that, and inspired me to try to do much better so that I can be more like her.

I’ve been thinking with sadness about all the children who made their First Confessions and received their First Communions this year with the same joy and sure-faith that Rose demonstrated, but whose parents will not bring them back to the Sacraments on a regular basis now that they have reached this milestone. First Confession and First Communion (like Baptism and Confirmation) are too often viewed by parents as boxes to check off because they are just what Catholics are supposed to do. Then, their children’s innocent longing for the grace and freedom of Confession and for the deeply personal relationship with Jesus through the Eucharist goes unfulfilled – and eventually fades away. It’s an incredible tragedy. I may not be responsible for the genesis of Rose’s pure love for Jesus in the Eucharist, but I am responsible for nourishing it. I pray that I will always take that grave responsibility seriously, and that, in the process, I can continue learn just as much (or more!) from Rose as she is learning from me.  

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GIVEAWAY: Win Easter Goodies!

PicmonkeyEastergiveaway

Easter basket ideas, First Communion or Confirmation gifts, new spiritual reading, or some new fiction to read out on the patio as you soak up the spring weather – Catholic Sistas Easter Giveaway is here, with 16 fantastic prizes! Enter through the Rafflecopter widget at the bottom of this post.

All of these prizes have been generously donated; please consider patronizing these Catholic businesses as you make your Easter purchases. (The companies and authors who have donated these prizes are not sponsors of Catholic Sistas – they have simply teamed up with us to offer their goods in the giveaway we are hosting!)

(1) First Communion Gift Pack
from Holy Heroes

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This gift pack is perfect for children preparing to make their First Holy Communion or those who are recent First Communicants. The Inside the Sacraments DVD teaches children thorough Eucharistic Theology in a fun way they can understand and grasp. The Glory Story tells the story of Blessed Imelda, the Patroness of First Communicants. The Coloring book is a perfect companion to the Glory Story CD. ($45 value)

(2) Children’s Rosaries with Bethlehem Olive Wood Cross
from BC Inspirations

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These colorful children’s rosaries are very sturdy. The Our Father Beads and the cross are secured in place with white cord that is very strongly knotted. The wooden Our Father and Hail Mary Beads are each 12 mm in diameter and the cross is approximately 2 1/2 inches tall, which makes this rosary the perfect size for little hands!

 

(1) Gift Certificate of $30 for Cathletics Craft Kit Printables
from Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families

EquippingCatholicFamilies

Enjoy $30 towards any of our Cathletics Craft Kits (PDFs): paper craft printables to teach and celebrate Catholic Catechism, Saints, Sacraments, Prayers, Mass and Family Traditions.  Over 50 Catholic craft kits to choose from here: http://www.equippingcatholicfamilies.com/cathletics-printables-2014.html

(1) Embroidered Purple Garden Necklace
from Call Her Happy
necklace

The perfect accessory to remind you of the Lenten season: a purple garden of Gethsemane. This necklace is made of unbleached muslin, bamboo ply hoop, antique brass chain and findings, and felt backing for comfort. It measures as a 1″ diameter hoop and 18″ chain.

(1) Confirmation Prayer Bundle
from Dovetail Ink

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Personalized 11×14 signed print of Confirmation Prayer illustration by Monica Welch, set of 8 note cards with same artwork, and 12 prayer cards with same artwork *or* mix and match (winner’s choice)

(1) A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season
from Ignatius Press

renewalbook

These meditations enlighten the reader to see conversion as positive and enriching, and help us to understand that the generous embrace of Lenten penance has a purpose and brings a wondrous reward: deeper union with God.

(1) The Beautiful Story of the Bible
from Ignatius Press

The_Beautiful_Story_of_the_Bible_Distributor

All the most important stories of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, with very expressive and gorgeous pictures, sure to delight young children from 3 years old and up.

(3) copies of “A Subtle Grace” by Ellen Gable (Kindle Edition)
from FQ Publishing

ASG mini
1896, Philadelphia: At 19, Kathleen O’Donovan (oldest daughter) is unmarried with no prospects. Fearing the lonely fate of an old maid, her impatience leads to an infatuation with the first man who shows interest. The suave, handsome son of the local police chief seems a perfect match. But will her impulsive manner prevent her from recognizing her true beloved? A disturbing turn of events brings a dark shadow that threatens the life-long happiness she desires. (read more)

(5) Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy
from Manga Hero

PopeFrancis

Jorge Bergoglio was just an ordinary teenager in Argentina, until the autumn day he decided to stop by a church. That’s when he hears an astonishing call.

But that’s only the beginning of Jorge’s adventures, which take him into the Jesuit order, the priesthood, serving the poor, and into a bitter conflict when his country is involved in a sinister Dirty War. But Jorge keeps trying to follow Christ, no matter where He leads – even to Rome and the heart of the Church! The amazing true story of Pope Francis, and his experience of the mercy of God.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS:
Winners will be drawn randomly using Rafflecopter. CS will email the winners. Once they confirm they will be publicly announced on the blog. 
Winner is responsible for contacting the sponsor of the prize they won in order to work out details of delivery.
Eligibility: Prizes are available to residents of the U.S.A. only.
Catholic Sistas reserves the right to alter the giveaway terms or items at any time.
This giveaway is not associated with Facebook.
The companies who have donated these items are NOT sponsors of CS; they have generously agreed to include their items in a giveaway that CS is hosting.

Thank you so much for reading; this blog wouldn’t exist without YOU! Good luck!

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Charla Communion Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Sacraments Vocations

First Communion, Every Communion

aaaaOn All Saints Day, my lovely eight year old daughter received her First Holy Communion. I have been preparing for this day since the day she was born. It sounds like hyperbole, but truly, once I had my baby girl, I was emotional with anticipation for this very day. There is a criticism of Catholics that comments on the inappropriateness of dressing our little girls like brides for this day. However, I cannot think of any other way more appropriate. In my heart, I know she is preparing to meet her bridegroom, Christ– who is Groom to the Church, who sacrifices all for the sake of His Church. The Church is filled with symbolic meaning, so offering a symbolic aspect to our children’s’ first reception of Christ is perfectly feasible. It should be filled with symbolism and greater meaning: purity of white garments, walking down the aisle, the ceremony, the tradition. She was giddy with anticipation. We bought her the right dress and veil; we prepared just the right hairstyle. We invited our family and took photos and had a lovely celebration. She knew this was an important day.fhc
The first time she wore a white gown was her Baptism. Her white lace baptism gown was just a dress rehearsal for the white dress, which was also lace, my little girl would later wear. The chrism and water prepared her to receive Christ, though that would not happen for another eight years. Her baptism purified her of original sin and the Sacrament of Reconciliation further cleansed her to be ready for this important sacrament. Holy Eucharist sets us apart from all other faiths. Others may baptize or even marry, however no one else but the Catholic Church has the actual body and blood of Christ, and THAT is a big deal. So even when, or if, my little girl wears a white dress again and walks down the aisle again, it would never be so important as when she receives Christ.
Tears rolled down my face as I watched my daughter open her mouth to eat and to drink His body and blood. I have been so anxious and excited for her day, I almost forgot about my own privilege of receiving Him. I forgot about just how blessed I am to take Christ every time I go to Mass. I should be just as giddy as my sweet girl was on her First Holy Communion Day every day. It is a blessing that God gives us his Son, and He asked us to “Do this in memory of Me.” We get to experience Him any time we want, so I very much want to get back that excitement and emotion of receiving Christ. I want to spend my time leading up to receiving Communion in sincere preparation, not necessarily the right hairdo or a white dress, because God sees beyond that. He does, however, see my heart. He can see how I have prepared in my inmost being to become one with Him.
I want us all to go back to that very first time and feel the excitement, feel the love that we anticipate experiencing, and feel the beauty that God accomplishes in us. Complacency has no business in Faith.fhc2