I started crying - and could only imagine the jubilation in heaven.
Last Saturday, my son received his First Holy Communion. He’s my third child to do so, but the first one whose pregnancy I went through as a Catholic.
For nine months, every time I returned to the pew after receiving Eucharist, I would kneel (and then, as the pregnancy wore on and on and on, sit and hunch over) and silently contemplate how amazing it was that my unborn child was so close to Jesus. The thoroughly physical nature of this interaction was almost scandalous in its fleshiness. Here was the Lord of the Universe, come to me as a piece of bread, for a few brief moments resting side-by-side with my developing child. Nothing but a thin wall of tissue and some amniotic fluid separating them. Nothing more needed to understand the depths of the word “incarnate.”
No matter where this child’s life takes him, I realized, he still spent the beginning of it right next to Christ. As nature went about its course, dividing cells and forming organs and growing hair and such, my child was nestled right up against God the Son. I had absolute faith that this spiritual gestation would leave a mark on my baby’s soul that nothing in his life would ever be able to erase.
After my son was born, I would sometimes feel moments of sadness for him, that he would have to wait seven years or so before being that physically joined with Christ again. Certainly there is enough about the spirituality of children to covet, but this one thing, this having to wait to receive Holy Eucharist, is not one of them. After all, the ability to consume the Bread of Life is something that even the angels envy us for.
As Saturday approached, I found myself more and more overwhelmed by the upcoming event, and playing round after furious round of mental Q & A. Had we prepped him properly? Well, we’d prepped him thoroughly, at least. Did he properly understand the importance of what was going on? Well, who does? What if, dear Lord, he dropped the host? Obviously not ideal, but certainly not the first time in human history.
I wasn’t like this with my older two first Communicants. I was barely a nervous wrec at all, but this child, this giant of a boy who was my first to nestle so closely to our Eucharistic Lord in the darkness of my body, provoked such feelings of joy too much for me to handle. Every time I imagined his soul rejoicing over being reunited with Christ in Communion, I teared up.
I took his picture in the front yard, his hair carefully slicked to the side, his face shy and beaming at the same time. The forsythia was still in bloom, and the yellow flowers were a striking backdrop to his navy blazer- the same navy blazer his older brother had worn, and the same navy blazer at least two more brothers are slated to wear in the upcoming years. I had to use autofocus on my camera, since my eyes kept filling up with tears.
We got to the parish early, and all the children met with the director of religious education. She processed them down the aisle, boys on the left, girls on the right. I watched the boys’ side pulsate in a slow, constant motion, as two dozen boys attempted to control their perpetual motion for Mass. In amusing contrast, the girls’ side remained completely still, a solid, unmoving wall of white and tulle.
As my son’s turn came, I watched him walk up to the priest, bow carefully, and clearly say “Amen” in response to “Body of Christ”. He received his first Communion, walked back to his seat, and I started crying at little. I know there is great rejoicing in heaven when a sinner turns his heart back to God, but I imagine those sounds were drowned out at the moment, by the jubilant sound of my child being physically reunited with Christ in Communion.
That sound of jubilation, I realized as I went up to receive, is repeated over and over again, every time each of us is reunited to Christ in the Eucharist.
Cari Donaldson is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories: How I Found God, Had Kids, and Lived to Tell the Tale. She married her high school sweetheart, had six children with him, and now spends her days homeschooling, writing, and figuring out how to stay one step ahead of her child army. She blogs about faith and family life at clan-donaldson.com.