FROM THE ARCHIVES
Have you ever taken the gifts of Mass and Holy Communion for granted? Do you know those who seem to? If you could speak to your younger self about what you know and love now about Mass and Holy Communion, what would you say? I think of these things because with the arrival of May, most parishes across the country will see their youngsters receive Holy Communion for the first time. This coming Saturday, my niece, who is about to turn eight, will receive her First Holy Communion at Mass. With her parents’ permission, I am making public the letter I am writing to her, as her uncle and as a priest, as she looks forward to her First Communion. As I write this, I am painfully aware of how inadequate my words are.
I wish I could be with you and the family on Saturday at Mass when you receive Holy Communion for the first time. I am so happy for you! As your uncle, I would like to be with the family at all our special times, and Saturday will be an especially special time. I am also a priest, like Father J. at your parish. Like him, I offer Mass and preach and hear confessions. As a priest I baptized you and your little sister, Brigid. I witnessed Mommy and Daddy exchange their wedding vows. And I gave the sacrament of the sick to my parents, your grandparents, before you were born. So, I am writing to you as a proud and happy uncle, and I am also writing to you as a very grateful priest.
I know that you are a very good reader, and I am sure that you can understand much of what I am writing to you today. But some things might be hard for you to understand right now. That’s why I hope that you will read this letter every year, so that as you get older you can understand more and more of what I have to say.
You know that in our family, we have been taught to love. We try our best to love our family and our friends, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to above all to love God. In our family, we are also taught good manners. We know it is important to be polite and respectful, to say “please” and “I’m sorry,” and we know that it is especially important to say “thank you.”
I hope that you will learn why our biggest and best “thank you” must be for God, especially for the gift of the Mass and the gift of receiving Holy Communion at Mass. At the Mass, our heavenly Father gives us his gifts, the best proof of his love for us. At the Mass, we see that the love of Jesus is stronger than sin and death. At the Mass, we can see a bit of what heaven is like — all the people who love God worshipping him and enjoying his love. And at the Mass, when we receive Holy Communion worthily, we are closest to the best love ever — Jesus himself, his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine.
Jesus loves us so much that he wants to live in our body, mind, heart and soul. When we are so close to him, we can tell him about our love, about what we need, and about all the people who need help. And if we listen to him, quietly, so quietly, and very carefully, we can hear and feel and know his goodness and his love for us. We can hear Jesus promise to stay with us, and to guide us to the home of our heavenly Father, where we can live together forever.
Sweetie, I hope that you will always remember this special day as the day when your heart felt full for the first time. I hope that you will be so grateful for the gift of the Mass and of Holy Communion that you will want to love Jesus at the Mass every day. And I hope that you will be sure that the best gift you can give to God is to pray the Mass with your whole heart and mind, and that you will show your gratitude by your reverence and attention at Mass.
As you get older, I hope that you will love to worship God at Mass with the best words, music and art. I hope that you will come to be grateful for the people who worship with you. And I hope that you will see that during the Mass, you are with angels and saints who are calling you to the happiness of heaven.
Teigan, I hope that you will think each year about what I have written here, and that we can talk about it every year. I have lots more to say, and I’m sure you will too. I look forward to seeing you and the family this summer, when we can celebrate Mass together.
With much love,
When I write next, I will speak of ways to have a spiritually fruitful summer. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.
Father Robert McTeigue, SJ, is a member of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. A professor of philosophy and theology, he has taught and lectured in North and Central America, Europe and Asia and is known for his classes in both rhetoric and medical ethics. He has long experience in spiritual direction, retreat ministry and religious formation and is now engaged in pastoral ministry in parishes.