Seeped into every sense

Yet this is how He comes. Through wine and bread
Love chooses to be emptied into me.
He does not come in unimagined light
Too bright to be denied, too absolute...
Chooses instead to seep into each sense,
To dye himself into experience. 
~ From Love's Choice by Malcolm Guite

It's fifty years to the day since my First Communion. Cradle Catholics will read this and think ahhh yesss... knowing what a highly significant moment this can be in a Catholic child's life. For many it's a fondly remembered day, even if its fundamental meaning can often be obscured by frilly dresses, new suits and generally being the centre of attention for a while. Speaking of dresses... my own, as you can see, was a traditional, flouncy confection; all organza and stiff petticoats, with a veil long enough to sit on. It had first been worn, several years earlier, by a cousin in Italy, then passed around four more of us - and I absolutely loved wearing it... although little girls being little girls, I also remember silently coveting my friend's glitter-covered shoes, which you can see in the photo.

My memories of the day, and the preparations, come in snatches. I can remember growing excitement, and the lesson when we were allowed to practice receiving unconsecrated hosts, making our actual First Communion just feel so imminent. We knew - just knew - we were preparing to receive Jesus in a very special way, into our very being. I can remember rehearsals around processing into the church and who was to sit where - which, of course, mostly came to naught on the day itself! And yes; I can remember receiving Communion for the first time... and how I prayed after. Despite knowing several formal prayers, in both Italian and English, I very naturally - instinctively even - chose to speak to Jesus in my own way, using my own words and sentiments. It was an intensely intimate moment: when my mother asked me, a few days later, what prayers I'd said, I was shocked, and refused to tell her anything. I realise now that we were, effectively, speaking two different languages: she was expecting me to reply with the names of set prayers, whereas for me that question what prayers...? alluded to a private conversation between Jesus and myself.

And this is how Love chooses, daily, to seep himself into every sense, dyeing himself into experience: into childish hearts and earnest prayers; into excitement and unpolished processions - and, yes, into flounces and veils and glittery shoe envy. Love comes as a tiny, fragile wafer, in which resides all power born of God; and in the merest, all-quenching sip of wine (though not in 1970!). But Love also comes as surprising, unearned grace and as wisdom and Word; in an insistent call or a feather-light whisper, in goodness and kindness received, and in a thousand different ways through people and events. And fifty years later this is still Love's choice; Love's daily choice. Thanks to lockdown I won't be able to celebrate this anniversary with Communion, but I know that Love continues to offer me communion; seeped into every sense, dyed into my experience.

And for all this I can only pray - using my own words, of course, though words are rarely needed - with immense gratitude.


Comments

  1. That is beautiful, Sr., Thank you for sharing.
    As a convert who became Catholic at 26 (mentioned in my first blog post) it's good to hear about your experience of receiving your first Holy Communion as a child.
    I especially love the fact that you had a personal relationship and conversation with Jesus at that age. I can certainly imagine being as protective of what I had shared with Him if I'd been asked too, especially as a child...
    Hope you had a good celebration and receive Him again soon.
    Take care, Ciara

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  2. Thank you Ciara. This post has certainly sparked quite a few memories for people, regardless of the age at which they received their First Communion, and a long thread on FB with several of my friends sharing their own photos on it!
    Enjoy your journey with God, and all your discoveries - and harvesting your memories. "Gatti cadona in piedo" isn't totally correct Italian, but it's cute - and has clearly become "yours"!

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    Replies
    1. That must be lovely to have started that.
      St. Anthony of Padua's Holy Spirit prayer asks the Spirit to be poured into our "minds that we may remember" so God is clearly preparing His people through you to receive Him again with new joy by reminding us of that first time.
      I see you looked at my first blog post, I suppose I did mention it in my comment. I think it says Igatti in the window, which is what I wrote inside the post itself, and whatever it says is a play on words because the people who made the stained glass window have an Italian name like Igatti/Gatti.
      It isn't actually my translation though! I got "Gatti cadona sempre in piedo" from our old Parish website and when I looked up the Italian it seemed to suggest Igatti might be correct, which to my untrained eye is what it looks like it says in the window, so I combined the information from the parish website and my own eyes/research for the post.
      Better make a firm choice before I get that tattoo...

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  3. Thanks - I've transferred my reply to your "Gatti cadona" post

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